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Migrating to Office 365 SharePoint Online

9th May 2017

Using SharePoint as the core of collaboration and document management within your organisation allows you to create a more efficient and productive workforce, as well as building systems that increase accountability and improve management information.

The integration of SharePoint with the Microsoft Office suite is one of the key drivers of adoption globally, but with the increasing market share taken by Office 365 with its cloud features, more and more businesses are considering migrating to SharePoint Online – this can be seen in the way Google Trends reflects how people’s search behaviour is changing:

Although search demand for SharePoint online is still below the previous versions, it shows a considerable upward trend that is reflected in the level of adoption that we – as Microsoft Cloud specialists – see in the conversations we have with our clients every day.

Why Migrate to SharePoint Online?

One of the first questions that a business will ask when considering any project to migrate to a different version of SharePoint is what the benefits are to the way they work, and how it will positively impact on their organisation.

One of the main advantages of SharePoint online is that it does not require the same level of investment in infrastructure that was needed in previous “On Premises” versions of the software.  This can represent a major cost saving.

To run a SharePoint farm, you need multiple servers handling different elements of the software – identity management, database, application hosting, and document storage.  Depending on the number of users being catered for, and the amount of customisation that goes into a particular deployment of SharePoint, the infrastructure costs can mount up and represent a significant part of your IT budget.

SharePoint Online is hosted by Microsoft, and the hosting costs are built into the licensing fees.  This, coupled with the fact that dedicated staff are no longer required to manage the SharePoint farm means that the overall IT budget can be reduced, or directed into other strategic projects.

A major benefit of the cloud hosting of SharePoint Online is that it reduces the occurrence of some of the most common issues reported with SharePoint.  Many support queries start with the symptom that SharePoint is running slowly.

This can be caused by a number of factors such as insufficient server capacity in the farm, or that a particular file has been deleted which impacts on the loading of any connecting files and uses indexing resource more aggressively.

The cloud infrastructure of SharePoint online means that the resource can be deployed more flexible, and it is also possible to roll back through changes effectively to identify which file is missing, to enable faster fixes to be implemented.

In addition to the reduced infrastructure requirements for a business that SharePoint Online offers, there are also longer-term benefits around upgrades.

While releases of new versions of On-Premises SharePoint generally require major IT projects as part of the upgrade cycle, SharePoint Online has rolling updates to the core systems, so new features are added as they’re available.

The software has been developed with a different architecture to traditional versions so that the core application is separated from installed apps and extensions.  In most cases, this means that any customisation simply continues to work rather than needing extensive testing.

Why Stick with On-Premises SharePoint

While there are some clear benefits of migrating to SharePoint Online, it’s not right for every business.  Issues of data governance or a need for flexibility beyond what’s offered by the Online version can mean that for now at least, sticking with either SharePoint 2013 or upgrading to SharePoint 2016 is the only choice available.

While all versions of SharePoint can integrate with other applications to share data to some extent, a lot of custom development that a business may have integrated into an on-premises version of SharePoint in the past may block a migration to Online.

Similarly, if some data needs to be hosted in the UK – such as personally identifiable data – it may not be legitimate to migrate that data to one of Microsoft’s other European data centres.

The Third Way

In some cases, though, it is still possible to make a partial migration to SharePoint Online – custom configuration of where data is stored, coupled with Single Sign-On across cloud and local versions of the platform through Azure Active Directory allow a seamless experience for users to be able to access information.

This hybrid cloud solution for SharePoint has a number of cost benefits including being able to reduce the size of your local farm (and as a result, the cost of maintaining it), although it does create some other problems with licencing in that users will need to have two licenses to cover the local and online versions.

The practicality of Migrating to SharePoint Online

The chart above shows the increasing demand for SharePoint Online that the industry has seen over the past few years, and this trend is speeding up as more organisations make the transition to Office 365.

As a result, we at igroup are seeing more of our clients make the change to SharePoint Online, and offer a dedicated service to facilitate this.

We provide initial consultancy to assess your existing SharePoint structure and applications and perform a full analysis of what information and services can be migrated to the cloud.  We investigate the way in which different applications connect with SharePoint, and what reports and workflows are in place.

We then provide a migration roadmap that includes any custom development required to maintain the current functionality that your business requires and create a schedule for replicating structures in Online so that content can be moved and made accessible.

We also provide a full SharePoint branding service to make use of the advanced design possibilities in SharePoint Online including responsive master pages.  We’ll provide feedback about whether any custom elements in SharePoint that you currently use are now accessible “out of the box”, and whether any extensions are supported by the App model, or whether you will need to replace them with new apps to maintain functionality.

Beyond this, we provide a full ongoing technical support service with monitoring to keep your SharePoint Online systems running correctly and ensuring consistent access to information for staff.  For more information about how igroup can help your business migrate to SharePoint Online, please contact a member of our team today.

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