Top 5 SharePoint Migration Costs

SharePoint Migration Planning

Many companies are considering migrating Windows File Shares to Office 365 SharePoint for department shares and OneDrive for user home drive files.  What are the SharePoint Migration Costs?  As organizations contemplate moving files shares to SharePoint/OneDrive Online we need to consider the potential security, time constraints, risks and cost impact. While SharePoint is great for collaborating on documents with teams inside or outside of the company, can it completely replace on-premises file server shares and be used as a file share alternative? What are the hidden costs of migrating to SharePoint?

SharePoint Migration Costs

1. SharePoint Migration Costs

Migrating organizations to SharePoint is a complicated, challenging endeavor.  Many organizations may not realize it but SharePoint is not a File Server – it’s designed to be a collaboration portal. Migrating file shares to SharePoint involves months of planning to sort and identify data to move from a pool of file shares that can go back years, if not decades.  To migrate files to SharePoint, Files must converted to remove characters not allowed in SharePoint (~ ” # % & * : < > ? / \ { | }.) and mapped to SharePoint libraries to stay within the SharePoint storage limits using specialized tools that must be purchased at an additional cost.  The internet is rife with stories of SharePoint migrations gone awry when not executed with careful planning and due diligence. The process grows even more complicated when migrating organizations with highly sensitive data, such as government agencies, with a host of stringent compliance regulations to meet. Companies will need to budget for these hidden development and deployment costs when comparing SharePoint to other enterprise file sharing solutions. In addition, most organizations do not have the specialized skills to successfully execute a SharePoint migration and will need to budget for a Microsoft certified consulting provider to assist in the design and migration.  For organizations with many terabytes of file shares who simply desire to move to the cloud it may make more sense to migrate them to AWS or Azure file shares where NTFS permissions and files names can be retained and where storage limits are not an issue.

2. Vendor Lock-in and Data Sovereignty

Even if the organizations SharePoint data can be placed in-country to meet storage location compliance regulation requirements what format are the files stored in? Are the files in a format that can be accessed even if SharePoint or the Internet is unavailable? What happens if the organization wishes to move their files out of SharePoint?  If the files are stored in SharePoint proprietary format what will be the costs to export, migrate and convert them to a new vendor format or back to native NTFS file shares?  In the case of SharePoint and OneDrive all files are migrated into Microsoft SharePoint databases with their own set of permissions that cannot be easily exported back to their original NTFS format since all metadata is lost on import. Office files may also be altered so that all external links to other files are no longer valid once they are moved outside of SharePoint/OneDrive. While tools exist to migrate files to SharePoint, once migrated, all metadata is lost making it complex or impracticable to export files back to File Shares or other systems. Organizations will want to think carefully about the implications of moving files to the Microsoft SharePoint proprietary format & cloud platform as they may find that if for any reason they desire to move to another platform the future costs of any migration will far outweigh any short term costs savings.

3. Long Term Archiving & Backup Costs

Traditional file shares can be easily encrypted and stored offsite indefinitely in their native NTFS file format, then easily restored at any time in the future regardless of any technology changes. With SharePoint, entire systems must be restored, or with SharePoint Online, deleted files are only retained for 90 days meaning additional archiving services must be purchased and paid for perpetually which store SharePoint into long-term archives. These backup and storage costs will lead to additional support and subscription costs on top of Office 365 subscription costs.  To meet compliance and archiving requirements the costs of maintaining duplicate systems for backup and data retention will need to be factored into any overall cost estimates.

4. Future Subscription Price Increases

If files are stored in SharePoint online that are difficult or impossible to export, what leverage will the organization have in future licensing pricing negotiations?  With all files migrated, exporting and migrating to new systems may be impractical leaving the firm with no leverage on price negotiations and subject to any future price increases.  While this might not be an issue for smaller firms, it’s common for larger enterprises, educational institutions and governmental agencies to negotiate hefty Microsoft licensing discounts.

5. Training & Productivity Costs

Users are trained to easily grab their files from a mapped drive. With SharePoint, files are stored in libraries that are accessed using a web-based interface or from within apps only. The interface looks nothing like Windows File Explorer. While there are 3rd party tools that can map SharePoint drive letters, they are slow, require additional administration and they do not support Two Factor Authentication thus they cannot be used in secure environments. With SharePoint, files are stored in libraries where they are best managed by applying metadata tags to each file.  To find documents in SharePoint, users will need to be retrained to apply tags to each file leading to initial frustration, lost productivity, and additional user support costs.  The costs of keeping employees trained on SharePoint with its many advanced features and document management requirements can be significant.  In addition, most organizations find that they need to maintain an internal group of highly paid document management admins to enforce file storage policies and keep their SharePoint libraries from turning into a mess of disorganized files haphazardly placed in libraries or folders with no classification.  This administration requirement further adds to ongoing costs.