Migrate File Shares to Office 365: A post from our partner, Xgility

Migrate File Shares to SharePoint Online

Migrate File Shares to Office 365: A post from our partner, Xgility

By Kurt Greening | September 22, 2017

If your organization has purchased Office 365, then you may have decided that you want to move all of your file shares into SharePoint Online. The move to the cloud clearly offers several benefits over utilizing traditional file shares.

Most importantly, your organization can stop paying for file servers and its associated costs, including virus scanning, backup software, and storage. It can also anticipate eliminating remote access software, as well as void the need to rebuild failed or lost devices.

With SharePoint Online and Office 365, organizations can optimize their file storage, add new search capabilities, and enhance their security, sharing, and collaboration features.  

Making the Decision to Migrate File Shares to Office 365

Since Office 365 offers new capabilities and functions, it also requires that users learn how to adopt the new technology. In fact, user adoption training and process improvement is generally considered the most important part of a migration.

Whether your organization is ready to migrate immediately or considering a hybrid approach, making the decision to migrate file shares to Office 365 is not an overnight task. Here, we’ll break down how you can manage your file migration project and begin moving file shares to SharePoint Online.

Map Your User Shares

Map Network DriveThe first step to any migration project is to create a comprehensive inventory. While you could take a screenshot or populate a spreadsheet with a list of files and folders, in most cases, it’s worth investing in a third-party tool to export files, folders, and sizes to an Excel file.

Generally, isn’t very complicated to map your user shares to OneDrive for Business, since each user is provided with their own OneDrive for Business site on Office 365.

Following this, the migration can be approached in a couple of ways. One of the most common approaches entails delegating user folders as “read-only” and copying the files into OneDrive. However, this step requires identifying and correcting potential migration uses, such as large files or illegal characters. In these cases, Essentials for Office 365 makes it easy to migrate content with zero downtime.

Word of caution:

Users rejoice! The default storage limit for OneDrive for Business is 1 terabyte. However, it’s important to keep in mind that OneDrive.exe will automatically sync files to your PC unless you enforce a policy that states otherwise. A best practice is to set an initial 10GB limit to OneDrive for Business and increase in 5GB increments when required.

Migrate Departmental Shares

Migrating departmental shares to SharePoint requires a more in-depth strategy than moving user shares to OneDrive. I personally recommend consulting an Information Architect who can help strategize your organization’s migration plan. Specifically, the Information Architect can communicate to your organization the potential of their SharePoint Online environment and build a thorough strategy.

If your organization already has SharePoint, then it’s crucial to begin this process by understanding your existing site structure. Preparing to migrate from SharePoint Server to SharePoint Online should also start with a SharePoint assessment. The experts at Xgility utilize proprietary tools and Metalogix Expert as part of this assessment process.

Then, the Information Architect should evaluate security and search requirements, such as taxonomy and metadata. Though some files may necessitate strict regulations, others should allow for organization-wide collaboration. During this process, more time should be allotted for sensitive information, such as proposals, contracts, and personnel files.

Enable Internal Collaboration

In my experience, users often get excited when we demonstrate co-authoring. Though allowing two users to simultaneously work on a document may seem basic, this feature can drastically improve the way that users create and edit documents.

However, training may be required to help users understand how to share a hyperlink to a document, as opposed to sharing email attachments. In many cases, we will recommend disabling external sharing on OneDrive and SharePoint until all users are well trained and data loss prevention solutions are in place.

Real-time co-authoring on Microsoft Word

Enable External Collaboration

One of the most exciting features of SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business is that users can collaborate with third-party members, including vendors, consultants, and customers. External sharing can be done from Office applications such as Word, Excel, or PowerPoint.

Most IT departments are hesitant to enable external sharing, but many tools are available to protect against data loss. At some point, the technology team may try to stop external sharing, but users will mitigate this by using Shadow IT systems, such as Google Drive, Dropbox, or Box, to share files. In these instances, IT departments should enable external sharing on a case-by-case basis as they implement data loss prevention tools and provide training to users.

External collaboration on SharePoint


Moving to Office 365 and SharePoint Online is an exciting endeavor for any organization, and all of the innovative features that are intrinsic to the cloud can open up new possibilities for users to create, share, and collaborate.

If your organization is moving to Office 365 and needs Azure and SharePoint consulting experts, contact Xgility!

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Kurt Greening

Kurt is the Vice President Digital Transformation at Xgility. In this capacity he leads all aspects of company growth such as team building, onboarding, company culture, and partnerships. His expertise includes leadership, team building, and business productivity. Kurt has an MBA and over 20 years’ experience leading teams and line of business operations. While working at NetApp, the company grew from 800 million to over 6 billion, making it one of the 5 fastest growing companies with over one billion in annual sales. While at Xgility, the company was named #114 fastest growing privately held company by Inc. 5000. Kurt has worked on over 100 SharePoint/Office 365 projects. He co-leads the Reston SharePoint User Group and is a frequent speak at SharePoint Saturday.

You can follow him on Twitter @KurtGreening or on his personal blog at www.kurtgreening.com.


Written By: Kurt Greening