Thursday, 22 July 2010

Google Sites migration project: The story so far

KIN has decided to replace it's ageing Sharepoint 2003 based MemberSpace with a Google Sites based one. The rationale for that decision is described in this blog post on the KIN blog.

Prompted by a response by @markvlunenburg to a Tweet I made, I have decided to write a few posts describing how the migration is going. Since these posts will be probably more technical than most KIN members would be interested in, I will be blogging here rather than on the KIN blog.

Before committing to the change, the KIN Facilitators have been using a Google Site as their main workspace for co-ordinating their activities for a number of months. This has worked well and we have learned a lot and on the basis of our experience have decided to migrate the main MemberSpace to Google Sites.

Document Libraries
I am using Sherpa Tools bulk file uploader to do much of the document transfer to the new site. It's a two stage process. First I open a document library in Sharepoint using the explorer view and copy the contents of the library to my local hard drive. Then I use the uploader to upload the files to the Google site.
One potential problem with this approach was that the file descriptions in Sharepoint are not copied - only the file names. I have got around this by writing a Google Script to update the file descriptions. I export the view of the Sharepoint library to Excel, cut and paste to a Google spreadsheet and run the script. Works a treat.

Calendar of Events
I open the Sharepoint calendar which contains all the KIN events using Outlook. I then use Calgoo Connect to synchronise this calendar to a Google Calendar. Job done!

Link Lists
The plan for transferring Link Lists to the new site is to get someone to go through all the Link Lists opening each link and then bookmarking them using Diigo and adding them to the KIN Diigo group with an appropriate tag. These bookmarks will then be made visible in the MemberSpace by using an approriate gadget (of which more in a later post).

Picture Libraries
We don't have many of these, but I plan to create Picasa WebAlbums for these (to reduce the space impact on the Site of adding too many pictures).

Events Related Documents
We had been using a Sharepoint list with various fields to group together documents relating to a single KIN event. In the new Site, we will use an Event Page per Event. I have created a few page templates including one for KIN Events. These will then be linked with the Google Forms Event registration system I have been developing over the last month or so. So in future, when an Event Registration form is set up, it will be possible to automatically (via a menu-driven script) generate the appropriate event page and Calendar entry.

Quarterly Workshop Sites
The Quarterly workshop sub-sites are all combinations of the elements above on the whole and will be migrated using those processes into their own event pages.

Everything Else
The above accounts for the bulk of the content of the existing Memberspace. Everything else will be a mixture of 'cut and paste' and variants on the above.

The results so far
It's actually going somewhat more quickly and smoothly than I had expected, partly because I had invested some time over the last few months learning how to write Google Apps scripts and this has helped with a few of the data migration issues. Immediate big plus point over Sharepoint are:
  • Search is way, way, way better than Sharepoint (not hard!)
  • The ability to 'view' pdfs and ppts without downloading them first
And finally...
Working with Google Apps scripts has not been without its snags - I keep running up against bugs in their API. I await with anticipation the promised resolution to these bugs (and some new features in Sites?)
Please feel free to ask any questions


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Hi Phil,

    Thanks for posting your experience. Very interesting.

    Sounds like a lot of manual steps. What was the scope of your project?
    Did you got metadata migrated as well? Things like the creation date and such?

    Thanks again.


  3. Hi Mark,
    We were expecting a high degree of manual intervention partly because the two systems are quite different and partly because we wanted to restructure what we already had anyway. Essentially the scope was simply to transfer all relevant content to the new site. We were not concerned about creation date etc but there is other metadata in one list that I am planning to retain by exporting to excel and using a script to update the new site.
    Thanks for your interest

  4. Phil, thanks for the write up! I am curious about a couple of things as i am working on possibly replacing a sharepoint document center with Google docs and sites. Would it be possible to get the text of the script you wrote to add the descriptions from the SP export?

    1. Hi Don,
      Sorry for the delay in replying. I've been on holiday.
      I am happy to share the spreadsheet containing the script with you if you give me your email address