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5 keys to a successful file share to SharePoint migration

Looking to migrate file shares to SharePoint Server or the Microsoft cloud? These file share to SharePoint migration best practices will help you save time and ensure a seamless migration.

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. Here at ShareGate, we've learned some tips and tricks in developing our SharePoint migration tool, ShareGate Desktop.

In this post, we'll look at 5 key areas you need to think about when migrating file shares to SharePoint, either on-prem or online. These best practices will help you to do a more thorough analysis before migrating and save you a lot of headaches.


1. Only migrate file shares you need

Migrate what you need

A migration is a great opportunity to take a close look at your existing content. In fact, making an inventory is the first step towards any effective SharePoint migration.

As you identify your content, you might find duplicate content, content that's no longer up-to-date or valid, or content that can be archived or deleted. The fastest migration method is, of course, to migrate everything. But this will end up costing you more time in the long term.

Giving people time to investigate the content they're responsible for will ultimately pay off; your migrated SharePoint environment will have current, non-duplicate content and people will be able to find the documents they're looking for much faster.

2. What will your new site structure look like?

What will your new site structure look like?

Part of your file shares to SharePoint migration strategy should involve an information mapping activity, and should include details about where each piece of content will fit.

First, look at how content is structured in SharePoint. In the past, SharePoint Server used site collections, sites, lists, and libraries to provide a top-down hierarchy. But to take full advantage of new concepts like Microsoft Teams and Microsoft 365 Groups, you need to create a flat site structure in SharePoint Online.

It’s likely your file shares are already stored in an hierarchy of folders, and this hierarchy can be used as the basis for building your SharePoint information architecture. However, folders have a one big disadvantage: a document can only be stored in one folder. This can be problematic if you need to store a document in more than one place—for example, a project contract might be in a folder for that client, but it should also be visible in the project documentation.

Document tagging is a much better solution for effective data classification. Users can 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.


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3. Content classification and metadata

Content types and metadata

SharePoint Server uses content types to classify documents. Each content type represents similar documents—like contracts, technical documents, and so on.

When you create modern sites in SharePoint Online, you have the option to select a site classification to define the sensitivity of your site data. Or, you can apply sensitivity labels to individual pieces of content or containers (Microsoft Teams sites, Microsoft 365 groups, and SharePoint sites).

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 also have unique metadata values. For instance, a customer document has metadata specifying customer information.

Part of your migration plan should specify which documents are stored in which library, but you should also specify which content type should be assigned (SharePoint on-prem) or which sensitivity label should be applied (SharePoint Online). Besides that, all metadata properties should be populated.

Out-of-the-box migration using copy/paste doesn't allow you 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, allows you to specify which documents should be assigned which content type and metadata.

4. Make your security manager happy

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. That way, you're sure people still have access to the right things after the migration.

SharePoint lets you configure permissions at the organization level and the individual site level—but this can be time consuming in a big migration.

Our tool comes in handy here, as it extracts security information from the file share and configures it in SharePoint (saving 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

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 these features post-migration:

  1. 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!
  2. 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.
  3. Version history: Ever tried to find a document and been stumped by the presence of multiple versions with names like "finalreport", "finalFINALrepot", and "finalreport5"? Or maybe you've saved a file with a lot of changes only to realize that you need the old copy back? Version history in SharePoint lets you restore old versions, delete versions you no longer need, and even undo changes.

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 Microsoft 365

Enjoy your powerful new intranet!


For more articles on file share migration you can read the following blogposts


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