How to migrate file shares to SharePoint 2010

Thousands of files and folders can’t just be cut and pasted into SharePoint; you need a plan and a tool to make it happen

After speaking at TechMentor in Las Vegas last month, I was approached by someone who asked how to migrate to SharePoint 2010. At first I thought he meant how he might migrate from an earlier version, but he actually meant how to get the file shares into SharePoint 2010 smoothly. I thought, "Great question. I have no idea."

We're talking about thousands of files and folders in many cases. SharePoint is meant to replace traditional methods of accessing files and add features like workflow controls and check-in/check-out for more organized document processing, through which users collaborate. But changing from from a system of file shares is not simply a drag-and-drop affair, at least not with the out-of-the-box SharePoint tools.

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After talking with Microsoft and researching others' approaches, there appears to be several interesting techniques. Some are very hands-off, and others are more aggressive.

  • You can simply set up SharePoint and let users slowly migrate to it while supporting file shares at the same time. There is nothing that says you have to push everything into SharePoint overnight. In fact, you can force the issue by making the file share read-only so that users can access their files but must save changes onto SharePoint. But depending on the overall mindset of your organization, this may lead to mayhem.
  • One SharePoint expert named Henry Ong wrote an interesting blog post where he recommends starting with a team that is already excited about the use of SharePoint and slowly making its active file shares read-only. By creating sites and using the Page Viewer Web Part, the team members can both access the SharePoint site for collaboration and access the read-only file shares. When a document is modified, they can work on it and save it back to the SharePoint server rather than to the file shares.
  • For a more aggressive, drag-and-drop approach, get a third-party tool and just make it happen. There is a cost involved, and ideally, your people will be well trained and ready for the dramatic shift in work procedure that comes with the complete switchover from a traditional file share to SharePoint. However, it's also the fastest approach. Richard Riley, a director at Microsoft, identified a bevy of companies with migration tools. The Microsoft SharePoint Conference website has a list of sponsors and exhibitors that offer tools to consider, including Quest Software's File Migrator for SharePoint, AvePoint's DocAve File System Migrator for SharePoint, and Metalogix's FileShare Migration Manager for SharePoint.
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