UMass Office of the President Migrates to Office 365 SharePoint Online

Filed in Awareness, Collaboration, Featured, General by on May 26, 2016

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Last summer, University Information Technology Services (UITS) faced a decision point – our main document collaboration platform, SharePoint 2010, was going out of support.  We could either migrate to the latest local version (SharePoint 2016), head to the cloud (Office 365), or look at other document management solutions.

UITS established six key departmental goals in 2015.  One of our key goals puts a spotlight on efforts to “adapt a Service Orientation that meets the on demand world of today and tomorrow.”  This goal is broad and can encompass many a project, but what it emphasized for us with respect to this project was the need for a speedy, cost effective, and quality decision and approach.

In late Fall, we began reviewing our options that would meet the identified business needs.  After much analysis and stakeholder feedback we reached a conclusion by December, choosing to remain with SharePoint.  The question that remained on the table was Do we move to the cloud or remain on premise?  Our analysis of the options showed clearly the benefits of moving to the cloud outweighed all other options:

  • Standardized Authentication. The cloud version does not depend on campus trust authentication, which was always a challenge for everyone involved – depending on your browser or operating system, how you entered your credentials varied.  If one change was made to a firewall anywhere within the University system, it could eliminate a user’s access for days while we tried to determine root cause.  Office 365 authentication is through Microsoft’s cloud, either by users creating a Microsoft cloud account or using their existing Microsoft cloud account.
  • Automatic upgrades to the latest Microsoft platform.  This benefit is very significant to us as upgrading often required us to migrate content to a new version, requiring significant work.  In the cloud, Microsoft performs the upgrade behind the scenes, making it extremely efficient for our operations team.
  • Data Loss Prevention Policies and Information Rights Management.  Although these features exist in the local versions of Microsoft, the quicker migration to Office 365 has allowed us more time to evaluate our processes and policies.  With the latest version of Office 365, users will see a much more streamlined process around information security within SharePoint.  As Information Security is one of Educause’s Top 10 IT Issues of 2016 (actually number 1), we are extremely excited to make that process more efficient, holistic, and agile.

We are currently migrating all WorkSpaces sites to the new platform exercising an iterative process. WorkSpaces is used for Cross-University collaboration on critical initiatives and services, such as HR Direct and the Board of Trustees Committee Meetings.  As sites are rolled onto the new version of SharePoint, site owners will communicate with those impacted on any major changes (navigation, design, login credentials) as well as timing.

Although browsers and operating systems themselves will continue to keep us on our toes, initial feedback from site owners who have migrated echo common sentiment – this upgrade provides a significantly more robust and sustainable collaboration and document management solution for our offices across the University.

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