sharepoint online

SHAREPOINT ON-PREMISE MIGRATION TO SHAREPOINT ONLINE

As we predicted almost three years ago, we are now experiencing a significant demand for our migration expertise for clients wanting to migration from on-premise SharePoint versions up to SharePoint Online and Office 365.

Simply moving the SharePoint On-Premise list data and documents is a straight-forward process but that's just one small part of the process and without careful, documented planning and project management, the process can quickly spiral out of control.

Geodetic.UK has significant experience in all previous versions of SharePoint On-Premise and SharePoint Online; a landscape that is changing every month. Most importantly, planning is the key so read on...

IT's ALL IN THE PLANNING

A successful migration starts with a complete and documented evaluation of your existing On-Premise Farm.

Geodetic.UK has our own inventory documentation tools to produce reports showing exactly what architecture exists and what assets you have. Importantly, we also document and report on problems you may currently have in your farm.

Migrating to SharePoint Online is a great time to evaluate your current and future site structures and an even better time to clean up what you don't need. So for example, we often find site collections and sites that haven't been touched for years; these can be archived, just in case, but otherwise be excluded from the migration.

It's also a perfect time to finally get your company documents sorted out and your document libraries structured in a way that helps your business rather than hindering it. SharePoint Online (and On-Premise) has tools and features that can help your business work to ISO 9001 standards. This can include policies and functionality that enforces processes such as unified document uploads so that the document always has associated metadata and is automatically uploaded to the correct document library. These tools also allow you to cater for sensitive documents and keep them from being found by unauthorised users.

When SharePoint Online search functionality is configured correctly and robustly, searching for documents becomes a pleasure rather than a pain. Setting up Search correctly will give users a Google like interface where search results can be further filtered based on a range of criteria such as the user who modified or created the documents you seek, the type of documents, date modified and a range of other filters including filtering by structured metadata.

Often, Microsoft OneDrive can be an alternative to storing your documents in SharePoint document libraries. The general rule-of-thumb we use is that if you're collaborating on a document or the document content is sensitive or you want tight control over versions of that document or the document is part of your records management then storing your document in SharePoint is always the best option. We tend to use OneDrive for more general documents where the whole business needs quick access to a document that doesn't change frequently. Documents you place in OneDrive for Business are private until you share them. This makes OneDrive for Business your best option for draft documents or personal documents that no one else needs to see.

These decisions are all part of the planning process and the more time you spend in the planning the less time you'll spend tweaking later on.

The planning stage should also involve SharePoint site owners and users. We have developed a set of check-lists that allow users to document everything that needs to be done prior to the migration and after the core migration has completed. These check lists not only form an important part of your documentation; they are used to ensure nothing is missed and also used to record issues you'll need to return to later on.

THE FUN PART

There are several ways to get the migration process completed but there are now tools that Microsoft has developed that are free. There are also expensive third-party tools that can do more than the Microsoft offering. There are also Microsoft Migration APIs that allow you to write your own migration tools but unless you have the resources and expertise to use them, we'd recommend you don't.

The more expensive migration products can include tooling that migrates your existing workflows and more. Unless you have a significant investment in SharePoint workflows, we'd recommend that you recreate your workflows in Microsoft Flow; a much more powerful solution in our opinion and also included in your Office 365 subscription in many cases - and it's fun!

The real fun starts if you have developed solutions for your SharePoint On-Premise farm. For many years such solutions were developed as web parts that are what we call server-side solutions. The bad news is that you can't port these into SharePoint Online directly because Microsoft doesn't permit server-side code in SharePoint Online (because it could bring down the whole caboodle). However, all is not lost because the good news is that the solution can be converted in a variety of ways as we'll now describe briefly.

Provider Hosted Solution - The On-Premise server-side solution can be modified so that the server-side code runs in a separate server which can either be your own server or, as we'd recommend, an Azure web site. The data manipuation side of the code will need to be changed so that instead of fetching and storing SharePoint data using the server object model it is handled using the client object model and appropriate APIs to connect to SharePoint Online lists and libraries.

SharePoint Hosted Solution - This solution model would require a full rewrite and redesign of your server-side solution but the effort is rewarded by a significantly more responsive app. This is because all the code is client-side (runs in your browser) and uses modern technology such as Bootstrap, Angular, React, JQuery and others to ensure the app runs not only fast but also on any device.

By the way, we'd always recommend that when working with live data in your application that you store your live data in SQL Server rather than SharePoint. We typically use SharePoint data for lookup lists only. Why? Because, over the years, we've found this methodology to be significantly more robust, more secure, faster and more responsive. It's the way we've developed apps for more than 15 years.

CONCLUSION

If you've got this far down the page then you're probably planning a migration as described above. The real key is taking your time with the planning and preparation side of the migration. Using check-lists and documenting everything is something you'll never regret taking the time to do.

Fully understanding what you'll be migrating, understanding what will and will not migrate as you might expect is also vitally important.

Involving your staff in the planning, pre and post migration checks will reap its own rewards.

Contact me at Geodetic.UK on 01492 572893 for more information.