SharePoint Knowledge Base

Jan 14
Migrating File Shares to SharePoint – Part 1

Some of the most challenging projects to undertake and yet without question they have the most value for a company, are migrating file shares to SharePoint. It's been said that 40% of files within a file share are duplicates. It's also an acknowledged fact that information workers spend a huge amount of time looking for information and when they can't find it they re-create it or worse they find an older version and spend time bring it back up to date. Migrating your file shares to SharePoint can have a huge return on investment and yet the process is often made overly complex. In keeping with our mission to make SharePoint as simple as possible for everyone we have boiled down to a repeatable process to make it as simple as possible.

The sexy Information Governance problems today are (in rough order of sex appeal):

  • Social Media
  • Big Data
  • Cloud Computing


Somewhere way down at the bottom of this list comes, "Governing shared network drives." However, in real life – outside of the hype cycle – solving the shared drive problem is right near the top of the list for most organizations. The massive growth of SharePoint has been driven in large part by enterprises (or at least, departments within enterprises) looking for an incremental and easy replacement for shared drives.

However, most project teams tend to underestimate just how "incremental" the shift from shared drives to SharePoint or ECM (enterprise content management) is. In fact, in my experience, the problem is vexing enough that many project teams effectively throw up their hands and end up moving the big pile of unstructured files from one unmanaged locations to another location SharePoint.

Storing files in Windows SharePoint Services document libraries provides many advantages over storing files in simple network file shares. These advantages include:

  • Applying custom properties to documents so you can store more information about their content. This allows you to more effectively store, organize, and retrieve large groups of documents.
  • Using shared or personal views to sort and filter documents that are of interest.
  • Discussing documents online by using Web Discussions.
  • Using content approval so site managers can approve or reject which documents get added to a document library.


As SharePoint consultants we have boiled the process down and I will lay out the summary first and then add details.

  1. Review the file shares – use a tool to enumerate the folders structure
  2. Convert the structure to a taxonomy that carefully separates metadata into date, purpose, and status. Generally you will find that folder structures have a combination of these three types of metadata and sorting them out to be simpler is the trick
  3. Once taxonomy is created it should be reviewed by the key subject matter experts who are the actual curators of them important company data. The key concept is the "important company data". You always start with the most important information. With this data you do a POC (proof of concept) starter project so that everyone can get used to the concepts of ECM, learn how SharePoint works, and have them go through the experience of moving things into SharePoint.
  4. To facilitate moving things into SharePoint we take the taxonomy and create a series of folders. These folders are pre-tagged with the taxonomy. We then show our clients how to open up a SharePoint document library in Windows Explorer and save it to the favorites. They then can work with it as if it was a file share on their network. Then they drag things into the folders and get to experience the value of it via search.

Our experience with SharePoint consulting is that the sooner you get this Amazon shopping cart like experience happening with the company data the faster you'll get adoption and by and for the effort of migrating files into SharePoint. Once everyone can see how easy locating data can be it then generally there is by in.

Examples shown below:

Defining the Structure

The first step to migration is to define the structure for the new collaborative file store. This structure will determine when to create a new site collection, site, document library, or folder for containing the files. You must consider these factors when defining the structure:

  • Server performance and required throughput
  • Content organization

File Shares are unique records and information management challenges as they are collaborative in nature, have numerous stakeholders and limited metadata. Management of this environment blends communication, change management and record management principles. This best practice provides more than the theory of managing shared information, it contains the recommendations to conduct a successful file share cleanup project that will improve workflow, remove redundant, outdated and transient information, improve searching capabilities, decrease storage use and support e-Discovery.


This post will provide a framework for identifying and defining methodologies that support implementing enterprise-wide record keeping best practices as they relate to the cleaning up of files on a file share. It will also incorporate approaches to information governance to ensure the files are being handled appropriately.

Methods for engaging the organization around this activity will also be addressed. This best practice does not address external file sharing as that will be dealt with in a subsequent post.

Terms and Definitions

The following terms and definitions are included to aid in the understanding of this best practice.

  • ERM or Electronic Records Management: The electronic management of paper and electronic records usually through the use of an ERM System.
  • ECM or Enterprise Content Management: Enterprise Content Management (ECM) is the strategies, methods and tools used to capture, manage, store, preserve, and deliver content and documents related to organizational processes.
  • File Share: Shared network drive for storing unstructured information that is supported by IT and should be included in information governance policies.
  • SharePoint: A platform from Microsoft that is used to create intranets (internal Web sites) for team collaboration, blogs, wikis and company news. [Source: Microsoft]
  • Record(s): Information created, received and maintained as evidence and as an asset by an organization or person, in pursuit of legal obligations or in the transaction of business [Source: ISO 15489-1]
  • Business Useful or Business Critical Records/Record of Business Value: Records with no legal or regulatory requirement to be retained but which provides value from a business perspective.

Note: Best judgment on appropriate management of these business records should be based on the accuracy, relevancy and overall value to the business. Once this information becomes irrelevant, superseded, or no longer useful, the records should be destroyed.

  • "Non-Records" or Transient Information: Transitory information is used to support the work of employees in the completion of routine actions or the preparation of subsequent information of business value. These should be destroyed as soon as possible. They can include (but are not limited to) meeting invitations, drafts, comments, or copies of existing documents that have been captured by the institution. Short-term in nature. [Source: Disposition and Recordkeeping Portal, Library and Archives Canada]
  • ROT: R.O.T. is an Information Governance acronym for data which stands for Redundant, Obsolete and Trivial. The goal of Information Governance is to eliminate R.O.T. which reduces storage costs, increases efficacy by decreasing the amount of information you have to search through to find what you need and mitigate the risks of keeping "everything".
  • WIP: Work in progress

INITIAL Assumptions

The migration of file shares to SharePoint takes into consideration the following assumptions:

  • All file shares have been identified.
  • Executive level support (senior level as advocate or committee) for the project has been obtained.
  • A corporate records retention policy and schedule exists.
  • Most employees may not be aware of the records retention policy and may be reluctant to delete documents.
  • Training is mandatory.
  • Not all data is equal from a risk perspective.
  • Stakeholders (Legal and IT) may hesitate to take bold actions.


The second part of this post can be found here.

Questions and assistance to get started?

Please contact SimpleSharePoint and we'll be happy to engage with helping your organization to migrate its file shares to SharePoint. We will make it as simple as possible and we can start with a pilot project and show you the concepts and enable your team to do much of the work yourself. This often makes sense for an ISO document library or some key HR information.


There are no comments for this post.