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The following insights post provides some advice on how to migrate your files to SharePoint. If you want support with this or any other project, view the various services we offer.

Microsoft have made it more cost-effective than ever to move your data to SharePoint Online. With 1 TB of Storage per organisation and 10GB for every user license, this can prove to be a big cost-saver when compared to on-premise storage especially if you are paying your IT provider for this storage and backup.

Shared drives have been around for over 20 years and have remained relatively the same in their function during that time. Users will have a Shared drive, or a folder within that shared drive mapped to their desktop where they store work files within a folder structure. Permissions are set up to allow certain users access to those files, either on an individual basis or via Active Directory Groups. Shared Drives can be classed as a critical business system in the sense that if they
stop working your organisation can be severely limited in the work that can be undertaken.

To move away from an IT system that has been in use for a long time underpins your users day to day work is not easy. Business change is just as important as the technological change that needs to take place. What we are going to try to cover in this article is a blueprint that can be adapted for your migration project to give you a head start. We have written this article to give an insight into some of the challenges, it by no means encompasses all scenarios but we hope you will find it useful.

If you are planning on deploying SharePoint and Office 2016/2019 onto Windows 7 then don’t. Wait until you have upgraded your laptops to Windows 10. From recent projects, Windows 7 laptops cannot handle the combination of Office 2019, OneDrive and SharePoint.

Planning

At the start of your migration project, you are unlikely to have a firm project plan to work to as there are too many unknowns at this point. There will likely be some target dates that have been set by someone in the project to deliver to, but unless you have an unlimited resource to throw at this project you are not going to be able to give more accurate dates on delivery until you have undertaken a couple of data migrations to gauge how long they are going to take. At ThinkShare we have yet to undertake a migration project that moves all users over at once.
The logistics of doing so are too complicated to comprehend so we have always recommended that migrations take place a team/department at a time to be able to control the migration, improve the process as we go and provide a good experience for the users. Your project plan could include the following high
level stages:-

  1. Planning.
  2. Investigation
  3. Data cleanse
  4. SharePoint Build
  5. Training
  6. Data Migration

Investigation

If your Shared drives have great governance then your data will already have owners and the data is separated into business teams and you can skip the cleanse part of the project. What is more likely to have happened over the years is that Shared Drives have grown organically so who owns what and which data is used is, on the whole, an unknown. Key to getting any data into SharePoint is to identify the owners of the data that is in use and delete any other data according to
retention policies. We would recommend not spending too much time investigating what data there is. Some key  metrics should be gathered to help
shape the migration:-

  1. Size of the data on each Drive.
  2. Number of users
  3. List of Teams that need to be migrated, the team owner, team data cleanse leads and a likely order.
  4. Other systems that use Shared Drives such as reporting imports/exports.

Tools such as Treesize are useful to investigate the data more but given most Shared Drive data is unstructured providing a report to users is of limited benefit.

Data Cleanse

An agreed file plan at this point is essential which should detail the retention policies for different types of data for each team across your organisation. A data cleanse process should be clearly defined and provide clear instructions to the users that leave little open to interpretation. Creating a PowerPoint pack that can be shared out with business users is usually a good idea.

Key to the data cleanse is your business users, cleansing data cannot generally be done by the project team who don’t own the data and cannot make a decision on whether to keep it. Each identified data cleanse lead should be briefed on the pack and given deadlines to work to. I would recommend keeping deadlines to no more than 6-8 weeks. Users will inevitably leave some of the data cleansing to the last minute but will need sufficient time to fit the work into their day job. Recommended instructions for the cleanse pack include:-

  1. Create the new SharePoint structure in the team’s area and get them to move all their content to the new structure. This greatly simplifies the migration process and will speed up the migration.
  2. It is very important to get users to understand that the only 2 options open to them are to migrate the data they require or delete the data. Archiving or moving data somewhere else is just postponing the task that some users find difficult to do. By having defined retention policies the data can and should be deleted. Many data migration projects have “Archived” data on the drives which gives someone else a difficult task 6-12 months down the line.
  3. Provide instructions on how to mark folders that users are cleansing to show they have been cleansed.
  4. Provide instructions on how to move files to the new structure – i.e. do not copy the files.
  5. Give some examples of the issues they may face such as filenames being too long or data transfer rates being too slow and what to do in these cases.

Some teams will not meet the deadline, so plan in some extra time to allow these teams to complete the cleanse. Migrating a team at a time allows for some teams to move at a slower pace than others.

Unfortunately after deleting the data that has been migrated and moving the users to SharePoint you will still be left with quite a bit of data that needs to be sifted through. The only way to start this is to effectively close all the drives by making them read-only. A final date for this to happen will need to be communicated out to all users in the organisation.  Do not rely on managers passing on the information, the communications have to go to everyone.

Dependant on the state of the data, the business may be willing to sign off the deletion of the remaining data. If this is not the case then someone from records management or information governance will need to start to wade through the data. Once a first pass has been done, the data could be moved to SharePoint in an orphaned data site and a retention policy applied.

SharePoint Site Creation

Moving to SharePoint can be a big change for your users. It could be one of the biggest IT changes

they have had in their careers and how easily this change is absorbed is dependent on your organisation and user personas. There will be a decision to be made on how much EDRMS functionality is going to be used in SharePoint. If your organisation is not quite yet ready for an EDRMS and the shared drives are fairly chaotic then the least amount of SharePoint functionality that should be deployed is a team site per team in your organisation. There will need to be some form of directory of the teams sites or at least some way to navigate to them from your Intranet.

Once you have decided on the level of functionality then you may want to create the Team sites using PowerShell scripts and the associated document libraries and content types(if you are using basic EDRMS functionality). Using the SharePoint modern sites is almost a default decision, and using the left navigation, pages and quick links you should be able to create a basic team site for each team that they can use and navigate to their data. The template that you decide on should be used for every team site that is built.

Microsoft Teams is on the horizon and is definitely something that you should be considering in your design but we would recommend deploying this at a later date in a Shared Drive migration as the change curve would be too steep for a lot of users. 

Training

The data cleanse leads that were identified as part of the investigation are now likely to be your new SharePoint Site Admins. They will need a training pack created which can be used for online training as well as reference material. A Yammer group for admins is always a good idea for them to self-serve and ask questions of a wider group of users. A recorded video of the training is great for users to refer to.

Standard users will also need some basic training as well as ways of getting support. Multiple Skype for business training sessions with users are a good method of hitting as many users as you can at once and is easily scalable for your organisation. Sessions can be run throughout the migration and if your organisation has an LMS it can
be used for sign-ups and scheduling.

We have found that “Clinic” sessions work really well, and these can be run at a frequency that is required at different times throughout the project. They help users to get the help they need quickly and also reduce the calls to the helpdesk.

Migration of Data

Whilst the SharePoint migration tool is useful for small amounts of data and some basic migrations ThinkShare recommend ShareGate to undertake the migration of data. The main feature that is extremely useful is the incremental migration of data. This allows for the movement of data in the background without impacting the users and then arranging an incremental migration out of hours to migrate that team to SharePoint. Rather than describe an exact migration approach it is better to list a few of the common issues that you may come across:-

  1. Install your migration tool on a virtual server as close to your data as physically as possible. Doing this ensures that you don’t need to leave a laptop running overnight and from our experience running ShareGate on a laptop is not quick enough. The physical difference can still be a problem even over a fast connection due to the number of requests ShareGate has to make to get the data from the Shared Drives.
  2. Ensure that the team has moved all their data into the new structure on the Shared Drive. If it looks like they haven’t then go back to them and re-arrange a migration date. This will solve a lot of problems rather than having half their data in SharePoint and half on the Shared drives in another location.
  3. As soon as you start moving data from a Shared Drive make the data read-only to the users. Not doing this allows your users to update data on the Shared Drive and a full incremental migration would then need to be done.
  4. Break your document libraries into manageable chunks of data. Although SharePoint can handle it migrations of anything over 100GB or 100,000 files may not complete and could take days to re-run. We have had problems with this on a couple of migrations.
  5. Permissions – keeping the existing permissions from a Shared Drive is not our preferred approach, it is better to start afresh and apply your new permission model to SharePoint.
  6. Upload speed is key to your migrations, if your internet connection is not sufficient then you will end up having to throttle down ShareGate to ensure users can still work on the network. It is possible to use 100% of the bandwidth so make sure you watch out for this.

Support and Adoption

Your communications have gone out the users to let them know they are now on SharePoint and where to go to get access to their files, what happens next? Hopefully, most of your users attended your training but there will always be some that don’t. A Skype bridge is a good idea on the day of go-live to field any calls and quickly get to the bottom of any issues, even if your users are usually in one place, homeworking still makes Skype calls a useful tool. As I have mentioned Skype clinics are a good idea to schedule every couple of days when migrations are at their peak. Yammer groups for SharePoint enable more skilled and helpful users to provide the first line of support but your formal support mechanisms should be well defined at this point.

What we have found is that although you can provide as much training and support as possible it is only once the users start using the SharePoint that they find issues or need help on ways of working.  Make sure that you have a follow-up strategy in place. This could consist of more clinics or review meetings with each of the teams. Just showing users the best way to use the functionality in SharePoint can solve 80% of their issues.

Future Phases

Once the use of SharePoint has bedded in, further cost savings can be made in process improvement and productivity by using Flow, PowerApps and Microsoft Teams. Make sure that funding and resources are available for this work as this is where you will start to really help your users to reduce the amount of unnecessary manual processing that they have been doing.

We hope you have found this useful. If you’d like to find out more about the services we offer and how we can support your business, contact us today.