Getting popular in the last year, Office 365 offers companies with a suite of software to support your company. One of these being SharePoint, is not necessarily well known by the ones with the Office 365 account. On the Microsoft site, it is represented as “Collaboration Site” and a place to “share your documents” but not much about SharePoint specifically. So what happens? They move all their files directly to a SharePoint document library as if it was a drop box. And I don’t blame them, it’s easy and it’s there already. I always said, SharePoint’s greatest strength is also its greatest weakness… it’s too easy to create something, a few clicks and you got your team site with a library.
Think about the architecture
First, you need to know what you are dealing with, what is SharePoint? It’s huge! But it can be simple, chances are you have been put in charge of the “Office 365” and now to migrate the shared drive and all its files to SharePoint but you have no idea how it actually works. If I say start with some End User and Power User training, I might just lose you in this article. I know what you are thinking, “yeah yeah I know training is great but I don’t have the time or the budget”. I will give you a quick overview of what you need to consider before actually migrating files over.
SharePoint Structure 101:
Site Collections: A Site collection is what you create from the Office 365 administration console. It basically gives a url to a Site or a Collection of Sites depending on the template you choose. When you create a new Site Collection, you create a new structure, a new root site.
Sites: Visually you cannot tell whether you are looking at a Site or a Site Collection, matter of fact they have nothing in common. However, often we get confused with the concept. Site Collection is the grouping of all sites under one root site. A site is like a container where we will store things.
*Only two things can exist in a site, Lists and/or Libraries*
Lists: Have you worked with Excel before? Well that’s pretty much what a list is. Ok, I am exaggerating a bit here but the concept of a table where rows and columns are used to maintain the content is the same. A SharePoint List is a table where the user will be able to make entries. A List maintains text or data if you want in its’ table, that means that you are not managing documents in a list but data like contacts, announcements, tasks, customers, etc..
Libraries: Simple, it’s the same as a SharePoint list but it’s for documents. Your users can put documents in a table instead of a folder to be able to filter, sort and tag the document.
Of course, there is a lot more going on in a site but that is really the basics of a site’s structure.
You think you are ready?
This is where the problem usually rises. SharePoint seems so easy that a common mistake when migrating to Office 365 is to dive right in as soon as you heard that Document Libraries hold documents.
What do we see? Libraries without columns but many folders; New sites when new pages should have been created; permissions set on each folder and subfolders instead of on the library;
I am sure you know what I am talking about, or worse you have not gotten to the point where the problems started to rise up.
Before anything starts with the migration of files, you should get comfortable with Site Columns and Content Types. Check out this article that really covers it.
A Content Type is a way of telling SharePoint that you want to organize, classify or identify a type of document in SharePoint.
Define an Information Architecture to get you going, sounds scary but it does not have to be. In a previous article, we covered how to build an Information Architecture for SharePoint as well as some examples on how it can look like.
Problems when migrating to SharePoint
Alright, so you know what’s in a SharePoint site and understand the value of columns and content types in SharePoint. Because you are copying or migrating files to Office 365, you may encounter some problems.
One thing to understand is that Office 365 is somewhere on the web, the cloud as we like to say. What does that mean for you? Well, it means that the 500GB of files you planned to drag and drop over to SharePoint will most likely fail because of timeout issues. Remember, you are using your internet speed to copy everything to Office 365. Another problem is the special characters in files on your shared drives.
The number one issues we receive from our customers trying to migrate documents to Office 365 is due to latency and illegal characters. Unfortunately, there are no magic solutions this time. You will have to take a few documents at a time, make sure they don’t have illegal characters and as you upload them assign them to content types and enter the correct metadata. I know…
Another solution would be to use tools like Sharegate’s “Copy Local Files to SharePoint” tool, which allows the person migrating to SharePoint to solve these problems.