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Considerations for Migrating to SharePoint Online

 

SharePoint Online has been around for a while, first in Microsoft’s BPOS offering and now with Office 365. Office 365 brings major enhancements to SharePoint Online that have a lot of organizations jumping on the bandwagon. At the 2012 Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) Microsoft’s COO, Kevin Turner, stated "The fastest growing product in Microsoft will likely be Office 365 next year."  This revelation is amazing news to hear.

Prior to moving to SharePoint Online there are a lot of things you will need to consider. Note: there are two levels of Office 365 – standard/multi-tenant and dedicated. Dedicated comes with few limitations, but is eligible for only extremely large organizations (and is often rumored to be going away). Therefore, the considerations that follow are based on the standard, multi-tenant service description.

 

Storage Capacity Planning

There are limitations around capacity planning when you are moving to SharePoint Online. These are not necessarily bad limitations but you need to be aware of them prior to moving:

  • There is a limit of 300 site collections - to most organizations this should not be a problem.
  • Each site collection is limited to 100 GB. This is becomes a problem if you let your databases grow unchecked.
  • The total storage available is 25 TB. Note:  This was a significant increase from the original 5 TB each tenet was allowed.
  • The max upload size at any one time is 250 MB.

Here are a couple of tips to help prepare for the migration:

  1. Clean up the existing farm. This includes the following
    • Delete versions where possible
    • Delete old documents that are no longer of any value
    • Delete unused lists, these don't take up much space but every little bit counts
  2. Review how your farm is structured. If all sites reside in one site collection start to consider how your business operates. Can you break the sites into separate site collections based on department, or operational functions?
  3. Complete a capacity planning session to determine how much space you will need over time.
  4. With SharePoint Online, do not use unlimited versioning in document libraries.
  5. Determine what types of documents you can put dispositions on. For instance, if you have a contract content type, consider the length of time that document should reside in the system and have it delete automatically once that date is reached.
  6. Do not create team templates in the new environment if you are not going to be using all of the features. Tailor the sites to the needs of the business.
  7. If you know you are going to need more than 25 TB of storage then consider running SharePoint in a hybrid scenario, meaning SharePoint Online and SharePoint On-premise. If you have all of the appropriate SharePoint Online licensing you may not have to purchase user CALs for your on-premise installation - only server licenses would be required.  You will want to confirm this with your Microsoft Account Manager / LAR.

 

Migration Tool

Microsoft did not release a way to migrate an existing SharePoint On-Premise implementation to SharePoint Online.  If you don’t have the need to migrate the content you could essentially re-architect your solution manually in SharePoint Online to use the new features and set your old environment to read-only.

The other option is to utilize a third party tool for migrating content, although many tools require you to upgrade your environment to 2010 first before you can migrate to the cloud. For migration to Office 365, Cardinal recommends Metalogix Migration Manager SharePoint Upgrade which supports simple, direct migration from SharePoint 2003, 2007, and 2010. Migration Manager does not need to be installed on servers and provides powerful reporting functionality to compare content between sites and backup files. If there is a need to tackle a re-architecture of your environment prior to moving the content, the management tools within Migration Manager allow for a wide range of commands.

 

Email Enabled Lists and Libraries

Are you using email enabled lists or libraries? If you are not familiar with this functionality let me explain. If an environment is configured to allow email enabled lists and libraries, users can set up document libraries, calendars, announcement lists, and discussion boards to have email addresses. This enables users to interact with these tools via email instead of logging into SharePoint. Some organizations used this feature heavily, others block it entirely. It can be compared to public folders in Microsoft Exchange. This feature, however, is not available in Office 365.

Cardinal recommends Metalogix Migration Manager Exchange Public Folder Edition for simple, direct migration to SharePoint Online. This solution can help to mimic the functionality of email enabled folders.

The next major release from Microsoft for Office 365 appears to tackle the loss of email enabled folders by offering a new solution. While there is not a direct match-up for email enabling specific lists and libraries, users will be able to set up a feature called Site Mailbox. This feature essentially sets up an email address for a site as a whole. The intention is for this mailbox to be available through OWA and SharePoint simultaneously. This functionality is still in a beta release at this time.

 

Custom or Third Party Solutions

SharePoint Online only supports Sandbox Solutions. Can you convert your custom solutions to a Sandbox Solution? Does your third party vendor offer Sandbox Solutions to their products. If the answer to either of these is “no” you should consider running with a hybrid model. For more information about Sandbox Solutions and other development options in SharePoint Online, check out the developer guide.

 

Network Capabilities

What is your connection to the outside world? Keep in mind that now you will essentially have the need for a constant connection to the web. If your outside connection is down, you will only have access to the files you may have taken offline with SharePoint Workspace, or other third party tools. I recommend you review the Company Network Requirements document in the Microsoft Online Help and How-to. The document references some older BPOS material but it is still valid. If network connectivity is a problem, there are 3rd party solutions from WAN acceleration companies that can help you get over this hurdle.

Please keep in mind that SharePoint Online is an ever evolving product. The software descriptions can be updated on a monthly basis, so check Office 365 Updates site regularly. Microsoft released the Office 365 Preview (beta) on July 16th – Top 10 Reasons to try Office 365 Enterprise Preview. The exact timeframe for general release or updates for existing customers is unknown at this time.

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About The Author

Principal SharePoint Consultant
Cory is a principal consultant in Cardinal's Charlotte office. He has been working with Sharepoint since 2005 in a variety of clients and industries.