So, you've decided to move from those old, inefficient file shares to a better solution, which happens to be SharePoint. I couldn't congratulate you enough on that decision! It's a new dawn for your organization in terms of collaboration, file storage, and overall efficiency.
But before you let your users loose in their new playground, you've got to actually migrate the content. In this post, we'll look at 5 key areas you need to think about when you migrate file shares to SharePoint, either on-prem or online. It'll help you to do a more thorough analysis before migrating and save you a lot of headaches.
1. Only migrate what you need
As opportunities come, a migration is a very good one in terms of having a close look at your content and only migrating what you really need. Some content may be duplicated, some may no longer be current or valid and still more may be archived or disposed of. The fastest migration method is, of course, to migrate everything, but this will cost more time in the long term.
Provide a little time to let people investigate the content they are responsible for, and you will draw dividends by doing so. The migrated SharePoint environment will have current, non-duplicate content and people will be able to find the documents they’re after much faster. And, they won’t be using out-of-date information.
2. What will your new site structure look like?
Part of your file shares to SharePoint migration strategy should involve an information mapping activity: look at how you structure your content in SharePoint. SharePoint uses site collections, sites, lists, and libraries to provide a hierarchy and your migration plan must contain which content goes to which site and library.
It’s likely your file shares are already stored in a hierarchy of folders and this can be used as the basis for your information architecture. However, try not to use folders inside libraries - folders have one big disadvantage: a document can only be in one folder. For example, a contract for a project you're doing for a client may be in a folder for that client. However, it should also be visible in the project documentation.
Furthermore, it’s not very easy to move documents from one folder to another, so document tagging is a much better solution for document classification. It allows users to assign one or more tags to a document and as a result views can be created that show documents with a certain tag. Reclassifying is very easy since it only requires a user to update the metadata properties of the document.
3. Content types and metadata
SharePoint uses content types to classify documents. Each content type represents similar documents, like contracts, technical documents and so on. Individual documents have metadata as well - there are metadata values that are common for each document, like author, creation date, title, etc. Each content type can have unique metadata values too - for instance a customer document has metadata specifying customer information.
One or more content types are assigned to a document library. When migrating a document to that library, the content type must be specified. So, part of the migration plan is to specify which documents are stored in which library, but also which content type should be assigned. Besides that, all metadata properties should be populated.
Out-of-the-box migration using copy & paste doesn't allow to specify content types or metadata during migration. It would require manual corrections afterwards - a very time consuming process as anyone who’s had the misfortune to do so will tell you! Our SharePoint migration tool makes this process much easier and, based on the folder structure, it allows you to specify which documents should be assigned which content type and metadata.
4. Make your security manager happy
You almost certainly have unique permissions in some places and it’s important to copy these permissions from your file shares to SharePoint, such that after the migration people still don’t have access to documents with sensitive information. SharePoint allows you to configure permissions on a Site Collection, subsite, and list level, but this can be time consuming in a big migration.
Our tool comes in handy here however, as it extracts security information from the file share, and configures it in SharePoint (and saves you a lot of time and stress!). This lets you ignore or change security settings for certain folders or documents, and gives you enough granularity to please even the most stringent security manager(s)!
5. Take advantage of SharePoint features
Traditional file shares don’t have many fancy features - they’re just a place to store documents. SharePoint on the other hand, has a lot of very cool features. Make sure you actually start using them post-migration:
- Search: SharePoint has a very powerful search engine. It works straight out-of-the-box, but tailor it to your organization’s needs to allow it to reach its full potential!
- Excel Services: A lot of management documentation is stored in Excel sheets. The downside is that they're all standalone documents. Excel Services allows users to let SharePoint render the Excel workbooks, build reports based on the data inside, and combine multiple documents.
- Delve: When making use of Office 365 in a cloud-only or hybrid implementation, have a look at Office Delve. It’s a new way of looking at document management. Instead of a predefined site structure, Delve shows documents based on user’s activity.
A new way of doing things
Migrating from old-school file shares to SharePoint is a recommended but time consuming step. Most of the effort required is in analysis - a migration is the opportunity to have a close look at all the content on your file shares. Talk with stakeholders to archive or dispose of old or duplicate content, set up an information architecture in SharePoint, and use all the cool new features in SharePoint and Office 365!
Enjoy your powerful new intranet!
For more articles on file share migration you can read the following blogposts
- Migrating File Shares and SharePoint On-Prem to SharePoint Online
- Preparing for a File Share to SharePoint Migration
- Automating Your File Share Migration to SharePoint with PowerShell
- Migrate File Shares to SharePoint and preserve Office document properties
- Why You Should Migrate from File Servers to SharePoint
- A File Share Inventory for Smart SharePoint Migrations