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Office 365 is a Disaster Waiting to Happen

Is this “next big thing” in information management nothing but the next big mess?

This post originally appeared on CMSWire.

I’m hesitant to add another blog to the pile about Microsoft Office 365, because there are more than enough talking heads out there prognosticating.

But I’ve spent some time talking to clients, vendors, and other service providers. And I realized that, unless something changes, Office 365 is an information management disaster in the making for organizations.

Here’s the gist of why I think so.

Risky Business

Microsoft is in the midst of a full-court press to get organizations on O365, especially moving shared drive content to O365. As part of this, it’s doing quick-hit, fixed-fee projects to migrate shared drive content to O365 – whether a simple cut-and-paste to OneDrive, or a slightly more advanced lift-and-shift to SharePoint.

In either case, no clean-up is going on: Microsoft is simply moving everything a firm has to O365. And there’s no real enrichment of the content. Some basic metadata can be applied, but nothing substantial, and the overall organization of the files remains essentially the same.

While this move does wonders for an organization’s IT infrastructure footprint, its effect on things like e-discovery risk, records management compliance, and information management security compliance (e.g. regulations like HIPAA) will likely be negative. Neither Microsoft nor its independent software vendors have real clarity on how O365 will deliver the capabilities required by Fortune 1000 firms in these areas. I believe these things will likely remain up in the air for some time, maybe 18 to 24 months minimum.

Moving terabytes or petabytes of shared drive content to O365 in the way that Microsoft appears to be doing will increase the risks associated with e-discovery, records management, and information security because it makes it harder (or impossible) for firms to comply with regulations, industry standards, etc., relating to these domains.

Clean Up Your Mess

Despite the provocative title, this isn’t meant to be a Microsoft bash. Microsoft is a savvy, very successful company, trying to cash in on the one-time move of all of our corporate on-premises unstructured content to the cloud — a move that will happen exactly once for each Fortune 1000 firm.

This move will result in a tremendous payoff, both in terms of revenue (for storing the last 15 to 20 years of shared drive slop) and market share (having even deeper hooks into an organization’s IT stack). So it would be crazy if Microsoft didn’t put the pedal to the metal trying to get all of this business.

If anyone deserves a bashing, it’s us: the folks who own the content, who created it, manage it, share it, consume it. This is our business information, so we should be good stewards of it. It’s also our junk content, and we need to own up to that and clean it up.

Let’s try our hardest not to make the same mistake we’ve been making for years now, on countless waves of “the next big thing” in information management: We expect this next big thing to solve all our problems without our having to change our wicked, wicked ways. And so we jump on the bandwagon, leave our current systems behind (but don’t purge them or turn them off), and we create a newer, bigger mess in our new shiny system.

There’s one thing we can all do before jumping on the O365 bandwagon: clean up all the low-hanging fruit junk from shared drives before making the move.

The tools are out there to show you reports by file type. So use one. Determine what volume of your shared drive is junk file types (click here for an example list of file types you can safely delete with no further questions asked). Our experience is that, if you haven’t done this before, you can expect a 20 percent reduction at a minimum, but potentially an even higher reduction, as much as 50 percent or more.

In a best-case scenario, there’s more that you should do, but given the pressure from Microsoft and your CIO to get to O365 in a hurry, most of you won’t have time for any of it. But if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to do the basic clean-up suggested here, leaving you with a significantly smaller mess in the cloud once you get there.

Joe Shepley
Joe Shepley
I’m VP and Practice Lead, focusing on developing Doculabs’ InfoSec practice and its applications in a wide range of industries.