No one really likes moving. It’s one of those times that friends regret owning a truck. However, while the process can be full of headaches, hard decisions and a lot of work, the end result usually is an improved situation.
This is especially true when moving from your crowded apartment, with little to no storage for all your stuff, to a new spacious home in the suburbs.
There are still transition issues to deal with, but at least you’ll have a place for your growing collection of Star Trek memorabilia.
The same is true for most organizations looking to migrate to SharePoint Online from SharePoint On-Premises (or from anything, for that matter).
The IT industry is going gaga over “Cloud First”, with virtually everyone joining (or at the very least, considering) a headlong dash to cloud migration. Due to its many benefits, especially its seamless integration with Office 365, many organizations are moving their server-based SharePoint products to SharePoint Online. However, the question must be asked, “Is SharePoint Online really the right choice for your organization?”
For organizations already running SharePoint On-Premises, migrating to its cloud version may be somewhat easier, but for first-timers, it could entail a ton of pitfalls, headaches and things to consider that will keep you up at night staring at the ceiling.
Before making the move to SharePoint Online, let’s take a break to understand what the cloud version of SharePoint is all about, its pros, cons and most importantly, whether it’s the right choice for you.
Advantages of Migrating to SharePoint Online
1. Rolling Releases
Users who migrate to SharePoint Online get to enjoy a rolling release model of new updates, improvements, and features. With SharePoint On-Premises, organizations are stuck with the point release model — which may entail the uninstallation of previous versions and installation of the newer version. Since new features are automatically pushed to SharePoint Online, users get to enjoy newly released upgrades much earlier.
2. Office 365 Included
Your SharePoint Online subscription provides users with access to an awesome variety of useful tools, including Office 365 at no additional cost. If you purchase SharePoint On-Premise you would have to pay for these additional licenses. All of this adds up to more effective collaboration. Users can collaboratively build websites that can be used to create workflows, assign email tasks, share files, start blogs, and so on. It also comes with Delve, a unique visual search tool that helps users search for data within Office 365 (whether it’s a document you’ve been working on or files that you have permissions to view).
3. 99.9% Uptime
With a 99.9% service-level–agreement reliability, SharePoint Online is truly phenomenal. Combined with an outstanding support team (handling tickets within one business day), migrating to SharePoint Online sure seems worth the trouble.
4. Reduced Cost
Broadly speaking, SharePoint Online is cheaper for most companies, especially when compared to purchasing every new upgrade of the On-Premise version once it is released. Although your total cost of ownership for SharePoint On-Premise will vary, migrating to SharePoint Online reduces heavy upfront hardware and licensing costs, the need for onsite backup software, electricity consumption, hardware maintenance costs and other associated costs of running SharePoint’s On-Premise version.
5. Improved Storage Capacity
In addition to new features which help boost its already robust performance, SharePoint Online allows users access to 1 TB plus 10 GB per user license (up from 1 TB for the tenant and an additional 500 MB per licensed user) and increased file upload sizes of up to 15 GB.
6. Zero Maintenance
Unlike SharePoint On-Premise which require in-house teams for maintenance and technical support, all technical assistance for back-end processes in SharePoint Online is handled by the Microsoft team. This means that all underlying hardware and platform problems, as well as server upgrades and patches are covered by Microsoft.
This is a major advantage since large organizations that want to maintain healthy on-premises SharePoint servers will need to hire dedicated IT staff to support end users, stay on top of latest updates and patches, review hardware resources and handle all repairs and replacements. Even small and medium-size organizations still need at least one SharePoint expert on their payroll.
7. Hybrid Deployment
Although SharePoint Online comes with a host of Microsoft’s top-notch security features, some users still have fears about data security. They are reluctant to move their financial data, customer and employee data, trade secrets, innovations, research data and other sensitive information out of their network. However, they can still enjoy the benefits of SharePoint Online via a third option — hybrid deployment. Keep the most sensitive files on-premise and move the rest to the cloud.
Migrating to SharePoint cloud version does have its downsides and associated risks including loss of metadata, security issues, storage challenges and the difficulty in keeping data organized during the migration process.
Let’s take a look at some of the challenges associated with migrating to SharePoint Online — especially at the enterprise level.
1. Associated Costs
Migrating from server-based SharePoint product to its cloud version is complicated and may require the expertise of SharePoint developers with extensive experience in SharePoint Online migration. Aside from the costs of hiring such professionals, there are other costs that often come with migrating to SharePoint Online. These costs depend on a variety of factors including the size of your organization, the amount of data to be migrated, whether you need to transition your legacy systems, the level of customization used in SharePoint On-Premise as well as the cost of upgrading the underlying infrastructure. The good news is that the higher such costs are for you, the more likely it is that you will experience greater ongoing savings over the years after making the switch to online.
2. Increased Bandwidth
Some new SharePoint Online users noticed some slowness in using the platform. They screwed up. They weren’t aware that SharePoint Online uses more bandwidth than its on-premise cousin. This “disadvantage” is preventable by simply increasing your bandwidth before migrating. This could be a simple and straightforward as increasing your overall connection to the internet, or you could adjust settings on your router to prioritize SharePoint bandwidth.
3. Loss of Back-end Control
For some, one of the challenges of migrating to SharePoint Online is the loss of back-end control. With SharePoint On-Premises, enterprises have total control over their back-end. Although this is (arguably) one of the benefits of moving to the cloud, for some, loss of back-end control may disrupt business process continuity. The loss of back-end control may mean increased difficulty with the development of custom tools and overall platform integration. However, this control comes at the cost of handling technical support by themselves.
4. Disruption of Customization Settings
The rolling out of new updates/releases by Microsoft might affect users’ customization settings. But you can minimize this issue by keeping tabs on upcoming updates and considering their impact on your customization settings. Just add this to your checklist of something to be ahead of the game on, and you’ll be fine here.
5. User Adoption
To enjoy the benefits of migrating to SharePoint Online, successful user adoption is critical. As a Gartner research report points out, employees usually resist software adoption because they focus mostly on the challenges of learning the new system rather than its benefits.
Once migration is complete, employees will need to deal with new features, capabilities and user interfaces, to name a few — in essence, an entirely new working environment. If there is no explanation of the functional differences between the two products, employees will face a lot of issues when using SharePoint Online — whether it’s filling out their personal profiles, creating workflows or collaborating effectively. Again, though, you can overcome this issue — in this case with a little pre-migration training for all the staff.
6. Data Security
Many companies that decide on cloud migration still worry about the security of their data. Users are sometimes reluctant to move sensitive data to a cloud environment and prefer to keep it on their on-premises data servers. The availability of SharePoint mobile apps is also adding to data security concerns since organizations are unsure of the relevant degree of protection available for corporate data exchanged via mobile devices. There are ways to mitigate this concern. One such way is the above-mentioned hybrid deployment. As another example, you can take advantage of the new Security and Compliance Center app in Office 365 which contains several improvements for centralized security and compliance management.
7. Broken Links
For enterprises worldwide, SharePoint is quickly becoming a central hub of information and publishing. Organizations and employees rely on the platform to find information that is critical for smooth business operations. However, migrating from SharePoint On-premises to SharePoint Online requires moving all the data as well, and this can lead to a few problems.
Broken links are one of those problems. Depending on the volume of data involved, migrating to SharePoint Online can result in thousands (possibly even millions) of broken links. These links can be found anywhere from within Microsoft Word, Access, Excel, OneNote, PowerPoint, and Visio, to windows shortcuts, ASPX pages, Adobe Acrobat, Autodesk AutoCAD, InDesign and more.
Although fixing broken file links after migrating to SharePoint Online may seem simple, in reality, manually scanning the thousands of files to test for broken links and fix each one of them is a daunting to near-impossible task — one which will require a lot of financial resources and time to execute.
There is an effective way to handle this. You can use LinkFixer Advanced to prevent this common cause of data loss. When migrating to SharePoint Online, LinkFixer Advanced automates the management of file links, safeguards them during the migration process, and automatically repairs them.
Although there are speed bumps to migrating to SharePoint Online, its benefits, in terms of speed, reliability, security, user-friendliness and reduced cost, far outweigh its downsides. However, before you make the move to SharePoint’s cloud version, you should take a look at our checklist of things when moving your data to the cloud.
One More Thing
The success of a SharePoint Online migration is measured not only by the smoothness and seamlessness of the migration process itself but also by the successful adoption by employees and end users. It is important that your organization’s SharePoint consultants (or IT department) organize dedicated training sessions to present the migrated solution to employees and show them how to use it effectively.