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What to Know Before Migrating to SharePoint Online

Yes, you know how beneficial SharePoint can be for your business and you’re ready to take the first step into the migration journey. 

But do you know where to start? Have you selected the data you want to migrate? 

I know, hitting that migrate button is tempting, but this is indeed the last step of the process. There are some aspects you must consider before moving all your company’s files into SharePoint, like organizing them properly. If your files are all scattered around your on-premises file server and you decide to migrate them like that, you’ll end up having the same mess on the cloud. 

That’s why we decided to take you through seven must-know aspects before you jump to SharePoint online

Rethink your file structure: 

Most small to mid-size organizations have never stopped to evaluate the way they organize their files. A messy file share isn’t much of a problem for small businesses due to the small flow of data and the intimacy between coworkers. But as the headcount grows, communication between departments does too and data that was once organized gets messier over time. 

An effective way to organize your files is to start broad. Think of the top layers of your business and then start narrowing down. Specify the different departments/functions/teams that structure your business. Then, define what kind of documents those groups work with and how they cooperate with other groups inside the organization. 

When creating this new file structure try not to go too specific so that you end up having five levels of folders inside folders, as it leads to having a long file path. This increases the chance of broken links or error messages when searching for a document. 

Understanding how permissions work and planning access 

SharePoint permission settings allow you to control the access that your employees, third-party suppliers, partners, have over your data. You decide who can read specific information and who is able to edit. This way you guarantee that sensitive data is kept safe from people who are not meant to find it. 

So, for every SharePoint site, there are three default security groups associated with it:

  • Site Visitors: They consist of read-only users. The only permissions they have are to read and download files. 
  • Site Members: Allowed to read, add new documents, delete content, and can also share with other employees.
  • Site Owners: These users have all the functionalities that visitors and members have, plus they can manage the site’s security and navigation as well as adding extra web parts.

Creating a document standard and naming convention 

You may be asking why the need to create a standard for naming files; it’s just a bunch of documents so, what can possibly go wrong if I omit this step?

Well, it’s the same reason warehouses create a codification convention to label every article that gets added to their inventory. They need to know the exact location of every product inside their facilities. To fulfill this purpose, these codes assign coordinates that tell operators on which shelf an article is and at which height and position. 

Something similar happens with your company’s files. Once you send them to SharePoint you need a naming convention to keep things in order and avoid confusion between departments. Remember that the idea is to increase productivity and make things go seamless. We don´t want Robert from HR to spend 5 minutes lurking to find this month’s employee list.

Where to begin?

There are some standards though, that you must keep in mind. The Queen’s University states four basic elements that should be incorporated when naming a file, and these are: 

  • An abbreviation of the Unit or Project the file belongs to
  • A brief description of the purpose of the file
  • Date of the latest edition of the file
  • State of the document (whether it is a draft or a definitive version)

You can decide which way to integrate these elements. Another thing worth mentioning is that file names must be kept short. There is not an exact number for a link’s character limit, but we suggest keeping it under 250 characters long.

Planning the metadata for documents 

Metadata consists of information about information. Incorporating its use to SharePoint is an efficient way to keep information organized and accessible. 

Many content management systems allow users to add diverse types of metadata to their documents. SharePoint already has standard metadata options to choose from, such as file name, author, creation date, content type, file type, and folder. 

So, to sum up, work with what’s best for your business. If you have a small company the default metadata options should be good to go. You can always customize the metadata according to your needs, but remember to keep it consistent.

Determining interoperability with Teams 

It is no secret that SharePoint and Microsoft 365 are very well merged. In fact, most people get confused between the two. The truth is, they are two completely different platforms with differentiated purposes. However, understanding how the two are related is important to get the best from all that M365 has to offer.

Before we get into any more detail with Microsoft Teams, there are some aspects worth mentioning. To embrace the modern workplace, you need to adapt from classic to modern SharePoint and by modern we mean, implementing a flat architecture. 

The reason for this is because Microsoft Teams only works with top-level sites. If your current SharePoint architecture includes a lot of subsites, Microsoft teams won’t be able to reach those subsites.

So, once you’ve moved to a flat architecture, you can now connect SharePoint with Microsoft Teams by creating sites.

How do they connect?

The modern SharePoint Online has two options to create a new site. Depending on the site´s intended purpose, you can choose between the following two:

  • Team Site: They aim towards team collaboration on projects. Team sites are generally organized by department or project. Their main goal is to bring together a group of people that join efforts to reach a common end goal.
  • Communication sites: Focused on sharing information with a wider audience. They come in handy when there is a need to share information with an entire organization.

To sum up, the real power of Microsoft Teams is that it creates an excellent collaboration environment that simplifies the whole experience of working with Office 365. It allows users to have everything in one place, file storage and sharing included and this would not be possible without its integration with SharePoint Online.  

Determine readership of documents Internal/External and chain of custody

SharePoint’s settings let you decide who can view, share, or edit the files you upload to it. If you only work with an internal readership of documents this means that only people from inside your organization have access to these files. So, to allow customers, vendors, collaborators to read these documents you must activate the external sharing.  

External sharing is controlled at two levels:

  • Organization level (settings that affect all of SharePoint Online globally) 
  • Site collection level

What external sharing options do I have?

Both Global and site collection settings are applicable for external sharing in SharePoint Online. When it comes to the organization-level settings, they replace any previous settings at the site collection level and affect OneDrive as well.

  • Sharing with external users in your directory 

You can use this feature to share documents, folders, and sites with other people who have been added to your Office 365 directory

  • Sharing with authenticated external users

This option allows you to share documents, folders, and sites with external users who either have a Microsoft account or an account from another Office 365 subscription or an Azure Active Directory subscription. These external users are sent a one-time code that is used to verify their identity to access the files. 

  • Sharing with anonymous users

Share only documents and folders (not sites) using an anonymous link. Anyone with the link can view or edit the document or upload new ones to the folder.

  • No external sharing

Choose this option if you want sites and documents to only be shared with internal users in your Office 365 subscription.

Another interesting feature is the document’s check-out option inside SharePoint. This allows only one user at a time to access files and edit them. Why is this important? This powerful tool helps keep track of who makes changes and when, so you have full control over your document’s chain of custody. If you ever need to backtrack to a specific point in the past, SharePoint makes it possible for you.  

Document Versioning

Finally, the last aspect to consider before jumping into the SharePoint Online wagon. 
Document versioning is one of the most powerful features SharePoint has to offer. It refers to the different versions of the document, as well as the controls around who should be editing or making changes to a document as in the chain of custody. File versioning allows you to track the activity of any item (document, event, task) and follow the audit trail. Any change you make to a document in a library is recorded. However, viewing an item does not create a new file version, these are only created when you change something. 

Let Us Empower You:

Now you have a clearer vision of what aspects you need to take care of before migrating from your on-premises server to SharePoint Online. It’s time to take the next step! Set up a meeting with us to start your migration journey!

Bonus: We paired with Bigger Brains so you can boost your SharePoint knowledge with this excellent course!

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