SharePoint is Microsoft’s entry in the crowded Content Management Systems (CMS) market. As a Microsoft product, SharePoint is tightly integrated with Windows and the .NET framework. It has enjoyed considerable success in the intranet world, but as a public-facing enterprise website builder, not so much.
The first part of this post discusses the migration of corporate websites from SharePoint to Drupal 8. The second part addresses the role that SharePoint can play post-migration, in a co-existing relationship between SharePoint and Drupal.
For organizations that currently deploy SharePoint as a CMS over a public-facing enterprise website, migrating to Drupal has the following benefits.
While SharePoint is bloated with out-of-the-box features, customizing it to satisfy unique enterprise requirements has proven to be difficult. In particular, the customization of the look-and-feel of the website for corporate branding purposes (“theming”) takes considerable effort.Drupal, on the other hand, provides a core out-of-the-box framework that you can enhance with the help of its many contributed modules in order to satisfy your specific functional and branding requirements.
SharePoint has 2 broad-based pricing options: Online and Server. SharePoint Online is the cloud-based version that targets intranet or portal use only. SharePoint Server is the on-premises version for hosting your enterprise website. A SharePoint Server solution requires that you pay software license fees, not just for SharePoint itself, but also for the Microsoft technology stack including Windows Server, SQL Server, as well as Visual Studio which you use for coding.
In contrast, Drupal is open-source with no license fee for the core as well as contributed modules. In addition, Drupal can be deployed on the free and open-source technology stack, highlighted by the Linux operating system and MySQL database. You can also develop PHP-based Drupal solutions using free PHP Integrated Development Environments (IDEs) such as Eclipse.
One of Drupal’s competitive advantages over proprietary CMS vendors is its vibrant and diverse user community. The community functions as an excellent brain trust and source of both feature and technology innovation. In addition to regional meetups, social media, and online forums, Drupal marketers and developers alike come together annually in DrupalCon, the main event for product planning, networking, collaboration, and training. To bring innovative features to market quicker, Drupal 8 delivers minor feature releases every six months in addition to the monthly bug fixes.
Drupal’s strength is its flexibility, power, and scalability. The challenges of migrating to Drupal usually revolve around the transfer of existing web assets from the old to the new system. The challenge is exacerbated when the website is big, with thousands or even tens of thousands of pages comprised of various content types, media, and users. More specifically, the migration challenges from SharePoint to Drupal are as follows:
The export of HTML-formatted body contents.
SharePoint allows you to export web pages to CSV or XML files. The problem with the SharePoint export is that the output body sections are of plain text format: all HTML tags, as well as embedded image and URL links, are stripped. For a website of any meaningful size, manually re-inserting the formatting tags and links is simply not an option.
The good news is that there is a program solution to extract the SharePoint contents with HTML intact. A programming script can be written to retrieve the body content from each web page via the SharePoint web service API. This requires coding skill but is very much feasible.
The retention of SEO page ranking.
The SEO ranking of existing web pages is a valuable enterprise asset that must be protected in the migration process. Failure to protect SEO assets may likely result in the decrease of internet traffic to the new website. Because the URL structure in Drupal and SharePoint are different, the migration process must include the setup of redirects from old URLs to new URLs, hence protecting their SEO value. Drupal handles redirects very well if the old URLs were migrated properly to Drupal.
New skillsets required.
Both SharePoint and Drupal are complex systems that require extensive product knowledge to reap full benefits. Migrating from SharePoint to Drupal entails that a whole new skill set must be acquired for the site-building team. If Drupal expertise is not readily available in-house, external professional help is needed. The challenge then becomes how to select qualified Drupal professionals to make the migration project a success.
The fact that Drupal is built on the PHP open-source platform can be a double-edged sword. While the absence of license fees is undeniably positive, the general availability of the technology makes it much harder to differentiate true professionals from mere PHP hackers. In seeking outside help, it is recommended to look for an organization that has full-cycle Drupal implementation experience from planning, design to development.
The following is a high-level description of the steps needed to migrate your enterprise website from SharePoint to Drupal.
Take inventory of current web content assets.
Moving to a new CMS offers the organization the perfect opportunity to take stock of their current web contents, filter contents that are outdated or least viewed, and include only those assets that are worth moving to the new website.
Design the structure of the new Drupal website.
Drupal 8 offers powerful content modeling and structuring modules and tools, which allows you to build flexible content types, host structured media from various sources, and organize web content using organization-specific vocabularies. Now that you have taken inventory of your existing web pages, it is time to decide how the contents should be re-structured and re-categorized in the new website.
Write SharePoint web services script to export legacy web pages to XML files.
Automation is the key to extracting contents from SharePoint while keeping existing formatting information intact.
Prepare a Drupal test website.
Set up Drupal 8 on a test machine, and configure Drupal as designed earlier. In addition, prepare the HTTP redirect module that will map the old SharePoint URLs to the new Drupal URLs.
Import SharePoint XML files into your new Drupal website.
Drupal 8 has a core module named Migrate which is a framework for importing web contents from another CMS. Migrate provides the underlying API for migrating configuration and content from any source to Drupal. You may need to extend the module to import content types that are not automatically imported. Make sure to import old URLs into their redirect rules to retain SEO page ranking.
Review the new Drupal website and make the adjustment.
Transferring data from a legacy website to a new website is a complicated and error-prone process. Now is the time to review the results, and make the adjustment to the export and the import scripts to eliminate any errors.
Many organizations are deeply entrenched in the Microsoft ecosystem, particularly in the areas of document management and collaboration. SharePoint is tightly integrated with Microsoft Office Suite with which internal users are typically well trained. For organizations that have invested heavily in SharePoint in both financial and social capital, simply discarding it for another (albeit more suitable) CMS for their enterprise CMS may be a difficult choice. The good news is that SharePoint can still play an important role in the enterprise’s IT infrastructure post-migration to Drupal.
Organizations can still leverage their prior investment by continuing to deploy its intranet portal using SharePoint. In this way, internal users can still use their existing Office tools and a familiar workflow for internal collaboration, communication, and document management. At the same time, the public-facing enterprise website is powered by Drupal with its broad range of powerful functionalities. By having the two systems working hand-in-hand, the organization reaps the maximum return on investment from SharePoint, while empowering the enterprise website with greater Drupal-based functionalities.
The challenges for the coexistence of Drupal and SharePoint are twofold. First, organizations must define a content strategy to avoid duplication of contents and maintenance efforts. Second, content feeds must be established from Drupal to SharePoint and vice versa.
Drupal 8 is a top-notch enterprise site-building software platform. Organizations that have outgrown their existing non-Drupal CMS should consider migrating to Drupal 8. Migrating to Drupal 8 has its own unique challenges, including data migration and SEO retention. Vardot is an award-winning Drupal web solutions provider that can help you navigate through the process of migrating to Drupal. For more information, please contact Vardot.