June 23, 2015

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Hassle-free File Server to SharePoint Migration – Basic Ideas

SharePoint is a web-based platform introduced by Microsoft to meet the collaboration requirements of organizations. Effective collaboration and sharing of documents among employees is vital to the success of an organization. By implementing SharePoint, organizations reduce their operational costs and improve productivity.

While implementing SharePoint, organizations needs to move all their shared content from File Servers to SharePoint. The decisions to migrate data from a known platform to a new one is really a tough one. Once decision has been taken, you need to go through a lengthy procedure that mostly involve the following steps:

1. Requirement analysis
2. Migration planning
3. Pre-migration analysis
4. Migration
5. Migration validation

Requirement analysis

SharePoint is relatively a new product that is emerging and evolving gradually to a mature collaboration and content management platform. Before adopting it in your organization, you should know what it is for, how it can be utilized effectively, and how suitable is it for your organization. 
At first you should decide whether you need an on-premises deployment or a SharePoint Online subscription (SharePoint Online is available as a stand-alone product and as a part of Office 365 Suite). There should be a clarity regarding what need to be moved to the SharePoint from File Servers. And most importantly, you should understand the limitations of SharePoint.

Migration planning

There are different approaches to File Server to SharePoint migration process. Careful planning simplifies the migration process very much. Some organizations like to move the entire content to SharePoint in a single attempt. But many organizations like to do it many phases. Also, the organization need to take a decision regarding the timing of migration – whether to continue with the migration in working hours or pause it. 

You need to plan the SharePoint information architecture depending on the requirements of the organization.  Design the architecture according to the data you have. Decide on how to organize SharePoint lists and libraries, how to place data/content on sites and libraries, and who will have access to these lists and libraries. You can have multiple sites and libraries for the better organization of the content.

Information mapping is an important part of the migration. Decide on which content should go to a particular site or library. You need to plan Content Types accordingly.

Pre-migration analysis

A pre-migration analysis checks for possible troubles that may happen during the actual migration. A fair understanding of SharePoint configuration/subscription plan, and SharePoint Limits and Boundaries will help you to understand and fix most of the possible issues in advance. While migrating content to SharePoint, one should keep an eye on the volume of the data, file sizes, number of items, file and folder names, etc. because of many restrictions enforced by SharePoint. Some common issues faced in SharePoint migration are mentioned below.

Based on your on-premises infrastructure, or your cloud subscription plan, you will be having a limit on the volume of data you can migrate to the SharePoint. You cannot migrate more data without ensuring additional storage space. And if the number of items you migrate is larger, you may have to restructure the SharePoint to accommodate the additional items. 

While naming a file path, file, folder etc. in SharePoint, you need to remember many things. There is a limit to the number of characters possible in a SharePoint URL. Also, many characters and end strings are invalid in SharePoint.  If you have file or folder names with such characters and end strings, you need to change them before the migration.  Also, some file types are blocked in SharePoint, and you cannot migrate them to SharePoint at all. 

Migration

Ideally you should move only the shared data from File Server to SharePoint (Public folders of Exchange Server/Office 365 also can be moved to SharePoint as they are used by all). You need to configure the SharePoint environment as per requirement. Migration can be done in different ways:

Manual migration – manual methods are preferred only when the volume of the data to be migrated is small. 
Migration using professional migration tools - Professional SharePoint Migration tools are preferred when the volume of the data is very large. Such tools perform pre-migration analysis and automates the migration process. They usually provide the facility to schedule the migration too. Before purchasing a tool, go through the product details and try its trial version if available. 

Migration validation

After the migration, you need to ensure that migration has been accomplished successfully. This can be done by comparing the SharePoint content with the old source. You need to check whether all the data has been migrated. Special care should be given to the migration of meta data and version history. You can double-check the inference by taking feedbacks from site owners. Also, after the migration you can think of restructuring the content if changes seem necessary. And finally, the end users should be given necessary training as SharePoint is a new platform for them. 

Blog Summary

Thinking of migrating shared data from File Servers to SharePoint? Just go through the basic steps you will have to follow. Understanding SharePoint, its Limits and Boundaries, deploying or subscribing SharePoint according to the requirements etc., are crucial for successful migration.
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Author Bio:

Ajit Singh is associated with Lepide Software as a Manager – Product Testing and Marketing Operations. 

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