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How Long Does It Take to Migrate to Office 365?

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The Full Office 365 Migration Process: Email, Microsoft Teams, SharePoint, Applications, Servers and Beyond

When it comes to an Office 365 migration, some of the first questions about migrations are often around how long does it take to migrate to Office 365 and how much will it cost? In actuality, these should be some of the last questions asked and only after careful analysis and planning of your Office 365 migration. However, for those of you who want to see Microsoft Office 365 migration costs, I have seen ranges between $30K – $140K.
You’re probably thinking, “Whoa, that is a huge range.” The range is so big because the cost of an Office 365 migration varies based on the scope of the migration. How do you determine the scope of your migration and estimate cost? Keep reading.
Disclaimer: This post will not provide the breakdown of hours, days, months (yes, months) it will take for you to complete your migration. Every organization’s environment is different. Because of this, we can’t provide you with example schedules or timelines. What I can provide you though are the tools and tips to be successful with your Office 365 migration planning and cost estimation efforts.

Office 365 Migration Planning

The first step in a migration is to put together a plan. Many migration teams either do very little planning or no planning at all when it comes to migration, and this can make your transition to Office 365 very difficult, and often more expensive.

I have been involved in many migration projects of various sizes over the years. Even with the amount of experience I have with Office 365 and SharePoint migrations, the next client’s migration is completely different than the previous one. Migration scope and requirements are always different, so it is important to understand what you are getting into before you can estimate how long it will take to migrate to Office 365. This way you can provide an accurate schedule or timeline to your stakeholders. If there are questions you don’t have answers to before beginning your transition, consider using anOffice 365 consulting companyto make for a smooth and cost-efficient migration.

When working with new clients, I always consider the following:

  • Type of migration– What type of migration will you be performing? It is important to understand what type of migration you will be performing because it will have an impact on the time it takes to complete the migration.
    • Migrating from a File Share or another application to Office 365 or SharePoint – File shares are often riddled with hundreds of folders and unruly permissions. File names can contain too many characters which can cause issues with URL boundaries.
    • Migrating from SharePoint 2007, 2010, or 2013 to a newer version of SharePoint – Depending on how many versions behind you are in SharePoint you may have adopted features or solutions that have become deprecated. These features must be dealt with prior to starting your move to a newer version of the platform, such as migrating to Office 365.
    • Migrating to On-Premises or to Office 365 – Migrating to the cloud versus on-premises SharePoint can uncover all types of issues with speed as well as features that are available in on-premises that may not available in the cloud.
  • What will be migrated– It is important to define the scope of the migration by having an idea of what will be migrated because this will have an impact how long it will take to migrate to Office 365 and how you estimate the cost of your migration. When defining your migration scope, you should include:
    • Files from a shared file drive (documents, spreadsheets, pdfs, images, Outlook files, etc.)
    • Content from an existing SharePoint environment (libraries, lists, web parts, etc.)
    • Web pages or sites from an existing SharePoint environment (page layouts, master pages, web parts, third party applications)
    • Site collections and sub sites
    • Permissions
    • Customizations
    • Workflows or Forms

A plan to migrate each of these elements will be needed especially when it comes to bringing over customizations, sites, workflows or forms. Planning how to migrate specific items will need to be included in your overall Office 365 migration estimate.

  • How will content be migrated– Once you hacve determined what needs to be migrated to Office 365, how will you get that content from one environment to the Cloud? At Withum, we recommend using a migration tool such as Sharegate Migration or Metalogix Content Matrix.
  • Do users need to be involved– The answer is yes. Regardless of where content is being migrated from, most likely you will need to work with your users at some point to either assist with cleaning up content (purging/archiving/deleting) or deciding where the content needs to go. As you assess your content (Use our SharePoint Migration Checklist) you may run into issues with checked out files, abandoned sites, or if moving from a file share, file or folder – paths that are too long. Your users wil need to assist you with cleaning up this content before you can begin migrating any content. Time will need to be built into your estimate to allow for your users to clean-up content or provide direction on where content should go. Additionally, you may have to plan a migration when it’s less impactful to your users – like afterhours or weekends. If you have to wait until the weekend – plan carefully as there are only so many hours in each weekend in each month.
  • How fast is your environment– Are you one of those organizations who has all your servers on-site or are your servers outsourced? Do you use VoIP? Does your security team have an elaborate network security plan in place? There are many factors that can impact your Office 365 migration speed. Completing test migrations (more on this below) will uncover any speed issues, but if you notice that your migration is moving very slowly – this will definitely be a factor when estimating how long your Office 365 migration will take. Another factor to consider is if you are migrating to the cloud (Office 365) and if you belong to a shared tenant. If you begin to move a lot of content during business hours, and it impacts the tenant – your migration will be throttled. This is out of your control. This could mean the difference between running jobs simultaneously versus running one job at a time.
  • Cleaning Up Content After Migration– Defining a migration scope is very important so that you set user and stakeholder expectations early on about what will happen during and after the migration. There are many situations where after a site is migrated, the web parts have become unconfigured or they are missing. Sometimes, links on a page need to be fixed if they were hard coded (which is bad practice). Will the reconfiguration of these web parts be part of the migration and handled by the migration team or will users be responsible for assisting with clean-up? If migration clean-up becomes part of the scope, it will need to be added to the schedule.

Assessing Your Environment

In my previous blog on ShareGate Migration vs. Metalogix Content Matrix: Which One Should You Choose?, I compared ShareGate Migration and Metalogix Content Matrix. In addition to supplying migration tools, both ShareGate and Metalogix have developed tools that can take the guessing game out of your migration.

  • Metalogix Migration Expert– A free migration assessment tool that can be run against your environment to uncover the number of sites you have, the number of checked out files, the number of large files, and the number of large lists. This tool can also provide much greater analysis than what I just listed.
  • ShareGate Inventory and Pre-Checks– When you purchase ShareGate you also get some neat SharePoint Migration assessment tools that you can use to see how your migration will run. Run this tool to see files that are ready for migration, uncover files with large file path names or folder names (if you’re importing from a file share into Office 365 or SharePoint), find large files, and much more. What is really great about this tool is that it will provide you an estimated migration time. This can be helpful to those who need to see a number.
  • TreeSize Pro– If you’re completing a file share migration to Office 365, it’s helpful to know how your users have set up their folder structures, what type of content is there and how much of it there is. This tool can give insight into your file shares and if necessary, assist in starting discussions with the owners of that content to prepare for your migration.

Completing a Test Migration

Even with using these assessment tools to get a snapshot into to potential road blocks with your migration, there is always a “gotcha” in there. The reasons most Office 365 and SharePoint migrations are so costly and riddled with change requests (usually demanding additional time) – is during a migration some issues are uncovered that weren’t accounted for even with using some of the greatest migration planning tools. Even if you’ve estimated at this point how long your Office 365 migration will take, completing a test migration will either solidify your estimation or send you back to the drawing board – either way it is necessary to complete one. When completing a test migration, below are some guidelines that may be helpful:

  • Test a site with some sort of complexity –Do not choose a site with a small amount of content or a site that is pretty vanilla (no customizations, if you have customizations in your environment)
  • Test moving over your workflows and forms– If you have SharePoint Designer or Nintex workflows in your environment, this is essential. You may find that you need to have a separate migration plan in place to move this content. This is also true for assessing migration of your forms.
  • Test migrating between SharePoint versions –If you are planning on migrating complete sites either as they are or into a new design, it is important to see how your existing content copies from the old environment into the new environment. Depending on how your users have managed their content, you may find after you’ve completed the migration there are links that need to be fixed, content that didn’t come over, or web parts that need to be reconfigured. This would fall into that content clean-up bucket in your project plan – and ownership of who will fix these issues will be one of your next discussions.
  • Test how long it took to move the content– I have been on projects where developers have used complex formulas to determine a magic number based on the amount of content and the network speed. Unfortunately, the proof is in the pudding – and you just do not know until you hit that “start” button. There can be so many factors that impact network connectivity on any given day, even the time of day if you are trying to move content to Office 365. We can say eight hours a site ‘times’ the number of sites – and you’ll find that one site or even 10 sites can take 12-48 hours to completely copy over.

Plan Your Office 365 Migration – Wait What?

As I said earlier, the first step in migration planning is to plan your migration. What do you do now that you understand what is in your environment and you have run all the migration analysis tools? It’s probably time to have a heart-to-heart with your manager or your team. Go into a room with your analysis and estimate your migration:

  • Understand how complex your migration will be. If you have any type of customization, broken permissions, workflow or forms then your migration is classified as complex. Define a plan of attack for all of it, or talk to a Office 365 migration expert.
  • Migrations take time. There is no rushing through it. No magic formula is going to change this.
  • Do not base your migration solely on the amount of content in your environment. This often will change. As a Senior Consultant, I always advise our clients that migration time is the time to clean house – get rid of that content that isn’t being used or accessed. However, you do have your information hoarders who will not agree upon deleting any content and you find yourself migrating everything. However, you may be pleasantly surprised that some of your content owners may decide that they want to start fresh and do not want to bring over anything – rare – but win-win for you.
  • Build in time to fix issues. If you took my advice and completed either a test migration or used one of the migration assessment tools and uncovered potential issues such as deprecated features or files shares with several thousand files that need their file paths fixed – how will you fix this prior to migration? Are your deprecated features being used? This can be the case if you are going from a very old version of SharePoint to a newer version or SharePoint. For example, in MOSS 2007 there was a slide library. I had a client whose users were still utilizing this feature and they had a very hard time accepting that this feature was not available in Office 365. You may have to provide an alternative solution to your users in situations like this – add this to your timeline.
  • What needs to be migrated? What realistically needs to be part of your content migration scope? Is there a better work stream within Office 365 that is better suited for some of your content (i.e. – Video files). Large video files that cannot be moved into SharePoint can be moved into Microsoft Stream. This will decrease your migration scope and provide a better platform for your users to store and share their videos. Make sure you understand what needs to move into Office 365 or SharePoint and what can move elsewhere. Make sure this is defined in your migration scope.
  • Where is your content being migrated to? If your new environment included a revamp in its Information Architecture you may find yourself having to remap content from your existing environment to the new one. If your migration scope also includes cherry picking of content (for instance they want these particular web pages from site A to be consolidated and moved to site B) this will increase your migration efforts. This may increase your migration by a couple of hours just because you must move these files individually instead of just copying a site in its entirety.

Under Promise and Over Deliver

This is an age-old method in project management and it goes hand and hand with migration. It is important to set realistic expectations when completing a migration – especially one that is complex. Don’t rush your migration to fit into an aggressive schedule; the schedule must fit into the migration. When preparing for migration build in that time to properly plan; understand everything that could go wrong. You are not being Chicken Little – you are being cautiously optimistic. With any project it is important to get your users involved and get their buy-in – your users can be your biggest advocates. You may find that getting their buy-in early may save you the headache of trying to move over content that doesn’t need to be migrated. Setting expectations early and either meeting or beating those expectations is a much greater feeling than having to explain why your migration failed by missing its deadline and or costing more money than anticipated.

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