5 Key Steps for Migrating SharePoint to the Cloud

For SharePoint users in particular the cloud offers a way to replace the administrative burden and costs of managing and maintaining on-premises SharePoint platforms. Migrating to the cloud can be somewhat complex since SharePoint migration tools are limited in functionality or non-existent. So while the cloud can certainly reduce administrative burden, getting there requires having a plan that takes into consideration your overall business goals, your existing infrastructure and content, and your user’s needs.

Here are five key steps we advise our clients follow when migrating their content.

1. Identify what configuration works best for your business

There are several options for running SharePoint both on-premises or in the cloud. As you weigh cloud options, consider which environment best serves your user’s needs. Do you want to move everything to the cloud, or would a hybrid cloud scenario, where only certain workloads or applications (such as email or archive storage) are migrated serve your users better? Depending on the functionality you require and what your organization’s information architecture looks like, evaluating all the options will help shape the scope of the migration and ensure the best solution for your organization.

2. Establish a realistic timeline

Be patient -- your move to the cloud will take longer than you think. I’m not saying that you should estimate how long you think it will take then double it, but the reality is that successful migrations take time. SharePoint is complex and Murphy’s Law always applies. Gartner reported that 80 percent of organizations expect their SharePoint migrations to be quick, easy and trouble-free. In my experience, 20 percent of these organizations will have a stalled project and may even be unable to bring their new SharePoint environment live. This worst case scenario is entirely preventable, but it’s important to be patient and build in extra time up front.

3. Identify what you need to migrate and what you should leave behind

Don’t waste your time and money migrating content that is no longer useful to your business. It’s important to work with content owners and business users to identify relevant content and understand how it is being used and will be used in the future. Pay particular attention to identifying content that is out-of-date or irrelevant and strike it off your migration list. Migrating and storing content in the cloud that you don’t actually need will only put an unnecessary strain on your budget.

Now that you know what you’re going to migrate and what stays behind, you’ll have a better sense of the type of SharePoint deployment that will meet your business needs. From here you can start to build a plan for an updated information architecture and your move to the cloud. This is also the stage where you can identify any customizations that you made to your existing SharePoint environment and formulate a plan for how to deal with them in the cloud since it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to migrate them in their current state.

4. Test your migration

As with all IT migrations, put a plan in place for testing your SharePoint cloud migration. Try to use content and a SharePoint structure that is as close as possible to your final planned environment. Once you’ve carried out one test, try another and then another. It’s important that you test your migration extensively as there are limitations as to what can be moved to the cloud.

If you are moving to Office 365, then it’s likely that you’ll be using a third-party migration tool. Be aware that each tool will have different capabilities for migrating metadata, workflows and permissions. These are important SharePoint features that can easily be impacted by the migration process, so it’s imperative that you understand any limitations related to this data.

Another benefit of multiple testing is that it will provide an approximation of the speed of your project and help you plan a migration schedule. I say “approximation” because it’s often a good idea to add some extra time.

5. Verify the results with the business

Once you are satisfied with your testing, share the results with key business users and stakeholders. These are the people that ultimately need to be happy with the move. Make sure that the content has been migrated in line with their expectations and that any new information architecture scoped out on the whiteboard during the planning phase makes sense in the real world.

The Bottom Line

As you can see, preparation is key to any successful migration and moving to the cloud is no exception. By taking into consideration these five steps, your organization will be on the right path to a successful SharePoint deployment in the cloud.

Title image by Delmas Lehman (Shutterstock)