How to replace your network storage shares with Microsoft Teams.

Microsoft Teams is an ecosystem of technologies with public and private groups (channels), chat, audio & video conferencing, events & calendars, notebooks, plus a wide range of embedded applications and workflows. However, at the heart of it all is file storage, courtesy of SharePoint Online.

While it can be difficult to know where to start with its plethora of shiny features, MS Teams provides a serious opportunity to permanently upgrade the way you handle file storage in your organization. MS Teams has everything you need to replace your network storage, and it’s not too difficult to do. In fact, there’s only two main steps to think about:

  1. How do you get your files into Microsoft Teams in the first place?
  2. How do you enable your users to securely and seamlessly access it once your files are there?

In time there are other advanced things you might want to bear in mind, such as data backups, automated provisioning, workflow automation and management & BI. We’ll cover these in future posts but for now we just want to focus on the core logistics and functionality of replacing your network storage with Microsoft Teams.

How to migrate your network storage into Microsoft Teams

Conceptually, migrations are simple. Move data from point A to point B. But at organizational scale and complexity, drag and drop won’t cut it! You’re going to need a dedicated tool to manage it.

There are a few things you need to think about here:

  1. Are you keeping your existing drive structures the same? Or is this an opportunity to reshape how you group your storage shares/Teams?
  2. Do you actually need all those files? Migrations are a good excuse to catch-up on housekeeping and data reduction. After all, the less you have to migrate the simpler the migration will be.
  3. SharePoint Online (which hosts the Teams storage) has a few restrictions in terms of the number of files per folder and total path length etc. It’s worthwhile making sure your existing file & folder structures fit within SharePoint’s BEFORE the migration rather than finding out midway!

In terms of the tools themselves, there are a few of note. This is an IAM Cloud blog so we’re naturally going to talk about our migration service Lift&Shift. But for the sake of attempting to offer neutral advice, you might also want to take a look at Bit Titan, which is probably the most famous brand in the Office 365 migration world.

Once you’ve completed your housekeeping and planned how you want to structure your data in Microsoft Teams, you’re ready to start thinking about migration process itself. Here are a few things you might want to consider:

Team types (EDU-specific)
We’re big fans of Microsoft (we’re a Gold Partner). But they have a tendency to over-complicate things. If you have a non-profit, government or standard commercial tenancy then you only get one type of Team. Easy! If you’re an educational establishment with an Office 365 EDU tenancy, then MS Teams is a whole different ballgame. First, you need to check if the migration tool you plan to use actually supports EDU Teams. Because a number don’t. Lift&Shift does! Second you need to think about which Team-type is suitable for each network share e.g. Class Team, Staff Team, Professional Learning Community or Other.

Permissions / Group Membership
At the moment, it’s very likely that your network storage shares are allocated to users using Group Policies. Obviously when you move to the cloud and Microsoft Teams, these Group Policies become redundant. But you can recreate the same structure by making sure that your Team memberships are in-line with your original policies. So for example, if you currently have a ‘Staff Drive’ based on a policy targeting OU=Staff. Then you could create a Staff Team and enroll all your staff into it. We aren’t going to go into detail about Teams provisioning in this blog post, but some tools (like IDx) can automate the provisioning/synchronisation of Teams and Teams memberships based on rules.

Cutovers, Deltas and Coordination of the Migration
This is the one area that needs some knowledge and experience. As such it’s also where just buying a tool like Bit Titan will not help you out. Their tool will do the migration, but it won’t help you with the coordination or side-processes. If you’re relatively new to Office 365 migrations, this might be an issue. If you’re a seasoned migrator then that won’t pose you any issues.

The main point of consideration is that file storage is an active environment. Unless you’re lucky enough to have a period of shutdown, e.g. for Winter break, you’ll be migrating data from a live environment. That means, as soon as you’ve migrated a folder of data, it’s possible the user will then go back into the folder and update a file inside it. Meaning that there may need to be a delta process (remigrating the new and recently changed files). There are ways around this to some extent, and there’s no one-size-fits-all in migrations. But this is where expertise – or at the very least, careful planning – can help.

 

How to integrate Microsoft Teams storage into your workstations & VDI environment

Microsoft Teams is fantastic product. But it is not a silver bullet. While it is convenient to have access to the storage from within the Microsoft Teams app itself to help team collaboration, there are going to many times that your users will want to access Teams-hosted files and folders from outside of the Teams environment itself. This is where things can get a bit tricky without some extra tooling.

Mapping Microsoft Teams as a drive
Fortunately, we have a solution for this too. Cloud Drive Mapper. CDM is the world’s leading drive mapping solution for Office 365 – there’s no Bit Titan to overshadow us in this category! CDM allows you to map drives directly to the Teams storage and it works seamlessly in Windows 10 workstations & laptops, and Windows Server-based VDI & VAI environments from Citrix, RDS & VMWare.

This means that you get all the benefits of the collaborative storage within Teams itself, while being able to continue to fully utilize the storage as if it were on your network.

Cloud Drive Mapper + MS Teams gives you a fantastic opportunity to move away from network storage which makes remote working significantly easier and actually saves you money at the same time! Better functionality for lower cost! How can you argue with that?

Cloud Drive Mapper provides a range of custom functionality to enable you to create drives in a range of different ways. But here is one simple yet powerful out-of-the-box feature that has become popular with CDM customers…

With Cloud Drive Mapper + Microsoft Teams together you can optimize the productivity of your users wherever there are working inside or outside of Microsoft Teams itself. Your users will be able more easily search for their files, drag and drop, edit existing files rather than downloading and reuploading, create shortcuts to commonly used files and folders and everything else you expect users to be able to do through File Explorer.

It will eliminate any barriers of adopting Teams storage if you are using VDI or virtual application environments. Because it maps drives to drive letters it has full backwards compatibility and support for all desktop applications, legacy systems and Powershell-based drive automation. Cloud Drive Mapper is a simple tool but it unlocks a huge amount of potential for organisations wanting to adopt the cloud.

Let’s get started

Leon

Leon

New York City. (Quarantined).