How to complete a SharePoint Cloud Migration

Today, many businesses are becoming more comfortable considering cloud services to host critical business applications as opposed to the traditional on-premise implementations which were quickly proven to come with an increased cost. Microsoft SharePoint Online, a component of Microsoft’s Office 365 cloud business solution, offers best of breed features for any organization looking to improve team collaboration and secure information sharing. Microsoft has invested many resources to continually improve its cloud services delivery around the SharePoint platform allowing Office 365 to become the most mature and popular cloud service on the market.

Let’s assume you have just made the decision on SharePoint Cloud Migration. Congratulations!  The initial step of exploring and familiarizing yourself with the newest features of SharePoint Online should have been the first step for you.  By doing this upfront research, your business can position itself to take full advantage of newer or unfamiliar SharePoint functionality when working with the business data you plan to migrate.  This will aid in user adoption and contribute to the optimization of your Office 365 investment.

The next step is to get your data into SharePoint Online.  For most organizations, there are multiple sources of data to be moved to SharePoint Online.  These can include existing SharePoint on-premise instances, a corporate file share, or a third-party content management system.

SharePoint Migration to Cloud - My documentsSharePoint Migration to Cloud - NamesSharePoint Migration to Cloud - Business Process

In this blog, we’re going to consider the options you have in moving your data to the cloud, while and highlighting key tips, tricks, and resources to help you plan and execute your SharePoint Cloud Migration.


 Start Fresh

By starting fresh, you can set up the site taxonomy, desired features, and permission models from scratch allowing you to move forward without the pressure of matching a pre-existing environment. This approach is usually valid in the following instances:

a. You want to revamp a stale SharePoint instance or create a new environment

b. You have some data which is no longer needed and can be archived or deleted in adherence with corporate retention policies

c. You want to implement a new look and feel to your SharePoint environment to help re-energize your user base to use your SharePoint solutions

d. You want to redo a pre-existing, perhaps un-governed permissions model to a more easily managed group permissions schema

SharePoint Migration to Cloud - FMT One


Starting from scratch is sometimes the preferred approach however it does come with considerations that must be addressed.

a. An increased analysis is recommended on existing data sources to decide what gets migrated, what is archived, and what is deleted.

b. Existing SharePoint On-premises Workflows, SQL Reports, and custom solutions will have to be rebuilt taking into consideration the new cloud model versus a pre-existing server-based model.

c. Branding and any other look and feel customizations will have to be redone.


As-is Migration

This approach allows you to migrate your on-premises SharePoint environment to SharePoint Online where “What you see is what you get” for the most part.  The as-is migration is an option for on-premise SharePoint environments that sound like the following:

a. SharePoint is used for day to day non-sophisticated activities to collaborate

b. The SharePoint environment has little to no customizations (branding, features, reports, workflow, etc.)

c. The migration of data to the cloud is the main priority versus taking advantage of new SharePoint Online features.

d. The users are comfortable and familiar with SharePoint permissions and site hierarchy and will need time to ease into changes in their SharePoint environment.

The as-is migration is the best approach to migrate and maintain a simple SharePoint environment.  The data, navigation, and permissions will all be “apples to apples” to the original on-premise environment.  However, with the migration to what in essence is a hosted instance of SharePoint 2016, there are version changes that users may have to be trained on.

a. New Experience vs Classic Experience List or Library– At a site collection level, SharePoint administrators can set the user experience for SharePoint lists and libraries. These experiences are very different with the Classic experience being the more familiar of the two.  New Experience is a default.

SharePoint Migration to Cloud - PMO


SharePoint Migration to Cloud - Library

b. Permissions – The setting of permissions at any level has been simplified to a “Share” button. While, its simple enough, this is a new look to users of older versions of SharePoint.

c. Office Web Apps – The SharePoint Online environment includes the ability to edit and preview Office documents via a web browser that exists in a SharePoint online document library. This is a wonderful new feature that users should take advantage of.  Read more about Office Web Apps here.

d. Delve – Delve is a new feature in Office 365 that replaces MySites or detailed user profiles by default in the SharePoint online environment. Read more about Delve here.  


Phased Migration

This approach lets you migrate your sites slowly.  The sites, in essence, will exist in both old and new environments.  As sites are scheduled in phases and moved to the cloud, they are improved and enhanced.  This approach is valid for the SharePoint environments as described below:

a. The sites have a small level of customizations which does not require much of a change before migration.

b. The sites are distinct in look, feel, and function and will need individual consideration when moving.

c. There are no strict IT timelines in the sun-setting of the existing on-premises hardware or virtual machines.

Taking the phased migration approach is best executed with the use of 3rd party migration tools.  These tools will allow you to plan your migrations and move data in manageable subsets.  The most popular tools for this include AvePoint DocAve Migrators, Metalogix Content Matrix, and ShareGate.


Always Cover your Bases

Regardless of the approach, you select, consideration to improve your existing site taxonomy and rethink the features availability is always a helpful exercise. Doing so puts organizations in a better position to progress with new features and function rather than remaining status quo with no solution or user progression. Enhancing your information framework can definitely improve user adoption and efficiency to find information quickly.

Similarly, with respect to content, there are a few other things you should consider before you finalize your approach. Creating checklists and planning documents is always helpful around the items below.    

  1. Content Rank & Cleanup
    Analyze the content as a whole and decide which content sites are more critical in terms of different aspects of usability, availability, importance, confidentiality. This will enable you to decide the sequence of migration of content sites. Moreover, you can also decide which content is old and no longer uses so that they can be left behind and/or moved to archive.
  2. Security
    Consider security. You need to be sure that you know and trust the security model which is going to be there on SharePoint Online. Although, SharePoint Online security services are one of the best in the industry, providing many layers of security as out of the box features and still enables the custom security model of your choice. Simple group based security is always the best to maintain and manage.
  3. Personal Content
    If you have personal content sites (also called my-sites), it is very important that you move only significant data and leave everything else behind. In this regards, if you don’t have a time constraint, it is a recommended practice that you let your users move their content to their OneDrives by themselves. This will enable them to explore the new SharePoint features.
  4. Customizations
    If you have made customizations to your farm on-premise, the level of customization will affect your plan of migration. Usually, the customizations in the User Interface of the sites are planned before all other customizations and aligned with the data migration whereas other customizations and applications usually require deeper planning before they can be made available on the cloud.


This blog is designed to help you with your SharePoint Cloud Migration by providing the necessary steps and available scenarios. We know there are no two migrations exactly the same, so careful planning is always needed. If you need additional assistance on making the most of your investment in SharePoint, check out the rest of our blogs or get in contact with us by filling the form below.

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