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What is SharePoint Migration? And benefits of migrating to SharePoint

SharePoint Migration is a process of moving all your content and solutions that are residing in your existing SharePoint or file share to a new or a current environment with a more recent version. 

There are several reasons to migrate to newer versions of SharePoint. The primary one is getting the benefits associated with the latest features and collaboration and productivity with the latest version. The SharePoint Migration selection entirely depends on your business needs, strategies, and direction.  

Types of SharePoint Migration 

You can choose one of the following options based on your organization’s needs and budget. 

Sticking to SharePoint On-Premises.

You would like to remain with SharePoint On-Premises, especially when you do not intend to change solution architecture, collaboration model, IT infrastructure, and plan to continue with your solution without many changes for years. With this option, you need not bother about compliance and data security, as your company data will reside within your company premises. You can keep on upgrading your SharePoint version with Microsoft-supported upgrade methods to satisfy users’ growing demands. 

Benefits of Migrating to SharePoint On-Premises 

      • It offers a more robust solution to protect your sensitive business data. 
      • It keeps customizations specific to your business needs. 

Limitations of Migrating to SharePoint On-Premises 

      • It requires a physical server, hardware infrastructure, and dedicated budget and staff for maintenance. 
      • Direct migrations by skipping several SharePoint versions can be tricky. 
      • Additional efforts are required to experience the look & feel offered by the available features with the new version. 
      • Certain benefits such as homesites, hub sites, and SharePoint Spaces available in SharePoint Online are unavailable even in the latest SharePoint On-Premises version. 

Going for SharePoint Online.

Being a Cloud-based solution, SharePoint Online offers businesses all the benefits associated with the Cloud, including anytime-anywhere availability, hassle-free maintenance, and significant cost savings. It relieves you from the burden and cost of maintaining your hardware infrastructure and staff and frees you from timely maintenance in terms of upgrades. Thus, it’s ideal for businesses with smaller budgets and those which don’t need significant customizations. 

Benefits of Migrating to SharePoint Online 

      • It’s a significantly cost-effective option with no cost for infrastructure and staff. 
      • Ideal for organizations that don’t have a dedicated team to manage SharePoint Implementations. 
      • Offers all the Cloud-related benefits, including automatic version updates, enhanced collaboration, hassle-free external user management, cost-effectivity, and certain features that will never be available on On-Premises versions like PowerApps, Delve, Flow, etc. 

Limitations of Migrating to SharePoint Online 

      • In case of any extra-sensitive information, companies may feel less secure storing it in Cloud. 
      • Limited customization capabilities as compared to SharePoint On-Premises. 
      • Some users may find an ongoing monthly subscription burdensome as compared to a one-time investment.

Migration Approach 

Your organization can tackle SharePoint Migration with one of the following two approaches. 

Use The Migration Tools. Many migration tools are available in the market; you can opt for one for your SharePoint Migration. Below are some generally used tools. 

      • AvePoint DocAve – It’s one of the most widely used SharePoint Migration tools popular for its level of simplicity. The tool helps migrate 14 legacy systems to either SharePoint 2010, SharePoint 2013, or SharePoint Online. Further, its inbuilt DocAve Migrators and DocAve Content Manager facilitate easy content restructuring during the content migration to the new SharePoint environment. 
      • Sharegate Migration Tool – This paid software tool offers one of the most straightforward and simplified ways to migrate your SharePoint instance that needs no installation on the server-side. It offers full-site and granular SharePoint Migration, and you can migrate your site collections, including sites, libraries, documents, workflows, and more. 
      • Metalogix Content Matrix – This paid tool can connect directly to already existing SharePoint deployments without the need for any server-side work and migrates content, metadata, and any related parameters. Its three core features make it one of the preferred content migration tools – its ease to build new site structures, the migration manager that identifies content easily, and its ability to migrate content only after user permission. 

Manual Migration by Database Attach Approach.

Alternatively, you can migrate your SharePoint manually. This calls for in-depth and careful planning. You need to list down and follow the steps in sequence for a successful SharePoint Migration. It can include creating the destination SharePoint farm with the required farm configuration and third-party software and more, back-up and restoring content databases to the target SharePoint SQL Server and verifying and attaching these databases and upgrading the site collection. It also demands a few pre-migration steps such as upgrading your source SharePoint farm with advanced service packs, deleting unused site collection, orphaned users, sites, etc. 

Migration of Custom Solutions 

Tools and Database Attach Approach can help you in content migration. However, none of them are useful for migrating your custom-developed solutions. The migration approach for custom-developed solutions completely depends on the individual solution and SharePoint deployment and thus, differs vastly for each case. A SharePoint Consultant can guide you the best when it comes to custom solutions migration. 

Quick steps for SharePoint Data Migration 

Always analyze the content on the source system first 

Just like moving is the best time to get rid of the trash in your house, migrating to a new system is also the best opportunity to sort out your documents and data. You don’t want to migrate junk or work with a new system like the old one messed up. So, a thorough analysis of all content in your source system must be done first.  

During this analysis, you should get the information below: 

      • The volume and formats of your documents 
      • File categories and extensions 
      • Content types, schemes or blueprints and data models  
      • Folder and file activity 
      • Metadata keywords and usage 
      • Duplicates files and folder structures 

With this analysis report, you can define your migration rules, such as deleting duplicates, archiving outdated content, or abandoning files with a specific extension. In this way, you will only move the content you need, and your new system will be in good shape.  

Determine the data structure in your new SharePoint system 

After the analysis of the content in the source system(s), you can determine your data structure in SharePoint. SharePoint structures data from general to specific in web applications, site collections, sites and subsites, lists/libraries, and folders. The most common way to structure SharePoint data is using several hierarchical trees of sites.  

Define a global data model in SharePoint 

During this step, you can compare the data models of the source system with the target system and merge the data models into one global data model so that all data can be covered. Having one global metadata model will improve the quality of your SharePoint content. 

Classify all content according to the new metadata model 

If you want to increase your content’s findability, you need to add metadata tags to classify your data. You can use SharePoint’s ‘Content types‘, ‘Managed Metadata‘, and ‘Lookup fields‘ to manage your classification. If you have a large amount of data, use tools to classify the content from your source system automatically. 

Transfer your data into SharePoint 

In the most trivial of scenarios, you can transfer the data manually. But if you want to ensure that no data or metadata is lost during a migration, you should transfer in an automated way that will put your content in the right place. 


If you have your in-house IT team of SharePoint developers and administrators, you can avail it to migrate your SharePoint deployment by yourself. Whether by using a tool or a manual one, SharePoint migration needs diligent planning with a high level of technical expertise as any wrong step can lead to irreversible and expensive information loss.

Also, in-house migration can often become a secondary activity for the developers to be taken up in their free time, which lengthens the migration windows to months. It makes the staff use the half-baked product and restricts the business from reaping the comprehensive benefits offered by the new SharePoint version.