Hub Collab, an IT consulting firm, has been recommending ShareGate as a Microsoft 365 management solution for years. In this article, Allan Helbling, Nintex vTE and Microsoft 365 expert at Hub Collab, shares his top ShareGate features for easier management.
As a certified Microsoft Solutions partner, we work with businesses and other organizations every day to make their SharePoint migrations and Microsoft 365 management easier. And, ShareGate is one of the most important tools in our toolbox.
ShareGate is our go-to for Microsoft 365 management and complex migration projects. It allows for “surgical precision” in preparing data for migration, making it easy to identify what should and shouldn’t be migrated. It also makes provisioning a breeze, which is critical to ensuring that users create the workspaces they need the right way and that admins have everything they need to manage their new tenants effectively.
For those organizations that don’t want to take on the day-to-day management of their Microsoft 365 tenant post-migration, we use ShareGate to make that easier, too.
While Microsoft 365 offers the most robust feature set of any cloud productivity platform on the market today, you also get a complex system, making it a challenge to manage.
Large enterprises usually have IT teams to manage all the complexities inherent in their Microsoft 365 tenants. However, smaller businesses often don’t.
Regardless of your company’s size, you probably have other IT initiatives that could use some love – which you could give them if only you could find a way to make managing Microsoft 365 easier.
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Eliminating the pain of Microsoft 365 management
For many IT managers, Microsoft 365 is a complicated web of configuration settings spread across many different admin centers, making managing a tenant difficult.
For example, you have the Microsoft 365 admin center, Microsoft Teams admin center, and Microsoft Purview compliance portal, to name a few.
Knowing which admin center to use when you need to make a change – where to find that specific setting you need to configure – can be like finding a needle in a haystack. And when you find it, you’ll need to make sure you have the permissions necessary to change it.
This is probably the biggest pain point our clients struggle with in their day-to-day management of Microsoft 365. That becomes even more complicated when you have different teams that manage different aspects of the system because an admin in one area may not have the access needed to make changes in another.
At Hub Collab, our clients vary in size and the complexity of their Microsoft 365 implementation. Some are larger enterprises that have IT staff who know their way around SharePoint and just need help managing it from day to day. Others are smaller organizations that need a lot more help.
Often, companies don’t have all the internal resources they need to manage Microsoft 365.
With ShareGate, we can significantly reduce our clients’ burden of Microsoft 365 management. We’ve found ShareGate to be a great solution to that problem.
So, we’d like to share what we consider to be some of ShareGate’s helpful features for making Microsoft 365 management easier.
Hub Collab’s favorite ShareGate features
1. External sharing and guest access reviews
One of the most powerful features Microsoft 365 provides is the ability to collaborate seamlessly with people inside and outside your organization. For Microsoft 365 admins, external sharing of information in SharePoint can create a bit of heartburn because it can introduce security risks if not managed properly.
To facilitate safe collaboration, most organizations enable Microsoft 365’s access review feature, which provides a report that tells you who is accessing files in your SharePoint environment.
Ideally, you should look at that report every 2-3 months. However, we have observed that many organizations don’t get around to reviewing them. We suspect this because while getting lots of different reports from Microsoft 365 is easy, they’re not always easy to understand.
ShareGate’s external sharing and guest access review features solve this problem beautifully.
One of these features is a customizable bot that proactively notifies our clients when it’s time to review access. But instead of serving up the Microsoft 365 access report, ShareGate gives Teams owners a list of externally shared files and who has access to what. The list allows them to revoke access if needed directly from the UI. This approach makes perfect sense. After all, who knows better than Team owners who should and shouldn’t have access to a team’s files?
By putting this aspect of Microsoft 365 management in the hands of Teams owners and making it super-easy to boot, ShareGate frees up a lot of time for our clients’ IT managers and, at the same time, gives everyone the peace of mind in knowing that external sharing is actively monitored and routinely reviewed.
2. Sensitivity tags
Microsoft 365 provides information security features, including sensitivity labels that protect sensitive content in Microsoft Teams sites, Microsoft 365 groups, and SharePoint sites.
For example, sensitivity levels can be used to reduce the risk of the data being inappropriately shared by enforcing restrictions on who can access files or preventing people from forwarding them to others.
ShareGate’s sensitivity tags expand on the protection that Microsoft 365 sensitivity levels provide by enabling you to automatically apply custom security settings to your teams and Microsoft 365 groups.
For example, you can create your own sensitivity tags in ShareGate with customized privacy statuses, external sharing rules, and guest access settings to make it easier for users to identify and apply the correct security settings to their files automatically.
ShareGate automatically flags any sensitivity mismatches so you can quickly resolve them. And it can ask end users to assign a sensitivity tag right at creation.
ShareGate sensitivity tags make it easy to manage information security in Microsoft 365 by simplifying the creation and application of sensitive tags.
Another benefit, although perhaps less obvious, is that ShareGate’s sensitivity tags help users know how important their files are, making them more responsible. As a result, they are more likely to be careful about sharing that information.
3. Workspace provisioning
Here at Hub Collab, we know that with the right guardrails in place, managing Microsoft 365 with a self-serve approach is the best way to help our clients get the most value out of their Microsoft 365 investment.
Workspace provisioning enables users to be the masters of their teams and sites. Users should be able to create and manage their own workspaces, and ShareGate’s provisioning features make that easier and safer.
For example, IT can use provisioning to identify scopes for different projects and develop workspace templates to support those use cases. With the ability to use provisioning to create and configure these templates, Microsoft 365 admins can empower users to work more productively without asking them for help.
Picture this: when you want to create a team, you can make it private or public. To do that, you would normally have to find all the required settings to make sure you get it all configured correctly. But with ShareGate’s provisioning templates, it’s quick, easy, and painless.
For users, ShareGate serves as something of a sherpa, providing a single place to create and manage their workspaces from start to finish in the ShareGate end-user app. And with the workspace provisioning features ShareGate provides, admins can support their work without getting in the way.
4. Inactivity detection policy
Inactivity detection is one of our favorite features in ShareGate because it helps keep our clients’ tenants clean and up to date. It also helps reduce storage costs associated with archiving.
ShareGate is great at removing the “noise” – the clutter that gets in the way of users finding what they need. Some data is useful to keep, sometimes not. Most of the time, a project has a start and end, and it’s not worth keeping the information available indefinitely, especially if it’s not relevant anymore.
However, because Microsoft 365 users can create their teams in Teams, lifecycle management can become difficult if not properly governed.
For example, a company we worked with had 28,900 teams on their tenant. With ShareGate’s inactivity detection feature, we could immediately identify that 3,000 were active. Cleaning that up sounds like a nightmare, right?
Not with ShareGate.
In addition to making it easy to identify inactive teams, ShareGate also makes it easier to determine what data needs to be archived because team owners can participate directly in the archiving process.
Expecting IT to decide what to keep and what to delete is time-consuming and risky because an inactive team does not mean it’s irrelevant.
For a company like the one in our example, asking each team owner individually whether the inactive team could be archived would have taken several months at least. With ShareGate, all those decisions can be made a lot faster.
In a self-serve Microsoft 365 environment – even one with good governance – admins cannot possibly know the purpose of every team (active or not) and whether the data it contains is still relevant. By allowing team owners to archive their data, ShareGate takes the Microsoft 365 admins out of the middle, eliminating the back-and-forth communications they would otherwise need to determine if a team should be archived.
Microsoft’s archiving tool vs. ShareGate
It’s worth noting here that Microsoft has plans to release its archiving tool in the near future, which may make archiving a bit easier. However, we’re going to stick with ShareGate for our clients.
Why? Well, there’s a couple of reasons.
One is that, unlike ShareGate, the Microsoft 365 archive tool doesn’t offer any features to determine whether to archive data for a given team because it will only be available to Microsoft 365 admins.
The other issue is cost. While Microsoft 365’s archive tool will allow you to move data into cold storage as a backup, Microsoft plans to charge businesses that use the tool a fee for storing their archived data. In addition, if those businesses need to restore any data from their archive, they will pay an additional fee based on the data they need to restore.
In contrast, Hub Collab clients (or any ShareGate user) can use ShareGate to manage and archive its clients’ data on their own Azure cloud server or on ShareGate, where data storage is free.
Blueprints are a new and exciting feature in ShareGate that helps streamline the creation of new Teams sites. Blueprints are created by attaching an existing SharePoint site to a provisioning template.
When creating your blueprint, you can attach an active SharePoint site and sync its content and structure. Once the template is configured, you can create new teams with SharePoint sites identical to the one used to create the blueprint.
We haven’t had an opportunity to use this feature yet, but we can’t wait to see how it works.
We’re already using templates here at Hub Collab, but how we’re doing it now is rather cumbersome because it requires using PowerShell. When creating a new site for a client, we first create a site with the structure the client needs and use a PowerShell script to turn it into a template. Then, we use another script to apply that template to a new site. This is quite time-consuming, and there’s always a lot of back and forth with clients during development and validation.
We’re not sure how much time ShareGate’s Blueprints will save, but we can already tell they will make creating new sites easier and more intuitive. We look forward to digging in soon and learning firsthand everything this feature can do for our clients.
Our advice for managing Microsoft 365? Just get ShareGate
As a vendor, we love to show clients how easy it can be to manage a Microsoft 365 tenant with ShareGate. In fact, its simplicity often surprises them.
Most clients come to us concerned that managing a tenant is going to be incredibly time consuming and complicated.
It’s pretty nice to see their faces light up when we introduce them to ShareGate. Suddenly, they feel like they have more choice.
They can decide to manage their tenant in-house or they can leave some or all of that to us here at Hub Collab. Either way, managing Microsoft 365 is a whole lot easier for everyone with ShareGate.