The Challenges of Migrating to SharePoint Online

By Gavin Rackley

Back in 2001, Core delivered the first UK deployment of SharePoint. Since then, SharePoint has gone from strength to strength, offering far more versatility with the online version of Microsoft’s document management platform.

In this article, we will outline how we help businesses move from physical storage devices, such as on-premise file servers, NAS drives, or even datacentre SANs, to SharePoint Online; explaining a few of the usual challenges we help our customers through on those journeys.  

A focus on business outcomes

With a focus on business outcomes, we begin by asking questions developed from three decades of delivering Microsoft solutions to gain an understanding of the physical and cloud environments. During this stage we will assess data volume, file formats, and file structure, delving into details to understand if the customer wants to replicate the existing file structure, or create changes during the transition. These questions are designed to provide us with the information to deliver exactly what our customers ask for.  

We pay particular attention to permissions during this stage, often advising customers on the best approach to carry out a permissions audit and applying tighter controls in their SharePoint Online platform.  

When carried out effectively, transitioning to SharePoint Online can be a perfect opportunity to undertake housekeeping within data storage that at any other time would be too disruptive.  

Known challenges when transitioning to SharePoint Online

This discovery stage is key to overcoming challenges before the deployment stage begins and is often guided by our experience. For example, we take the time to investigate details such as file path lengths, which, if not identified early, can cause unnecessary delays, and even downtime. By first understanding the customer expectations and the existing environment, we can then assess how to achieve this.  

Often, the method is guided by business continuity, deeming a phased approach to be more suitable. The data is broken down into logical groups and copied to SharePoint Online in stages, transferring users in functional groups. It is the experience that Core brings to migration projects that smooths the deployment process. 

By engaging with our customers, instilling confidence at every stage, we describe the challenges we have faced during previous migrations, such as bandwidth, permissions, user experience (UX), communications plans, and even adoption approaches. For example, if users are accustomed to accessing data through a letter drive, such as a Z-drive for finances, we help our customers plan their new structure accordingly, with a plan to ease users through the change, identifying power users that can facilitate knowledge transfer. 

Planning and communication

The key to any great IT project is planning and communication. Without the insight Core brings to the project, planning can be short-sighted from the start. Without our experience to flag common issues, businesses can start the project, creating larger, more significant issues along the way, which, in turn, affect the user experience. If the planning is detailed, and all potential issues are explored and remediated, user adoption is made far easier, and user adoption is a key indicator of a successful project.  

SharePoint Online user adoption tips

Thankfully, SharePoint Online has much more to offer than simply, a place to store files. Accessibility is provided for through Teams, through the web, or simply through OneDrive via the familiar file explorer, making it easy for project teams to help users adopt the new platform.  

Through SharePoint Online, users can choose to open files through the usual desktop app, or through the web versions of Office 365. Changes are automatically synchronised, and simultaneous editing simplifies workflows between teams. 

With SharePoint Online, security and file access can be further enhanced by creating function-specific sites, with dashboard tools relative to the team. Providing team-specific calendars, document libraries and links gives the users a central place from which to work, collaborate, and communicate.  

Through an effective communication plan, these features can be broadcast to users before and during the project, building excitement. For the business, there are many positive outcomes associated with transitioning from physical storage to SharePoint Online, such as cost savings, greater forecasting, less unplanned downtime, simplified disaster recovery, and carbon footprint reduction. But for the users, the positive outcomes can change the way they work, making life simpler, and more flexible.  

Microsoft Cloud Service Provider

Core is a Microsoft Cloud Service Provider with more than three decades of experience delivering Microsoft solutions. With ten gold and four silver Microsoft competencies, Core is proud of its heritage and partnership success, delivering solutions and managed services that delight our customers every day. 

If your business is developing a modern workplace, get in touch to talk to one of our cloud specialists. We offer Microsoft Cloud Accelerator Program (MCAP) workshops to help you understand which solutions are right for your business, obtain buy-in from stakeholders, and help get the project moving with confidence. If you are an existing Microsoft customer, you may even be eligible for Microsoft funding. Click here to browse our workshops.  


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