Content Migration Part 2 – How to Succeed

In Part 1 of this series I talked about some of the high-level planning you need to go through when planning a content migration.  In this section we’ll go through some techniques and tools that are available to help you with your content migration.

Preparing the environment

We discussed the idea of inventorying your content in Content Migration Part 1 – What is it?.  With the inventory complete you will have insight into things like the size of your content and types of content.  This will help to understand things like:

  • Will the new system accommodate the largest files?
  • Will the new system accommodate all my file types?
  • Do I need any additional add-ons to accommodate special file types?
  • How current are the files we have inventoried?

After obtaining the inventory we can also identify business ownership and responsibility of the files inventoried. Business ownership can be the last person to edit them, the author of the content or who should have responsibility for the content.

Similarly, with the inventory we can easily identify non-business personal files users have been storing.

Prepping the Content

To reduce the seemingly overwhelming task of migrating all of the content a grouping strategy needs to be made. This grouping strategy is used to break down the content into manageable sections.

One method to prepare the content could be to define three (3) categories (you can break it down into even more if needed):

  1. Current: A small number of files.  All metadata will be applied to these files
  2. Old but Important: A larger number of files.  May or may not have metadata applied to all of them
  3. To Archive: The largest number of files.  These files may or may not be migrated right away, they may or may not belong in the migration task.

Breaking up the files into these categories establishes an analysis model and business justification for applying different actions to the kinds of content.

Tools That Can Help

Below is a listing of tools specializing in content migration:


SharePoint Migration Tool

  • A user-friendly wizard-like user experience
  • Designed for small to large enterprise migrations
  • Able to migrate content from SharePoint on-premises / OneDrive / Local file store / CSV Bulk Load up into Office 365


DocAve SharePoint Migrator

  • Able to migrate content from SharePoint 2001 / 2003 / 2007 / 2010 to their mapped instances in SharePoint 2013
  • Reuse existing SharePoint backups to ease migration
  • Roll-back capability provides optimal assurance of a successful migration
  • Flexible deployment and scheduling allows for an entire instance, public folder, or individual content is migrated
  • Pre-Migration Scanner detects and notifies of any illegal characters, user permissions, user names etc.

DocAve File System Migrator

  • FTP style GUI interface for drag and drop mapping of local and networked file systems to associated SharePoint artifacts
  • Flexible deployment and scheduling, migrate an entire disk drive, folder or an individual file
  • Pre-Migration Scanner detects and notifies of any illegal characters, user permissions, user names etc
  • Allow end-users to migrate at their pace


Content Matrix

  • Workflow support; OOB, SharePoint Designer and Nintex workflows
  • Retains valuable data; views, version chains, metadata and user-edit information
  • Migrates permissions
  • Migrates Web Parts
  • Batch multiple list migration operations for convenience and re-run-ability
  • Allows SharePoint to delegate and distribute migration efforts across the organization to individual departments or content owners

Migrating the Content

When migrating the content, the best method to use is a multi-pass migration. In the first pass, only the current content will be migrated. This content will also have the metadata information assigned already and can be used as a test pass. Users migrating this content should note any problematic content or whether the content or new taxonomy doesn’t fit for the content.

The second pass should include all the problematic files as well as the ‘old but important’ content. This pass of the content may or may not have metadata associated with the content, but a reasonable amount of it should be tagged.

Before attempting the migration, a ‘trial migration’ should be done in a test environment. The ‘first pass version’ of the content should be attempted first in this environment. This will identify any issues that could arise when doing the actual migration in the production environment.

Once the trial migration is completed the source and target should be tested for completeness and accuracy as well as all the target metadata being applied to the content.

Once we are confident that our results are as expected we can attempt the production migration.

Approaches to Migration

There are three (3) main approaches to migration:

  1. Manual

The manual approach typically has the best results when the number of documents is small. Each document and its contents can be easily inspected by the users as the number is small. In addition, this approach allows for users to update metadata on each of the documents as they add them to the new system.

  1. Automatic / Tool-Based Migration

The automatic approach works best with large numbers of documents. The two main leaders in content migration into SharePoint are AvePoint and Metalogix. Both of their tools provide analysis, mapping and migration features.

During the analysis stage, the tools can create an inventory of the source content (folders, files, permissions) as well as the structure of the destination SharePoint environment (libraries, folders, expected metadata schema, etc.).

Using the mapping feature, the tool then correlates source materials with destination containers. In addition, most tools have the ability to add missing information to the documents to be migrated, such as metadata (which cannot be stored in shared folders).

The automatic migration features of the tool programmatically move each source document to its destination container in SharePoint, adding in relevant permissions and/or metadata where necessary.

  1. Hybrid / Custom Solution

A hybrid solution of manual and automatic can always be used. Not all documents must be moved through the tool, but small subsections can be manually moved if required. If neither option fits there is always the ‘drag and drop’ option that Windows Explorer can do. This approach is very visual and very easy to do.

The final method is to build a custom solution. The solution will move documents through a script as well as tag documents using metadata stored in a spreadsheet.

Post Migration

The migration is done! Congratulations, but we are not done everything yet. Once we are done with the migration the leftover metadata needs to be applied to rest of the ‘old but important’ content. At the same time locking down the source environment(s) will force users to use the new system.

Once confident the old system is not being used anymore and there are no more files being requested from the old system then we can turn off the old system.

Congratulations you are done!

This post was originally published on Jason Wong’s blog at:

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Jason Wong
Manager of Business Excellence
Jason is Manager of Business Excellence. He brings more than 12 years of experience in IT. His specialties include Microsoft technologies: Office 365, SharePoint; Exchange; SQL Server, Windows Server, Active Directory. Jason’s expertise lies in digital engagement and his work includes leading and delivery on customer centric self-service portals and mobile first public websites. He provides value to customers with his expert problem solving skills combined with creating cost-effective solutions for client’s business challenges.

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