Friday, August 22, 2014

Sweating the Small Stuff in Migrating SharePoint to Office 365

Steve Tonkin, Solution Architect

Migration to a cloud-based service can be scary. It invokes many questions from many different points of view. Before moving a perfectly operational and tested On-Premise system to a hosted solution, let’s dive into considerations around the benefits of Office 365 and SharePoint Online. Shall we?


I don’t mean this to be a comprehensive list of all considerations with a hosted SharePoint solution. There are always concerns about things like, ‘Where is my content database stored?’ and ‘What options are there for encryption?’. Microsoft explains those on their site, so what I want to do is go through just a few of the smaller considerations that might make a difference in the decision making process.

List Item Limits

With SharePoint On-Premises, the List Item Limit can be flexible. The default value is 5000, but an administrator can change that number through Central Administration. With SharePoint Online, that 5000 limit will not change, even with a request directly to Microsoft support. It is important to review large lists in your current farm and determine if this limit is a major road block or something that needs further planning during the migration process. This can be worked around in part by using Indexed Columns to reduce views to query under 5000 items.


The indexed column used for reducing item count must be the first filter and cannot be a lookup, managed metadata, or calculated column. In addition, an easy work around is to reduce the size of the list, either by migrating only a set of data, or by splitting the list during the migration process.

Profile Properties

A major consideration for Office 365 is how to manage user profiles. Methods like ADFS and DirSync can be used to propagate information from Active Directory. However, when it comes to SharePoint Online a smaller consideration is the limited about of synced profile properties. Microsoft has provided the full list of properties that can be promoted.

Outside of these default values that are synced with AD, custom profile properties can be added. However, these cannot be mapped directly to AD through the same process. Ryan Moore has a great blog on a workaround that can be used to run push additional profile properties to SharePoint Online but must reside on a local server and connect to both the domain controller and Office 365.

Vanity URLs

Do you like If you are taking SharePoint to the cloud, you better.

In general, the URL structure of SharePoint Online is limited. All sites and site collections are uniform in nature. You get to pick the domain that goes in front of the URL, but the rest of the path is defined for you.

There is one important exception… a public-facing site collection. That site collection can have a masked URL but anything internal to your company will need to follow Microsoft path.


These are just a few of the ‘smaller’ considerations when migrating to Office 365 for your SharePoint environment. These may not be true make-or-break type decisions that face the migration selection process but knowing everything about limitations and workarounds with a hosted solution allows for a smoother transition. The last thing brand new SharePoint should be providing is the feeling of rejection.


Mount Mutombo plans all his migration activity thoroughly and definitely sweats the small stuff.