Legacy Home Directories and User Directory Data Migration

What to Do with Your Legacy Home Directories and User Directory Data

Dave Kluger, CTO of Storcom


Learn more about legacy home directories and user directory data migration in today’s blog post.

Many corporations are trying to figure out how to leverage OneDrive from Microsoft to potentially replace legacy home directory data. For a lot of people, Microsoft OneDrive is potentially free depending on the type of Microsoft O365 licensing they have. OneDrive looks like an attractive option to take the data that was once in our home directories/home drives and move that data off old file servers and retire them. 

People want to get away from using home drives because they are not supposed to be shareable amongst users. However, there is still a lot of data out there that we all have, want to keep, and don’t want to lose. Another issue is that users’ personal data gets shared when upper management asks for other people on their team to have access to their home drive. This may have happened at the share level with folder permissions.  In any case, it’s a big mess to clean up in any migration scenario.  

So, what do we do with all of this home drive data? Using OneDrive may be an option but it’s important to understand what it can and can’t do. Even though the storage is free, implementing a well-planned migration strategy is also important or else using OneDrive can become more of a headache than any potential savings. Like Fiorello La Guardia used to say, “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.”


Important Components of Home Directory Migrations

First there are some considerations to take into account. Migrations of all kinds, especially home directory migrations, are all about the following critical components: 

  • Coordination and getting all the right people involved 
  • Communication when moving the data to make it is transparent as possible
    • Ensure that people are aware of the potential disruptions and alert them to the changes being made
  • Project management
    • Doing cutovers on the weekend and moving specific groups of people and departments to mitigate and minimize disruptions
  • Training people on how it will be different from both a user and an IT management standpoint. If everything goes well, then not much changes from a user’s perspective. However, the internal IT department is completely different so they need to understand how to manage the new system.


Is an Initial Migration to OneDrive Difficult? 

It all depends on how many people and users are in a particular company. Storcom has done OneDrive migrations for 10,000 users and those for only 200 users. The process is no different for 10,000 employees or for 200. It’s just a matter of how long the migration takes. Another important factor in the complexity of a home directory migration is trying to mitigate the challenges of OneDrive.  


Challenges of OneDrive

One of Storcom’s specialities is how to migrate clients’ data and we understand the challenges of OneDrive. There are some issues that make OneDrive different from some of the capabilities that you would expect to have with something like SharePoint, for example. Unfortunately with OneDrive, there are no built-in tools or third-party tools that really automate the movement of files and folders. Storcom uses a number of methodologies and custom scripts that we built. Getting the data in OneDrive really isn’t that difficult, but what’s more difficult is making sure that:

  1. The correct permissions have been moved over
  2. Capturing and ensuring that all of the data has moved, since there are no built-in reporting mechanisms

Once the data is up there, the question then becomes: how much data am I synchronizing to my local machine? One of the things that OneDrive does is that it basically acts as a local cache. OneDrive keeps a copy of data on your hard drive so if you’re on a laptop or traveling, or disconnected from the internet, then you still have access to it. There is a synchronization process so that when you do reconnect to the internet all changes to files are re-synchronized with the OneDrive in O365 account.

Example of OneDrive’s Reporting Challenges in Action

One of the other major challenges with Microsoft OneDrive is really poor reporting capabilities. There is no mechanism to tell you that something did not synchronize properly. Storcom’s client, the CEO of a large Chicago-based manufacturing company, was traveling and was using the OneDrive with his files and folders that had been migrated. He had been using OneDrive for nearly two weeks but he didn’t realize that it wasn’t synchronizing properly with the O365 Cloud.

Our client had obviously been working on important documents and was in an airport when his laptop was stolen. All of that data was lost because OneDrive never alerted him to the fact that the synchronization process had stopped. From Storcom’s understanding, there are no real plans for OneDrive to change that. OneDrive is not a backup product which is why there are third-party backup technologies to back up your OneDrive account. However, the process of backing up your OneDrive only applies to what’s in the cloud.

The challenge then becomes that what’s on your local machine and what is in your cloud account might not be the same data. Even if you’re backing up to the cloud, then that data is lost anyway if OneDrive stops synchronizing. Users need to be careful of this. This is where Storcom comes in. We can help by providing some additional analytics to combat this, and we’ve used Microsoft PowerShell scripting to aid in the lack of native reporting in the product. 


OneDrive Reporting Challenges Explained

To expand upon what I touched upon earlier, OneDrive has challenges with poor reporting in the following two areas: 

  1. The status of the data migration process
  2. The status of the on-going synchronization process from local hard drive to Cloud. 

Microsoft has poor built-in tools for the product, since OneDrive was never designed to do those two things. OneDrive was a product that Microsoft bought by a company called X-Drive. OneDrive was designed to be exactly what it is: a consumer-grade cloud file-sharing solution for an individual. It was never designed to be an enterprise-class file-sharing product; however, it has kind of morphed into being a business/enterprise platform. The tools out there are still very poor. Like in my example, the CEO had no idea that his OneDrive wasn’t synching. Storcom built additional analytics to do some additional logging of this information with the scripts that we built to try to get this info back to the IT staff so that when something does break, then they’re aware that something isn’t working.


Storcom CloudFilez™ is an Option for Legacy Home Directories and User Directory Data

An additional option to something like One Drive may be a managed enterprise-grade cloud file-sharing solution.  Storcom’s CloudFilez™ file-sharing solution is just that. It provides robust enterprise grade replacement for file servers and provides files shares for user and departmental shares with full reporting capabilities and even meets SAE16/HIPAA compliance regulations.  The big difference is it’s not free. 

CloudFilez™ provides the analytics that may be required to have a deeper understanding of what data is in your home directory. Our CloudFilez™ offering can be considered a competing solution to Microsoft OneDrive. Storcom understands the benefits of OneDrive, especially the cost benefit where it doesn’t necessarily cost anything to some clients, but there are some pieces that are missing. Storcom’s cloud file-sharing solution can solve some of OneDrive’s problems.


Does This Mean I Shouldn’t Use OneDrive?

I’m certainly not telling you to not use Microsoft OneDrive. However, if you are, then Storcom can help you migrate your data there properly. We can come up with a plan depending upon your IT staff’s capabilities and your budget. Storcom can do an entire migration or a part of a migration. Storcom completed migrations where we’ve taken two different companies, merged them together, and brought data into a single OneDrive and Microsoft O365 tenant where we use OneDrive for everybody. We then moved all of these users’ data up into the cloud and helped monitor them. 

Storcom has also helped smaller clients architect, project manage, and create the pilot groups where the internal IT staff ultimately did the heavy lifting. It’s a somewhat tedious process depending upon how many users you have and how much data you need to migrate. This does not happen overnight, so this is where understanding where the limitations are and having someone who has done this before is valuable. At a high level, it can even be helpful to have a consultation session with OneDrive specialists to discuss potential issues and problems to look out for. This aids in how to effectively design a migration. Storcom custom-tailors the migration process to meet the needs of our clients. 


What about Department Shares? 

This is where Microsoft Azure Files comes into play as a complementary option. Azure Files is a separate solution from OneDrive but provides full SMB v3 share access. Azure Files is also an alternative to keeping data on-premise on files servers. We have also assisted with a number of migrations to Azure Files and can help you understand where it can fit into the landscape of legacy file data.  One important note about our CloudFilez™ solution in comparison is that it’s a single platform for all file shares unlike the Microsoft approach that requires separate solutions to potentially achieve the same outcome. Storcom can perform your legacy home directories and user directory data migration.


What about Cloud Backup Technologies?

Products that we work with like Storcom’s partner, Veeam, have backup technologies to back up OneDrive. However, like with my example of the CEO, the synchronization process stopped working. Nobody had any idea that the service stopped running. The backup technology that’s backing up in the cloud has no value if data is not being synchronized properly. If the CEO created 13 spreadsheets in Excel over the course of two weeks and they weren’t synchronized, then the Veeam backup product for OneDrive was never going to see those documents and data up in the cloud. That being said, people are no better off with a cloud backup solution.  

The solution to this problem is that clients need better reporting when something stops working. One option is that you can force people to not have a local cache but that means that they lose the ability to work offline. This creates its own host of obvious challenges when users lose their ability to work offline. 


OneDrive Migrations for Mergers and Acquisitions

One of Storcom’s clients is a large construction company based in Atlanta, GA had 2500 employees and purchased another company with another 2500 employees. Storcom merged the domain and all of both companies’ user data. The 2500 new users were coming from a different domain and needed to migrate to the parent company’s domain. The client figured that while they were doing the domain migration, they should also take 5000 users’ home directory data and put it into OneDrive. This was because they didn’t want to have to deal managing 5000 home directors on old file servers any longer. OneDrive was a good dumping ground for this type of data. They considered it low importance data that was not critical to the business, so OneDrive seemed like the perfect location. 


Post-Migration Challenges 

After the migration has taken place, the next pitfall is that the ongoing maintenance of the OneDrive solution has poor reporting as well. This is where Storcom believes that our CloudFilez™ solution provides some needed reporting that users would love to see in One Drive. However, if one of our clients wants to use OneDrive as a Microsoft centric solution, then Storcom can at least provide better information and reporting when something stops working properly.  It’s not perfect, but it’s better than what you get from Microsoft. 

Storcom can also help figure out what is user directory data and what is departmental data. OneDrive is also not a replacement for shared drives. I can’t share a OneDrive folder with someone else. I can share files and give someone access to a file, but I can’t share a folder. Personally, I would never use OneDrive as a replacement for a marketing department folder for example. That’s where Storcom’s understanding of MS Teams, SharePoint, and Azure Files becomes valuable. If you want to move legacy data from the marketing directory example, but you don’t want to put it into your Teams or SharePoint environment and leave it as legacy file share, then that’s what Azure Files and Storcom’s CloudFilez™ solutions are for. 


Why Choose Storcom as Your OneDrive Migration Partner?

Plain and simple, we have the necessary experience doing these projects right the first time around. Storcom has 5+ years of experience in completing cloud file migrations. Since we have done many of these migrations, we’ve run into a lot of the challenges and pitfalls that companies need to avoid. This gives us the experience to help custom-tailor the migration process for each company and ensure that each environment is unique. 

We are Subject Matter Experts in Legacy Home Directories and User Directory Data Migration

Storcom has a strong team of Microsoft subject matter experts (SMEs) that understands Microsoft technologies and are also well-versed in a number of different scripting languages that help with combat these migration issues. We understand legacy home directories and user directory data migration.

Storcom can help you migrate to OneDrive, Azure Files, AWS, or our own CloudFilez™ solution. We have the expertise to walk you through that process. Regardless of which platform you choose, the migration process is pretty much the same. Besides the fact that Storcom understands the file-sharing migration process with respect to Microsoft OneDrive, we also have experience doing migrations with our own cloud file-sharing solution. CloudFilez™ solution is a single platform that supports user drives/home directories, and departmental file shares. Whereas, it’s two different products with Microsoft. Storcom can perform a migration to either platform depending upon your specific business needs. 


Maybe you aren’t ready to move all of your data right now. So now what?

Storcom can figure out a way to move some of your data and design it in a way that users still know how to access that data. It will no longer be on-premise; therefore, clients don’t have to figure out a way to check that data because it’s now housed in a more archival format. This applies to using CloudFilez™ where Storcom’s advantage is that we can provide this solution for less money than Microsoft.  CloudFilez™ solves all of your legacy home directories and user directory data migration challenges.


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