SharePoint Online Demystified

The 10 most common misconceptions when moving to SharePoint Online

SharePoint 2019 has been announced to be released later this year, which means the server version is still here to stay for the foreseeable future.

We can safely predict however, that it won’t repeat the success of SharePoint 2010. Microsoft will continue ushering clients to the cloud and for most companies moving to Office 365 is just a question of time.

With some misconceptions cleared up, we hope that it’s going to be easier for you to decide whether you will move to the cloud soon or need to stay on premise for a while.

Myth No. 1 Migration to SharePoint Online is easy if we use a commercial migration tool 

This is probably the biggest misconception that we encounter over and over again. Many Clients assume that to migrate a SharePoint portal they can just copy and paste everything as if it was a PHP website. And you might say: “I know, it’s not that trivial, but, surely, you can just get one of the migration tools that will do it in a few clicks”. Wrong.?There are very few cases when an?on-premise farm can be migrated without much preparation and redesign.?Keep reading and you will learn why. 

Wait, are you saying that migration tools are useless? ? 

Far from it. Migration to SharePoint Online without any tools is a daunting task. By all means, you should use them. However, there is still a lot of work involved no matter which tools you’ve purchased.

?Myth No. 2 Everything that worked in SharePoint on-premises should work in SharePoint Online 

This statement is far from reality. Check out the list of things below that you can safely expect not to work in SharePoint Online post migration. Yes, that’s right. All of these farm solutions that you’ve purchased and developed will not work. Many other things are not supported or will break as well.

But everything else will work, right?  

No, this table is just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many things that won’t work after migration there is no way to list it all here. Interesting fact is that, if you haven’t invested much into SharePoint customizations you have the best chances of a successful migration. The problem is that many clients don’t exactly know which customizations they have. This is why you need a pre-migration audit. 

  • Branding
    • Custom master pages are not recommended in SharePoint Online. Chances are that your intranet master pages won’t work in SharePoint Online anyways.
  • Farm solutions
    • They are not supported in SharePoint Online
  • Sandbox solutions with C# code?
    • No support
  • Microsoft Store Apps
    • Migration of data is possible, but complicated. No tools will help you with that.
  • Public websites?
    • This feature has not been an option since March 2015
  • Multiple web applications
    • SharePoint Online tenant gives you only a single Web application
  • Forms-based authentication
    • No support in SharePoint Online.
  • SharePoint Project server (There is only one company that does migrations)
  • SSRS

Myth No. 3 We don’t need a premigration audit 

Now that you know that many pieces won’t work in SharePoint Online, you will want to know where these things are. And do you have just 2% of the portal not working or it’s as high as 95%? How do we find out? That is why you need to go over the audit process. There are tools that will help you with that. For example, Sharegate?, AvePoint? or SPSFarmReport.  

? These are only some components that have to be part of the audit report: 

  • Server-side data connections?
  • Document versions? 
  • Alerts? 
  • Incoming email on document libraries? 
  • Web parts? 
  • Farm solutions? 
  • Web customizations? 
  • Content types? 
  • Custom site and list definitions? 
  • Workflows? 
  • Network considerations? 
  • Custom search scopes? 
  • Content sources? 
  • Custom field types? 
  • Custom crawler impact rules/crawl schedules? 
  • InfoPath forms? 
  • Authentication providers 
  • Custom navigation? 
  • Language packs? 
  • Etc. 

Myth No. 4 The IT Department can migrate on their own 

Migration to SharePoint Online is not just a technicality. Half of the work will have to be done by the business analysts, stakeholders and site owners. IT department does not know what to do with the features that won’t work in the cloud. Are these features just “nice to have” or business critical? Since the farm solutions won’t work, what do we replace them with? 3rd party apps or rewrite everything from scratch? We should also decide where the content goes. Some sites need to be merged together or split. There are myriad questions that IT will need help with. And you don’t want them to just assume everything. 

Myth No. 5 Migration will take days or weeks. 

Most likely the migration process will take months or even years but not days or weeks. Even with the best migration tools money can get.  

To avoid migration taking too long It is crucial to have enough time allocated for both IT and the stakeholders. Get a project manager involved. To make good progress everyone will have to work together and make decisions quickly.   

One example of a decision is choosing an alternative to a feature that will have to be replaced with the cloud-based alternatives. There will be hard decisions for the cases when there are no alternatives to some functionality at all. Expect such questions to be raised regularly. 

Another reason for long migrations is that a typical upload speed is about 10GB/h?. Moving 2TB of data will take a very long time. This is why you will have to go over a pre-migration data cleaning. Get rid of any content that won’t be needed in the cloud. Put it to a network drive if you will, but make sure SharePoint on-premises is as lean as possible before the migration begins. 

Myth No. 6 SharePoint Online can host public websites 

I have mentioned in the table earlier, but it deserves an emphasis. There is no way to host a public SharePoint Online website. This is no longer possible since March 2015. If you need a public SharePoint site you will have to keep your SharePoint on-premises farm. 

Myth No. 7 Our SharePoint Online URL will be whatever we choose 

 You don’t have full control over the URL in SharePoint Online. The URL will have to be in the following format only: https://contoso.sharepoint.com 

Notice sharepoint.com at the end? It will always be there and there is no way around it.  

To give you an idea what it will mean, here are a few examples of how the URLs will change:? 

Original web application URL?  URLs? in SharePoint Online 
https://portal.contoso.on.ca/?  https://contoso.sharepoint.com? 
https://learn.contoso.on.ca/?  https://contoso.sharepoint.com/sites/learn? 
https://projects.contoso.on.ca/?  https://contoso.sharepoint.com/sites/pwa? 
https://my.contoso.on.ca/?  https://contoso-my.sharepoint.com? 
https://ideas.contoso.on.ca/?  https://contoso.sharepoint.com/sites/ideas? 

 

Myth No. 8 Single-sign-on will be smooth 

You are probably used to opening a SharePoint Intranet site without entering your credentials every time. This is possible because your corporate Active Directory, SharePoint and your work laptop are typically part of the same domain. SharePoint Online, however has no way of automatically getting your authentication token from your AD. Office 365 does not know which account you used to login to your desktop this morning. This is why there is no “true” single-sign-on between your corporate AD and SharePoint Online. Even with you connect Office 365 to ADFS . Expect the users to be asked to enter their credentials from time to time. 

Microsoft did a great job in the last few years to improve the authentication experience, but it’s still not quite the same as logging in into your local intranet.

Myth No. 9 We can keep our custom branding  

After the migration process the branding will not work right away. You will have to spend a lot of time recreating master pages and fixing the styles. 

But don’t jump into doing it right away, because Microsoft says 

Don’t: 

  •  Implement custom branding by using custom master pages.
  • Override branding of the Office 365 Suite Bar.
  • Customize branding for personal sites.

Microsoft does not recommend custom master pages because there will be no updates pushed to these master pages. This is a big deal since there are new features added to SharePoint Online all the time and some of these features might depend on the OOB master pages. 

We recommend sticking to the branding supported by Microsoft. You can still apply a corporate logo and develop a corporate theme, apply a color schema. There is also a significant difference between branding approaches for “classic” vs “modern” sites and pages. 

 We recommend trying out the new Modern pages. Of course, in many cases the Classic pages is still the best choice. So, expect changes to corporate look:

Myth No. 10 SharePoint Online website will be as fast as your on-premises portal 

You don’t want people complaining how SharePoint Online is much slower than the old SharePoint on-premises.  This is why your current infrastructure should allow for a large number of the outbound connections, have low latency and enough bandwidth. A user that has all Office 365 services might require up to 20 persistent connections. 

There is Exchange Client Network Bandwidth?calculator and?Skype bandwidth calculator you can use to predict the required bandwidth. There no bandwidth calculators for SharePoint Online or OneDrive for business. The easiest way to calculate the required bandwidth is to take the current consumption and add 20-40% to it.

Summary 

SharePoint 2019 was announced to be released this year which means the server version is still here to stay for the foreseeable future. We can safely predict, however, that it won’t repeat the success of SharePoint 2010. Microsoft will continue the pushing the clients to the cloud and for most companies moving to Office 365 is a question of time.  

With some misconceptions cleared out, we hope that it’s going to be easier for you to decide whether you will move cloud soon or need to stay for a while.

We hope you have found this week’s edition of “To The Point” by Denis Molodtsov to be helpful and informative. Look out for our next week instalment as we continue to explore unique topics from business to the latest technology.

We want to hear your point! If you have any ideas, suggestions or any questions about our weekly blog, please contact us at: info@pointalliance.com.

Warm regards,

Point Alliance Team