The move to Office 365 -- and SharePoint online -- is getting more attractive every day. The functionality is there, the price is just about right, so why not? If you are considering a move to the cloud-based version of SharePoint, there are a few things you should consider in your migration planning.

1. Don’t Migrate Your Mess

We’ve said this before when discussing upgrading from older versions of SharePoint or from file shares -- don’t do a straight migration. Chances are your content is not organized well, or tagged appropriately, so what’s the point moving it as is and having a big grey cloud? It doesn’t make sense.

What makes sense is to carefully plan what content you really need to move, how it’s going to be used and by whom. Once you’ve done that, then work on your SharePoint Information Architecture. Plan your content types, metadata and keywords. If you are going to make the move to the cloud, move only the content you need and migrate it right from the start.

2. Plan Your Security Strategy

It’s unlikely your content is wide open to everyone. You likely have team sites and project sites and open areas that everyone can access. You may have records management processes you need to put in place.

With Office 365 you have the ability to manage access to your site, manage roles and permissions, clearly identify the groups and roles you will need in your SharePoint Online environment and the permissions that need to be applied to each role. Next identify who from your organization will need access and to what groups and roles they must belong.

Once you have your security plan identified, you can set it up and then apply permissions and roles to content as it is migrated.

3. Governance Strategy

There are many elements to a governance strategy, but in this case we are looking at monitoring and ongoing maintenance. With any implementation of SharePoint you want to actively monitor its usage and ensure that users are following the proper processes.

You also want to be sure that the right permissions are applied and that as people move across, into and out of the organization that you are adjusting roles and permissions appropriately.

In addition, keep an eye on the amount of content you are storing within SharePoint online. Although the price is getting cheaper (20% according to recent reports), you still don’t want to have a lot of content stored online that’s not being actively used. It makes it harder to find things that you do need and can slow down searches and performance if it gets too far out of hand.

4. Plan Your Backup Strategy

Here’s what you know for sure. You don’t have control of the Office 365 technical environment. Yes, Microsoft guarantees 99.9% uptime and yes, they probably have a pretty strong infrastructure, but they aren’t completely invulnerable.

We saw this happen last year for a short period of time. But a short period is long enough to cause your organization a lot of grief -- especially if SharePoint is your primary tool for document collaboration, or document and records management.

Your backup strategy should be twofold. First, Microsoft does offer a backup process for your environment. Understand what you get and don’t get with your support contract, then plan for what you don’t get. This might include a place to archive older content no longer used, daily interim backups, etc.

Second, consider if you need to give your departments or teams more capabilities to manage their own content.

Maybe a particular team works with a lot of information on projects and manages a number of high priority projects. This team may need a higher degree of flexibility in how their content is backed up and quick access to that information if something does happen and the SharePoint Online environment goes offline. Consider third-party backup tools that can support this type of backup / recovery within a cloud-based SharePoint environment if you think you need this level of support.

Wrapping It Up

The demand for cloud-based services is increasing every day. There are economies of scale pushing organizations to consider SaaS software and/or hosted software. The functionality is, in many cases, the same -- it certainly is with SharePoint Online.

No it’s not an apples to apples comparison in terms of features and functionality, but the basics are all there and, recently, new capabilities have been added. And, of course, let’s not even start on what the next version of SharePoint is going to bring us.

Microsoft seems to be betting on Office 365 (of which SharePoint Online is a part). And many organizations are taking it more seriously. If you are one of these organizations, plan your migration carefully. Consider the four points above and ensure you have a strategy for each. Once you do, go to it.

Title image courtesy of Delmas Lehman (Shutterstock).

Editor's Note: To read more about SharePoint migration: