February 13, 2023

Migrating From Outlook Public Folders to SharePoint

Public folders have been an Exchange and Outlook standby for decades, but the clock is ticking on how much longer they’ll be a viable option for long-term email storage. While Microsoft hasn’t shared exactly when they’ll finally pull the plug for good, there’s no time like the present to accelerate shifting moving activity to SharePoint.

Not only will this ease the eventual full transition, but SharePoint offers a much more robust experience for archiving and collaboration than public folders ever has. Making the move gives individuals and IT departments even more incentive to gradually switch public folder usage to SharePoint.

What are public folders again?

Public folders are email repositories within the Exchange environment that support access by multiple users. Emails can be organized within a hierarchical folder structure to simplify discovery.

Internal teams often use them for sharing emails, calendars, contacts, and task lists others need access to, creating permissions for each folder regarding who has different levels of access rights. They’re visible from within most Outlook clients—iOS and Android apps being a notable exception—so users can bounce between their individual emails and folders and their public folder counterparts.

Why should I move them to SharePoint?

Aside from the fact that public folders will eventually be sunset by Microsoft—and your IT department might beat them to the punch for your organization—public folders can’t compete with SharePoint in terms of functionality.

Unlike public folders, SharePoint supports version control so colleagues can collaborate without worrying they’re deleting anything important or making any irrevocable changes, which is particularly vital for any emails considered to be records. SharePoint also lets you keep every relevant file in the same folder, whether it’s an email, a PowerPoint, a PDF, etc.

Storing emails on SharePoint unlocks a far superior search experience. Files and emails on SharePoint can include metadata, which improves search results and isn’t an option with a public folder.

Permissions within SharePoint get controlled at the group level rather than having to specify those for each and every public folder. This creates uniform access control and cuts down on on-off access requests. And, unlike with a public folder, users can send links with specific permissions for individual files on SharePoint rather than granting someone access to an entire public folder, providing more granular control.

What’s the best way to make the move?

If your organization is moving all its public folders in one fell swoop, then it’s best to keep out of the way and let the IT professionals use bulk batch migration tools. But if you’re eager to use the additional capabilities SharePoint has to offer and ensure your critical data doesn’t get left behind, anyone can easily do it themselves with the help of the harmon.ie 365 Suite.

With harmon.ie, you can literally just drag and drop an entire public folder—subfolder hierarchy and all—to its new home in SharePoint, all from within your Outlook user interface. By default, this will copy those folders and messages, however, a quick settings change will move them permanently.

Then you can set permissions for that folder using an existing or new Microsoft Group or simply let it inherit those properties from the parent SharePoint site and location you’ve selected. Alternatively, employees can use this opportunity to be a bit more selective, curating the individual emails and folders that still have value while leaving the rest of the clutter behind.

Added benefits

Empowering individual employees to move emails from public folders to SharePoint themselves has a few unexpected perks. For one thing, it frees up IT from this work, which can gobble up all their time during this process rather than them working on other tasks and priorities.

Additionally, it turns out that a lot of the emails in public folders don’t need to get moved at all since they’re no longer relevant now that the projects are over, which is business knowledge IT doesn’t possess. In general, only about 10% of what’s in public folders actually gets moved, which saves space and reduces storage charges. For Canada Post, that added up to $4 million in savings.

The harmon.ie sidebar allows users to search across SharePoint, OneDrive, and Teams in a single query, and get results from emails as well as documents.

Ready to get a jump on the public folder transition and give your workforce the ability to take on some of these migration tasks themselves? Sign up for a free trial today.

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