SharePoint migration: 3 options to elevate your solution

SharePoint migration: 3 options to elevate your solution

March 2, 2020

Sandra Göğer

Digital Experience Strategist

Have you been using an intranet on SharePoint 2010 for years, even though it’s high time you get a modern solution on SharePoint 2019? Do you support SharePoint On-Premises, while the rest of your corporate software has already been running in the cloud? Do you use scattered collaboration apps but want to bring them all together under the same roof? If your company is going through one of the above scenarios, the only way to step into a better SharePoint world is through SharePoint migration.

However, despite being a way to an improved SharePoint experience, migration comes with numerous challenges and risks that often lead to negative outcomes. For this very reason, many organizations choose to maintain the status quo and stay with the deployments they already have.

Does your organization plan to upgrade SharePoint

Still, organizations can’t be escaping this terrifying migration any longer, particularly if they run outdated SharePoint 2007 or 2010. Staying with their obsolete portals, companies miss out on modern collaboration capabilities, as well as have to invest more and more into supporting the steady operation and customizations of their solutions.

In order not to make it worse, it is always better to accept SharePoint migration as inevitable and prepare a SharePoint migration plan beforehand. If you don’t have internal resources for pre-migration activities, external SharePoint consultants can take up the challenge.

Good news is that there are at least three migration options, so you can choose the one that optimally meets your parameters, budget, and collaboration needs.

Option 1. Staying loyal to SharePoint On-Premises

It is reasonable to keep an on-premises deployment if a company wants to preserve their IT infrastructure, solution logic, and collaboration models unchanged, as well as to stay away from compliance and security debates. At the same time, even if your company sticks to SharePoint On-Premises, you shouldn’t leave your solution unchanged for years. To catch up with the platform’s progress and meet users’ growing demands, you can go for SharePoint upgrade or migration.

When you perform SharePoint upgrade, you move up to the next version of the platform using Microsoft-supported upgrade methods, including the database attach technique and in-place upgrade.

When you choose SharePoint migration, you move to any version of SharePoint from SharePoint or any third-party application you might have through an automated or manual migration. Migration is about moving SharePoint physically to a new farm along with restructuring and enhancing the deployment.

When to choose SharePoint On-Premises migration or upgrade?

  1. If you want to replace your legacy system. If you run a legacy workflow, content management or collaboration solution and don’t plan to move to the cloud, the SharePoint Server upgrade or migration is the path to follow. You will be able to preserve legacy content and workflows if needed, as well as get a solution with a richer feature pack.
  2. If you don’t plan to dismiss your infrastructure and IT staff. If you aren’t ready to reconsider your approach to managing SharePoint solutions, stay on-premises. By migrating or upgrading to the latest versions of SharePoint, you will get higher performance and better management capabilities for years ahead.
  3. If you are satisfied with SharePoint On-Premises. If you move up to a higher SharePoint On-Premises version, you can offer an improved user experience and SharePoint design to your employees as well as become more flexible with customizations of the platform.

Get ready to face challenges

Direct migration is next to impossible. So far, there are no Microsoft-enabled methods of skipping several SharePoint versions in one leap. For example, if you need to migrate from SharePoint 2013 to SharePoint 2019, you will come to the final point only by moving to SharePoint 2016 first and then to SharePoint 2019 as your next step.

There are numerous paid SharePoint migration tools that enable direct migration. They do facilitate content migration, but they don’t enable automated migration. SharePoint developers still need to control the entire process and configure the migrated solution in line with business requirements.

Rework is necessary to get visible benefits. If you just migrate your existing solution to the latest SharePoint version without any changes, there will be little to no visible advantages for end users. If you do so, you literally bring your migration effort to nothing. Once you take up SharePoint migration, consider improving the solution along the way. For example, if you migrate a SharePoint intranet, introduce new features, refresh the portal’s look and feel, and make it device-agnostic to get users’ loyalty.

You will still drag behind cloud solutions. If you stay on-premises, accept that your solution won’t embrace all the capabilities available in SharePoint Online and Office 365. For example, SharePoint On-Premises owners can’t use hub sites, home sites, and SharePoint Spaces available in SharePoint Online. As for the Office 365 subscribers, they can benefit from a whole array of productivity apps beyond SharePoint only.

Option 2. Moving to the cloud

SharePoint migration to Office 365 or Microsoft 365 is commonplace today due to the great popularity of these cloud collaboration suites. Cloud migration can be highly beneficial for companies that run outdated solutions. Instead of diving into a complex and costly on-premises migration, they can move directly to the cloud and start a new collaboration experience.

Why go for cloud migration?

  1. Broadening collaboration capabilities. At the moment, there is no other suites that would offer as many collaboration capabilities as Office 365 and Microsoft 365. Leveraging Office 365 collaboration tools, organizations can meet various collaboration and knowledge management needs.
  2. Simplifying maintenance. Moving to the cloud also means getting rid of a clumsy server-based infrastructure that requires ongoing support. As Microsoft took up the responsibility for all the functional and security updates and support for Office 365 and Microsoft 365, organizations should just follow them to make sure their deployments are healthy at all times.
  3. Bringing collaboration to cloud-based enterprise solutions. By moving to Office 365 or Microsoft 365, organizations can use a variety of ready-made or custom connectors and expand collaboration across other cloud enterprise solutions, be it a Salesforce CRM, an SAP-based ERP system, or a ServiceNow ticketing system.

Your cloud-related risks

Functional differences. If you got used to the SharePoint On-Premises structure, it can be hard to accept the one of Office 365. As we’ve mentioned, in SharePoint Online, you can find more types of collaboration sites. As for the cloud-based SharePoint, it lacks MySites. So, if your current on-premises deployment has well-developed MySites with employees’ blogs and document storages, you will have to dismiss or reorganize them into SharePoint sites.

Collaboration overload. End users might feel confused with multiple collaboration tools in the cloud. That’s why you should consider beforehand how to avoid collaboration chaos and make employees use Microsoft Teams, Yammer, SharePoint, and Office 365 Groups effectively in line with their activities and established corporate policies.

Management concerns. Migration to Office 365 brings up different fears in SharePoint owners. Some organizations are put off by Office 365 ownership and security parameters, some worry about limited customization capabilities, and others find ongoing monthly payments burdensome.

All in all, if you aren’t ready to accept the Office 365 rules, then it’s reasonable for you to look at the third migration option.

Option 3. Going Hybrid

The SharePoint hybrid deployment model started to gain popularity together with the massive adoption of SharePoint Online. This migration option is the one that can finally set companies free from constantly comparing SharePoint On-Premises vs SharePoint Online. While requiring a well-thought-out setting and management, hybrid deployments are often the only possible compromise for companies that can’t migrate to the cloud completely.

SharePoint Hybrid model advantages

What does hybrid migration bring?

  1. Getting the power of two environments. Migrating to a hybrid deployment, companies get a unique chance to leverage both on-premises and cloud capabilities simultaneously. For example, they can continue using SharePoint On-Premises to host bulky content and custom solutions while providing employees with the latest collaboration features available in SharePoint Online.
  2. Following compliance and security requirements. Hybrid is the right migration endpoint for organizations that can’t move to the cloud for security or compliance reasons, but want to use the SharePoint Online toolset to manage internal and external collaboration.
  3. Avoiding complete cloud transformation. During cloud migration, you have to move all the on-premises content, customizations, and integrations and adapt them to SharePoint Online requirements, which can be problematic, time-consuming, and pricey. Going hybrid, you can leave on-premises assets as they are without trying to put them into the cloud confines.

When hybrid becomes tricky

The SharePoint On-Premises version matters. If you still run an older version of SharePoint On-Premises, thinking about a hybrid solution is unreasonable because of a huge gap between the legacy and cloud SharePoint. Microsoft has put great effort into the hybrid experience in the latest versions of the platform in order to make it easier to use and manage. So choose SharePoint 2016 or 2019 as a starting point for your hybrid solution.

Double management effort. Hybrid deployments are the most complex in terms of management, as you have to balance content, features, compliance, and administration within both on-premises and cloud environments. Before going hybrid, make sure your admins can handle the deployment, otherwise look for SharePoint consultants who will take up the hybrid challenge. If neglected, a hybrid environment can cause trouble. Data inconsistency, site collections randomly hosted on servers and in the cloud, and badly configured search are just a few things that can hinder employees’ experience of a hybrid SharePoint.

SharePoint Migration Options

SharePoint Migration Options




On-Premises Upgrade & Migration Medium
  • Improved SharePoint capabilities
  • Unchanged management methods
  • Low adoption risks
  • Multistep migration
  • Optimization is required
  • Functional gap (comparing to Office 365)
Cloud Migration


  • Broader collaboration capabilities
  • Simplified maintenance
  • Easier integration with enterprise cloud solutions
  • Different logic of on-premises and cloud solutions
  • Collaboration overload
  • Ownership & management concerns
Hybrid Migration


  • The synergy of on-premises and cloud environment
  • Security & compliance benefits
  • Complete cloud transformation is unnecessary
  • Preliminary upgrade of an on-premises component
  • Substantial management effort

How to tackle SharePoint migration?

Now, let’s take a quick look at possible ways to fulfill a migration project.

Do it yourself or delegate. If you have an in-house team of SharePoint developers and admins, you can migrate on your own.

A DIY migration is tricky, though. As it often happens with internal projects, in-house migration can become a secondary activity for developers to take up in their free time. This way, migration can last for months, while employees will have to use half-baked solutions. If you don’t have available internal specialists, better go for SharePoint consulting and hire an external team to complete the migration project as quick as possible.

Use available migration methodologies and tools. To facilitate and speed up your migration project, you can use dedicated SharePoint migration tools and methodologies from such vendors as Sharegate, Metalogix, AvePoint, and more. Remember that tools can’t handle the entire migration but they can help developers complete particular migration steps.

Cooperate with Microsoft. Microsoft offers the proprietary SharePoint Migration Tool (SPMT) to help businesses migrate their contents from SharePoint On-Premises 2010 and 2013 to SharePoint Online or OneDrive. In October 2019, Microsoft acquired Mover, a cloud migration service, which now helps Office 365 subscribers to move their content to the cloud from third-party applications, such as Box, Dropbox, Egnyte, and Google Drive.

Apart from that, owners of SharePoint 2010 and 2013 can use the SharePoint Migration Assessment Tool (SMAT) to scan their SharePoint environments and identify existing problems before migration. Companies can also benefit from the Microsoft FastTrack migration program that offers the assistance of certified Microsoft experts during cloud migrations to Office 365 and Microsoft 365.

Planning is the key to success

SharePoint migration isn’t just a technical task but also a strategical one. That’s why without a preliminary plan you risk joining the list of companies that failed in their migrations. Once you choose the final destination of your migration, analyze your existing solution and decide how you can optimize it so that end users can see clear migration benefits. Apart from potential technical issues, consider possible adoption challenges and draw up a user adoption strategy beforehand, particularly if you switch from an on-premises deployment to the cloud.