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State of
Microsoft 365

Migration, Modernization, and Security in 2021

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The cloud computing market has always evolved quickly. But the events of 2020 have required organizations to adapt to new challenges at record speed, as employees everywhere transitioned to new methods of virtual collaboration and distributed work. It’s been a year of digital resilience—and Microsoft cloud technology has played a critical role.

ShareGate’s first annual State of Microsoft 365 report highlights the latest Microsoft cloud computing trends, with a focus on migration, modernization, and security in Microsoft 365.

Drawing on data-backed insights, industry surveys, and interviews with Microsoft MVPs, the 2021 report identifies emerging trends to help you understand, and adapt to, the current state of Microsoft 365.

What you’ll learn

Image Companies are increasingly migrating to cloud-based Microsoft 365 environments.
Companies are increasingly migrating to Microsoft cloud computing environments.
  • Operations to migrate from on-premises to the cloud increased by 37.2% among ShareGate users in 2020
  • At the same time, cloud-based migration operations jumped by 50.1%, while on-premises operations decreased by 60.63%

Image COVID-19 prompted companies to accelerate their migration and modernization projects.
COVID-19 prompted companies to accelerate their Microsoft digital transformation projects.
  • 57.3% of organizations completed a SharePoint or Microsoft 365 migration in 2020—and 83.6% of that group said their migration project either proceeded on schedule or was accelerated
  • 92.8% of IT professionals said COVID-19 pushed prior modernization plans ahead of schedule, with 43.4% naming Microsoft Teams deployment as their top motivator/driver

Image IT teams are increasingly embracing self-service features in Microsoft 365
IT teams are embracing self-service features to leverage the full benefits of cloud computing in Microsoft 365.
  • 61.4% of organizations have some form of self-service functionality enabled in Microsoft 365, and 84.4% say that doing so saves their IT teams time and money
  • Among ShareGate users, group creation rose by 21.5% in a six-month period—and the proportion of entrusted groups (a self-serve feature in the app) increased by 67.65%

Image The rise in external sharing and a lack of user training present new security concerns.
Increased external sharing/lack of user training present new security concerns in cloud computing.
  • 43.8% of IT teams had insufficient time to train employees on new tools/processes in 2020—and only 19% provided employees with Teams-specific training
  • In six months, the number of groups with active external sharing links grew by 52.62% among ShareGate users, and the number of external sharing links within those groups grew by 73.74%

Chapter 1

State of SharePoint & Microsoft cloud migration

In 2020, we watched as the global shift to a distributed workforce accelerated the move toward cloud-based Microsoft 365 environments. This trend was reflected in our own ShareGate customer data, which showed a 33% increase in cloud-based operations in 2020 versus 2019. It helps solidify a feeling we’ve been having for years: the cloud is no longer an eventual possibility for businesses—it is the default solution.

More significantly, the rise of the cloud in 2020 demonstrates the importance of digital resilience. In the case of Microsoft 365 migration, the ability to migrate data within one’s own cloud tenant or tenant-to-tenant will be crucial for a company’s success in 2021 and beyond.

Top takeaways from this chapter:

Increase in Microsoft 365 migrations:
Companies are making fewer on-premises SharePoint migrations while increasingly moving to cloud-based Microsoft 365

Acceleration of on-premises to cloud migrations:
Companies are migrating to the Microsoft cloud more quickly

Rise in cloud-to-cloud migrations:
More companies are running cloud-to-cloud migrations

Necessity of Microsoft Teams migrations:
The ability to migrate Microsoft Teams is now essential

More companies seeking the benefits of cloud migration

Last year was a big year for cloud computing, as the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated digital transformation like never before. Microsoft saw a dip in on-premises product revenue as companies increasingly embraced the cloud-based productivity tools required for a distributed workforce.

For evidence of this acceleration, look no further than Microsoft’s 2020 annual report, which revealed that revenue from the tech giant’s cloud services and commercial products increased by a staggering “$3.1 billion or 12%…offset in part by lower revenue from products licensed on-premises, reflecting a continued shift to cloud offerings.”* (*Microsoft)

Here at ShareGate, we witnessed a corresponding trend among ShareGate users, who made fewer on-premises upgrades. According to internal user data, our customers—primarily IT admins—completed 19.7% fewer upgrades of on-premises SharePoint servers in 2020 versus 2019. Users also completed a total of 60.63% fewer on-premises operations (migration and data management), and migrated 30.27% less data on-premises in 2020 versus 2019.

Graphic representing the Decrease In Number Of Users Performing On Premises Sharepoint Upgrades
Graphic representing Fewer On Premises Operations Migrations And Data Management Final

At the same time, our data shows that customers completed 37.2% more operations to migrate from SharePoint on-premises to cloud-based SharePoint Online/Microsoft 365 environments than they did in 2019, which is consistent with the overall shrinking of on-premises workloads.* (*Cloud storage vs. on-premises servers: 9 things to keep in mind, Microsoft)

Graphic representing the Increase In Number Of Operations From On Premises To The Cloud

In addition to analyzing internal user data for this report, we also sent several surveys directly to our customers. In our migration-focused survey, a majority of respondents (87.3%) identified themselves as dedicated SharePoint admins, IT admins, or IT leads. Of the total number of respondents, 57.7% migrated to SharePoint Online/Microsoft 365 in 2020 versus 26.8% that completed no migrations.

Graphic representing if in 2020 IT pros Completed A Sharepoint Or Microsoft 365 Migration

“As expected, there’s a downward trend of people migrating or upgrading their SharePoint to stay on premises. We’re not necessarily seeing them disappear, though,” said ShareGate Head of Product and Microsoft Regional Director Benjamin Niaulin.

In our migration survey, 16.2% of survey respondents said they still plan on migrating to a newer version of SharePoint on-prem in 2021.

As expected, there’s a downward trend of people migrating or upgrading their SharePoint to stay on premises.

Benjamin Niaulin (@bniaulin), ShareGate Head of Product and Microsoft MVP Tweet this

Niaulin sees the survey results as confirmation that on-premises solutions will not disappear altogether anytime soon. “In certain categories of businesses such as government and public administration, there are requirements and compliance issues that don’t allow organizations to bring certain kinds of content into the cloud,” he said. “It makes sense to see 16% of respondents—a relatively high number for 2021—say that they’ll continue to upgrade their on-prem SharePoint version, and that they work in those types of industries.”

Several mentioned this specifically in their survey feedback, with one respondent noting: “Data sovereignty forced us to adopt an on-premises solution.”

Acceleration of on-premise to cloud migrations

In 2020, speed was the name of the game. Researchers estimate that “the response to the pandemic has fast-forwarded digital adoption by five years.”* (*Lack of Skills Threatens Digital Transformation, Gartner) In the case of Microsoft, the pandemic accelerated the trend toward remote work, and with it, the push to migrate to cloud-based Microsoft 365 environments.

The 9.0% increase in users conducting on-premises to the cloud migrations in 2020 managed through ShareGate reflects Microsoft’s expected natural growth year over year. What wasn’t expected, however, was the corresponding 50.1% jump in cloud-based operations (cloud-to-cloud migrations and on-cloud management) that our users completed in the same year.

[We’re seeing] customers across industries… looking to push their digital transformation priorities forward, even in a time of constraint.

Amy Hood, Microsoft Chief Financial Officer Tweet this

“What this tells me,” says Niaulin, “is that businesses wanted to migrate a lot more data in 2020 more quickly. So, while we see a lot more operations, it’s not necessarily because there were more customers. What we’re seeing in 2020, because the number of operations boosted by almost 50%, cloud migration projects that were supposed to take one year were executed in a couple of months. The COVID pandemic accelerated execution.”

Graphic representing the Increase In Migration Activity

This acceleration was further confirmed by our survey. More than half of respondents (57.7%) said they completed a SharePoint or Microsoft 365 migration in 2020. Of that group, 83.6% reported that their migration project either proceeded on schedule or was accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic by anything from one month to more than one year.

Pandemic aside, there was already a shift toward the Microsoft cloud,* which corresponds with a steady increase in allowing employees to connect from any device and work anywhere. (*Microsoft) From 2005 to 2017, telecommuting in the U.S. increased* by a staggering 159%. (*FlexJobs). And the trend will continue accelerating this year. A recent survey of 1,200 chief information officers found that “decision-makers expect permanent remote work to double to 34.4% of their companies’ workforces in 2021, compared with 16.4% before the coronavirus outbreak, a result of positive productivity trends.”* (*Reuters)

Companies who hurried to the cloud in the past year now face the challenges of working in a fully digital environment, including how to work with, migrate, and organize data once there.

Graphic representing if in 2020 Organization Migrated reorganized Data Within their Tenant

We saw this in the nearly 60% of survey respondents that migrated SharePoint or Teams content, or a combination of both, within the same tenant in 2020. What this tells Niaulin is: “Companies realized they’ve got to restructure. Many moved to working online during the pandemic, then realized they weren’t set up to work optimally in that environment. So, we see IT teams figuring out that they need to take this data or object and move it to this other place, or bring marketing together in a Team or SharePoint.”

As one respondent summarized the situation: “We’re not completely migrated to SharePoint yet. We had to accelerate our migration in 2020 but only focused on the urgent stuff. Additional data will be moved in the coming months.”

Looking ahead, 39.4% of survey respondents reported that they have no migrations planned for 2021, which accounts for the fact that many businesses already migrated in 2020. Interestingly, almost the same percentage (38.7%) plans on migrating to SharePoint Online/Microsoft 365 for the first time this year.

Rise in cloud-to-cloud migrations

In March 2020, Microsoft rebranded its popular Office 365 productivity suite as Microsoft 365, which includes an array of new AI- and cloud-powered features. Since then, Microsoft 365 has continued its momentum, helping drive the company’s enterprise-cloud revenue past $50 billion in 2020* and making it the largest cloud vendor in the world. (*Microsoft)

Microsoft 365 is now being used globally by more than a million businesses. That translates into an estimated one in five corporate employees* who access Microsoft 365 cloud services. (*TeamsHub)

As the cloud became the de facto solution for businesses in 2020, here at ShareGate, we saw a 67.9% rise in cloud-to-cloud migrations. For this report, we define “cloud to cloud” as migrations from SharePoint Online/Microsoft 365 to another SharePoint Online/Microsoft 365 environment.

According to internal data, the number of ShareGate customers who executed cloud-to-cloud SharePoint migrations increased by 18.6% in 2020 compared to 2019. Those migrations included the transfer of 144% more terabytes of data in 2020 versus 2019.

READ: 4 quick tips to make your Microsoft 365 tenant to tenant migration a success

The increase is understandable, according to Niaulin: “As people will need to migrate less and less from on-prem to the cloud, the only migrations that will be left will be from cloud to cloud. Eventually, everybody’s going to be in the cloud.”

ShareGate in 2020

Graphic representing the Increase In Cloud To Cloud Migrations Final
Graphic representing the Increase Of ShareGate Executed Cloud To Cloud Sharepoint
Fleche State Ms 365
Graphic representing the difference in the transfer of terabytes of data between 2020 and 2019

And the trend was confirmed by survey respondents, 17.6% of whom said that they plan on migrating from one Microsoft 365 tenant to another in 2021. We expect that number to continue growing.

For this report, we interviewed Jasper Oosterveld, Microsoft MVP and Modern Workplace Consultant. Oosterveld shared his thoughts on migration trends among his clients at InSpark, an Amersterdam-based cloud solutions provider and recipient of the 2019 Microsoft Security and Compliance Partner of the Year Award.

Migrations went hand in hand with moving towards the cloud, to make sure people were able to work from home,”’ Oosterveld said. “Most of our customers still had their content on local servers or maybe a supplier who hosts their data. We definitely saw and are still seeing an increase in requests for data migration.”

Graphic representing the percentage of content management operations that took place in the cloud vs on-premises

In our ShareGate user data, there was a corresponding rise in cloud content management, as IT admins worked to restructure and reorganize within the same tenant or following a tenant-to-tenant move. In 2019 and 2020, about 73% of content management operations took place in the cloud.

Indeed, cloud content management among our users has been on an exponential growth curve since 2017, while the increase in on-premises content management—which represented less than half of cloud content management three years ago—has been negligible.

As people need to migrate less from on-prem to the cloud, the only migrations left will be from cloud to cloud.

Benjamin Niaulin (@bniaulin), ShareGate Head of Product and Microsoft MVP Tweet this

Necessity of Microsoft Teams migrations

With the global shift to remote work in 2020, the use of Microsoft Teams became integral in how companies worked. Microsoft reported massive growth in Teams with over 115 million daily active users by October 2020—an incredible 475% increase since November 2019.* (*UC Today) In a single day in March, 2.7 billion meeting minutes were recorded. Teams became a “lifeline” not only for remote and hybrid work but also for students and teachers who adopted the collaboration app for distance learning, with some 183,000 tenants in 175 countries* using Teams for Education. (*Microsoft)

ShareGate’s data echoes the jump in Microsoft Teams usage. In May 2020, we launched a new Microsoft Teams migration feature as part of ShareGate, which helps users to migrate and restructure Microsoft Teams data. The immediate growth was notable.

The numbers are impressive, according to Niaulin: “We only released the Teams feature in the later part of 2020, and users have already done more than 25,000 copies, which represents over 85,000 channels being copied and 60,000 teams being copied.”

Digging deeper, he notes that when IT teams moved quickly to the cloud in 2020, “they suddenly had all of these tools enabled … and they needed to merge certain Teams together. The pandemic pushed companies to move to the cloud, and this Teams data shows them reacting and restructuring afterward.”

ShareGate in 2020

Teams Reached 115 Million Daily Active Users

Over 25000 Teams Migrations Were Executed by ShareGate users

Within Those Teams Migrations 85000 channels and 60000 teams were copied

To keep up with competitors like Zoom, Microsoft has added a host of new Teams features such as breakout rooms, custom layouts, and automatic recaps. As users’ needs continue to evolve in 2021 and beyond, so, too, will Teams’ enhancements.

Teams has emerged as a star product rather than an add-on that is bundled within a larger productivity suite,” according to Raul Castanon*, Senior Analyst at 451 Research/S&P Global Market Intelligence. (*Microsoft Teams: How to use it, and how it stacks up to Slack and Zoom, Computerworld)

That said, the rise in Microsoft cloud migration is not without its growing pains as businesses find themselves operating—many for the first time—in a new, fully digital world. Now, the challenge for IT admins is not only how to manage a cloud-based environment but how to effectively leverage its potential for greater agility and productivity.

The future of the cloud is now

The Future Of The Cloud Is Now

In 2020, the future of the workplace took shape before our eyes. The pandemic forced businesses to remove certain constraints and speed up internal processes in order to move to the cloud more quickly. We saw this with ShareGate users, who executed cloud-based SharePoint migrations and data transfers almost 50% faster than in 2019. Remote work is here to stay, and with it, the ability to migrate—and manage—data seamlessly is more critical than ever.




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