The past year I have noticed a significant rise in companies seeking to optimise their business processes by moving their legacy on-premise SharePoint environments over to cloud based technologies.
The advancements in cloud based technologies and the guarantee of saving time and expenditure on server maintenance has made migration from SharePoint on-premise to a cloud based platform a more appealing option. It seems SharePoint Online within Office 365 is the most popular option when looking to migrate.
I have discovered first hand from multiple migration projects the issues you must consider before undertaking the migration to SharePoint Online. Perhaps you are considering a migration to SharePoint Online or maybe a Hybrid structure. If so there are a number of factors you should consider first.
What can be migrated?
Majority of your run of the mill content can be easily migrated, including;
- site structures
Even workflows and Meta Data can be migrated with ease.
I have used multiple tools for migration projects. Different tools match different sets of project requirements and I tailor our migration method to fit the circumstance. There are many different tools available but it is worth shopping around to find the tool that will handle your migration expectations.
For example a recent project required that all historic meta-data for documents (Created dates, modified dates etc.) must remain the same, this can be achieved with certain migration tools on the market.
Custom Looks & Feel (Company Branding)
Often when organisations are migrating to their new SharePoint Online environment they take the opportunity to have a fresh look and feel for their sites. This is a key element of a migration which is often under estimated as changing the user interface and experience of a SharePoint Online site is totally different to On-Premise. This is due to how customisation can be delivered. You must be careful when considering your requirements for the look and feel of your new site as SharePoint Online is accessed through an internet connection so speed and performance should be your main concern.
Having a heavily customised user interface and snazzy looking homepage may sound a great idea on paper. In reality without proper planning, creating this on SharePoint Online can incur performance problems. A site that takes a while to render and is slow to respond becomes unusable and will be abandoned by the end users, meaning all the time and effort gone into customising the site user experience has to be removed. I have managed multiple projects when organisations have developed incorrectly and needed to have their site rebranded correctly to improve performance.
SharePoint Online works best when used out of the box. There are some very simple out of the box options for changing the colour scheme of your site to match your organisations brand. The best way to do this is to customise the SharePoint Online colour palette. This can be achieved quickly with ease without risking performance issues. You can then change the logo to that of your companies and you have made the SharePoint site unique to your organisation.
SharePoint Online – Custom Solution Migration
If an end user compared an out of the box SharePoint 2013 site side by side with a SharePoint online site you would not be able to tell the difference. The real differences impact the SharePoint developers and how they deliver their custom solutions on SharePoint Online. When developing for On-Prem, SharePoint developers had free run to develop solutions for a real custom user experience. Almost all custom developments cannot be easily migrated from on-premise to SharePoint Online, even with use of a migration tool.
SharePoint Farm Solutions
Most developers when providing solutions for on-prem SharePoint 2007/2010/2013 would deliver this through way of a deployment into the global assembly cache of the SharePoint farm. This provided the solution a full trust communication with SharePoint with few limitations. However SharePoint Online has not got the option for deploying your existing farm solutions and chances are you will need to re-develop the solution
Sorry Kids… Out of the Sandbox!
Microsoft do not recommend custom solutions to be developed as Sandbox solutions for SharePoint Online. In my experience SharePoint Online sites that are running multiple Sandbox solutions have been incredibly slow and sluggish. Often to the extent the hindrance of poor site performance out ways the benefit of customisation. In such cases often the original requirements are stripped back and Sandbox solutions are removed. If you are a non technical I would advise your site to be investigated for possible sandbox solutions before migration.
SharePoint Online Add In Apps
This can have multiple drawbacks for developers so there is another option referred to as “Provider hosted Add in app”. These are applications that run in a server that is external to SharePoint’s.
That server would have its own infrastructure and the “Provider” would be responsible for keeping it running smoothly. A provider hosted Add in app allows developers to use server side code using the .NET CSOM. This is the method we usually find best for meeting the requirements of the App.
Migration To Currently Used SharePoint Site
You may have been using a hybrid structure up to now, but considering moving everything to SharePoint Online. This can be achieved but requires a slightly different approach to the migration planning.
The migration plan will include merging content from your on-prem to existing content on SharePoint online. This requires consideration of how the site structure will be set up to make navigation easy for your end users.
Before migrating be aware of existing content on the SharePoint online site such as workflows and how your migration may impact on it.
I had made a mistake when I was first trialing migration software last year. I was copying content from my on-prem dev environment to my SharePoint online dev site. The mistake happened when I migrated 300 list items to an existing list which an alert workflow had been set up. It then issued me 300 alert emails.
This is the type of scenario to consider to make sure your migration does not conflict with existing content.
Only a small piece of the puzzle
The issues raised above are only a small part of issues to be considered when making the move from On-Prem to SharePoint Online. Proper investigation and analysis of your existing environment should be carried out thoroughly before creating a plan of action for your migration.
I would recommend having a spring clean of your sites to make sure anything that does not need to be there is removed before the migration starts. The less data you need to move and the more out of the box solutions you can use the quicker the migration process will be.
Making sure you have all the requirements for your new SharePoint Online environment clearly documented and a migration delivery roadmap document will ensure a smooth migration.