Best practice for data storage through O365 migrations

So you want to move to Office 365, but not sure what to do with your historical data?

Moving from file shares to Office 365 or migrating to SharePoint Online is a great time to review your content, and cut what you don’t need . But a caution for your migration project! Productivity can take a significant hit if archiving historical data is not handled with care. Decision makers! How do you determine best practice for data storage when moving from file shares to Office 365?

In this post, we’ll share some best practice ways to get the business on board with archiving content. It is important to do this in a way that makes them feel heard and valued. Consultation over data policy might seem like an arduous process, but as with anything, we always recommend having a plan for your Office 365 migration. Because anything worth doing, is worth doing right.


First, how do we decide what is historical?

When planning file migrations, we have 3 important considerations when deciding what content is “old” and what is in scope for migration. These points apply to migrating to Office 365 as well:

  • When was the last time someone viewed or modified this?

  • Is it still of value to the organisation?

  • Is it still relevant?

In this case, drawing an arbitrary line in the sand by choosing a ‘last viewed’ date stamp may not work for everyone. The sweet spot between keeping enough useable data and data that clutters search with useless results is likely to vary. It is not about picking a date and enforcing a mass archiving of information across all areas within the organisation.

Here is where consultation from your management teams is crucial. Engaging with the rest of the business so they can determine what is old will lower frustration and angst down the track. Getting it right will also keep the teams productive, since what they need will be at their fingertips. It’s important to ensure they won’t be wading through masses of out of date content.

An obvious place to start is with projects that died, and teams or departments that don’t exist anymore. Ask these questions:

  • Will we pick this project up again in future?

  • Can we repurpose the research or work done by this team?

If the answer to either of these is yes, this is a good example of content to archive. You can then opt to delete if not used within a certain period of time (let’s say two years).

Here are some other scenarios where careful planning is in order:

Company merger

In the event of a company merger, dozens, if not hundreds documents may be superseded by new policy. Once the new policies are concreted, is it worth keeping any of the old policies held by the former separate companies? As a safety, you may like to set a date of 1 year in the future to delete this documentation, in case you need to reference it.


Human resources is an area dense in documentation. Staff profiles, interview notes, reviews, employment policies, disciplinary records.

So what happens when a staff member leaves? There is an assumption their file is no longer useful, but what happens if a dispute arises? Archiving it makes a lot of sense, but be sure to use strict naming conventions on archived files. In the event that you need to resurface this information, you’ll know exactly how to find it.


This one should be fairly simple – anything older than 7 years can be trashed. But is it that simple? Probably not; be sure to rely heavily your Finance team for this decision. Since different legislation applies to different types of record keeping, you may have to set multiple parameters to get this one right. We’re confident your Finance Manager will know all about it!

Project delivery

Like any area, project delivery generates a lot of documentation. But a simple “project complete → archive” automation might not support your team. When a project moves into hyper care, and finally general support, anything from workshop minutes to system architecture doco to UAT checklists may need to be on hand to reference. Consultation with the delivery and support teams will ensure that you don’t make decisions about archiving documentation that could harm your relationship with your customer.

Deciding what is crucial to customer support and wrapping it into a folder that follows a streamlined naming convention will make it easier to archive supplementary but no longer needed project information.

A man and woman discussing data storage best practices for O365

What if?

It’s worth bearing in mind that ‘archived’ content is not lost content. If everything goes wrong, you can always dig into the archive and retrieve what you need to build a view of the problem and resolve it. But there is no need to have potentially hundreds of thousands of documents clogging up your search results.

When consulting with your varying business areas about best practice for data storage and their needs to access information, you might find this mantra helpful:

Keep – Current, used and usable content. Keeps search results slick and prevents productivity loss

Cache – No longer immediately useful. Move to storage such as Azure for a “just in case” scenario

Stash – Option to have a back-up. The archive of your archive, probably utilising a physical storage option

Cull – Delete permanently

Contact us if we want to chat about your storage options, or anything else! Here to help.