Moving SharePoint to the cloud is an attractive option for companies looking to offload work or reduce costs. If we closely examine what it means to move SharePoint into the cloud, then we can avoid the many pitfalls.

The first stage to any successful migration is the discovery process. This is where many migrations are set up for failure. You should first write out a detailed governance plan by taking stock of the current environment. As you might expect, we are not only looking at such basic things as SharePoint aggregate storage size or authentication mechanisms, we also want to focus on the often-overlooked technical details, which could ground a migration to a halt. Focus on any details that could potentially derail your migration.

For example, if your current farm is heavily dependent on a custom calendar for team scheduling that is provided by a Web component, this might signal a red flag for your migration process. Moving to a hosted SharePoint solution like Office 365 does not provide any ability to use non-sandboxed solutions that are common to the existing SharePoint marketplace.

The overall migration plan should take into consideration the current state of the SharePoint farm. If your farm is a labyrinth of confusing architecture, then consider a migration strategy that incorporates a heavy structural rewrite to take advantage of the migration phase. You will also want to consider the business and IT requirements for your SharePoint farm. How much downtime can you suffer during the actual migration? Does your SharePoint farm need to have single sign-on capabilities? How will the migration of this type of infrastructure change the dynamics of how your company uses SharePoint?

Other common pitfalls for any would-be migrations are unrealistic planning timelines and expectations. Take into consideration the time and complexity of moving any Web-based technology, and then throw SharePoint into the mix. While SharePoint is a great product, it was not designed to be portable or easily moved.

Moving SharePoint into the cloud can be a great step forward for usability and cost savings. But be careful that the actual cost of the migration, in money and manpower, doesn’t eat into the savings gained by such a move.

Javier Barrera is a SharePoint engineer at open cloud hosting provider Rackspace.