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Optimizing SharePoint performance during migration to O365

A Microsoft IT Case study


Microsoft IT focused its performance optimization efforts for SharePoint Online on two major areas: a gradual, staged migration plan that mitigated most impacts of migration on performance, and a SharePoint portal performance analysis that led to important configuration optimizations in caching, content rendering, and navigation. Because of these efforts, Microsoft IT enjoyed an especially smooth migration of SharePoint content and portals to Office 365.

Optimizing migration through categorization and gradual onboarding

When Microsoft IT began migrating to SharePoint Online, there were approximately 70,000 site collections and over 100,000 My Site personal sites. Through a combination of cleanup efforts and a “Start Fresh” approach, (see below for a full description) to encourage net-new adoption, Microsoft IT was able to reduce the actual number of site collections that had to be fully migrated to 22,063 Team Sites. These sites consisted of 36 terabytes of data, and were approximately a 50 percent reduction in sites to be migrated (this did not including self-migrations of Team Sites or My Sites, which were primarily content-only moves). After the Start Fresh adoption and cleanup efforts were completed, the team successfully migrated more than 97 percent of its relevant SharePoint sites to the cloud in less than one year. Part of this success is attributable to the development of new SharePoint Online migration APIs (currently in preview; see Resources) coupled with a third-party tool developed by Metavis, which greatly improved throughput for migration throughout the year. Microsoft IT also treated the migration as a large-scale project, complete with project management assignments, a detailed communication plan, a rollback plan, and buy-in from all stakeholders. Most importantly, Microsoft IT planned and performed migrations in a staged manner that greatly minimized impact on performance.

Key takeaway

  • The most important step to prepare for migrating to SharePoint Online is to perform a detailed audit and to clearly understand your environment. Determine which sites have not been edited for some time and reach out to the site owners to find out if they are still needed. Remove those that are not needed any longer. This cleanup is essential to make sure you are only migrating the most relevant data.
Categorizing migration

Before beginning site migrations, Microsoft IT created four migration categories defined by site complexity (the level and breadth of existing customizations) and the degree of business value associated with the content. The categories were:

  • Start Fresh. Individuals and teams were encouraged to create new sites in the cloud and manually migrate their own content as needed, only moving the most important files and discarding the rest.
  • Forklift. Microsoft IT performed a bulk migration of nearly 30,000 high-value SharePoint sites, using third-party migration tools.
  • Partial Move. Select content was moved to the cloud, and more complex content (such as content for highly customized portal components) remained on-premises until it could be redesigned.
  • Redesign. Some portals with highly customized applications and solutions were slated for complete redesign, with custom workload migration and completely rebuilt solutions to take advantage of newly available technology, such as Azure media services, and to leverage the new app model.

Key takeaway

  • Performing migrations according to site categories is essential to efficient SharePoint migration.

Although all four approaches were instrumental in the successful Microsoft IT SharePoint migration and can serve as a model for any IT department planning a migration to SharePoint Online, the Start Fresh approach was perhaps the most significant for mitigating potential migration-related performance issues. This approach involved regular communication and a generous timeline, allowing users to self-migrate at their convenience.

To simplify the transition and encourage users to move, Microsoft IT created a process by which users could create a new SkyDrive Pro (now OneDrive for Business) site on first visit by simply clicking a link. Additionally end-users were informed that their on-premises My Sites would eventually be eliminated. Within a specified time (approximately one year), users could migrate critical content on their own and discard anything no longer needed. Microsoft IT did not migrate any content from My Sites on-premises to SkyDrive Pro. For more complex sites requiring third-party migration tools, users could request migration assistance from Microsoft IT in the form of forklift moves, partial moves, and redesigns.

Key takeaway

  • Establishing a project plan and using a third-party tool (Metavis) that takes advantage of the migration APIs developed by the SharePoint product group can reduce the overall impact of migration on performance.
Gradual onboarding and organic adoption

As users moved to their new sites and experienced the benefits of cloud document storage and accessibility firsthand, SkyDrive Pro experienced viral adoption. Growth in use of SharePoint Online in Microsoft IT was organic and gradual, but also highly efficient and effective. A year after the start of the SharePoint migration in Microsoft IT, more than half of its SharePoint footprint was in the cloud.

This gradual onboarding and adoption approach is ideal for organizations that can increase network bandwidth as needed over time. Although a large migration to Office 365 ultimately requires some increase in network capacity, very little upfront network load planning is necessary in a long-term migration model. This approach minimizes the effect of migration and any associated performance issues because it greatly reduces the possibility of sudden changes in throughput or network capacity.

Key takeaway

  • A gradual approach to SharePoint site migration that provides a generous timeline for more user control can minimize the effect of migration on network performance.
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