Migration Projects – Things You Should Know


Recently, I’ve seen a few questions flying about on the various SharePoint community Yammer networks, forums and LinkedIn groups about migration. I thought I’d weigh in with my usual approach to migrating content into SharePoint, which will hopefully help you to facilitate a smooth, successful, on-time, on-budget migration project.

Analysis of source data

Before you can think about what tooling to use, how you’re going to communicate the migration, or any other activities, you need to know what it is that must be moved. Your analysis of the source data should include the following information to help you make sensible, informed decisions later in the migration process:

  • What is the total size of data?
  • How many files must be moved?
  • How frequently read is the info?
  • How frequently updated is the info?
  • When was the last time the info was read?
  • When was the last time the info was updated?
  • What types of files exist?
  • What is the average size of file?
  • Are there any specific permissions applied?
  • How is the data apportioned into different ‘buckets’ within the source system?
  • Who is the owner of this information?
  • Are there any unique IDs that need to be migrated?
  • Do old versions need to be migrated?
  • Are all users of the old system in SharePoint (user mapping)?

This analysis piece will likely take the form of some analytics stats, perhaps presented in a graph to help make sense of it, plus an extract in .xlsx or .csv format that captures the granular detail about individual files.

If your source system is SharePoint…

If your source data is stored in SharePoint, there is some additional analysis you will need to do in order to prepare for a migration:

  • Are there any full-trust code solutions on the system?
  • What is the database count?
  • What is the site collection count?
  • Are there any unghosted files?
  • Are there any custom site definitions?
  • Are there any lists with a large (>100k) number of items?

A good tool to use to gather this information is AvePoint’s Discovery Tool.

Prioritisation of source data

Using your analysis, you need to make some high-level decisions about what is going to be migrated. Key things to keep in mind are that if you are migrating to a comms publishing portal (intranet), then you probably don’t want to take working documents over – you only need published content. Based on usage stats, you can also start to formulate a plan in terms of which are the big ticket items that must be moved, which are the quick wins, which areas can wait a while, and which content is not worth migrating at all. This is also the time to start involving the business in some of the decision making. I find a workshop where the analysis is presented and discussed works well, and it sets the wheels in motion ready for the ‘Housekeeping’ activities (see below).

If you’re migrating from SharePoint, this is also the time you need to start worrying about full-trust code (server side code). If you’re migrating to O365, you will have no option but to rebuild these solutions as provider-hosted apps. Even if you’re migrating to an on-premises SharePoint environment, you should still consider following best practice and rebuilding any full-trust solutions as apps.


The big thing to avoid with migration projects is moving rubbish from one bucket into a newer, shinier bucket. A migration is your chance to clean up some of your content and ensure your new system is better used and more organised. You need to engage the business and empower the content owners of each logical area to remove, change or add any information they feel they should. Buy in from senior stakeholders within the business is essential for this process, because people are never very motivated to do any housekeeping unless their boss is breathing down their neck making them do it.

Target system information architecture

If you’re moving content to a ‘greenfield’ SharePoint environment (i.e. one that is brand new and isn’t currently being used), you have the luxury of being able to design your information architecture from scratch. In SharePoint terms, information architecture is how your site collections, sites, libraries, lists, and folders are structured; how to classify information (metadata and content types); how to secure information (permissions); how navigation works; and how search works. If you’re starting with a blank slate, you can design your IA with the migrated data in mind, in order to make the migration process as easy as possible. A few things to keep in mind when designing your IA are:

  • Content size boundaries (such as the 200Gb content database size limit for SP2013 on-prem);
  • The list view threshold (5000 items);
  • The lookup threshold (8 columns); and
  • Avoiding item-level permissions.

If you’re migrating into a ‘brownfield’ SharePoint environment (a pre-existing, already-used system with live content and users), things tend to become a lot more difficult. You might have to refactor some of your original IA in order to accommodate your new content while still ensuring the system is scalable and does not exceed any defined size boundaries.

Something to avoid – particularly when migrating from file shares – is simply replicating the source system folder structure. Though folders aren’t necessarily an evil thing in SharePoint (as some consultants might lead you to believe), you are still likely to face issues around usability and maximum URL characters (256) caused by deeply nested folder structures. A flatter, metadata-driven structure is often a better alternative, though it takes more work to plan out.

Mapping and categorisation

You will need some way of knowing where content from the source system should land in the new system, and how it should be profiled with metadata. It’s important to do a mapping exercise to define this. You can define mapping for buckets of content, specifying the location they should be moved to in your new system, and you can do some categorisation on an item by item basis to provide any metadata that will be required for the migration. If you’re building some sort of custom tool or script to move your content, this step is especially important: You need to be prescriptive about precisely where each item needs to be moved when you are scripting the process.

Select the right tool for the job

There are several third party migration tools available from the likes of AvePoint, Metalogix and ShareGate. Personally, I have used Metalogix and AvePoint tools and found them to be more than adequate. I’ve not used ShareGate yet myself, but everyone I’ve spoken to about it has sung its praises. Therefore it probably comes down to your project’s budget and your organisation/implementer’s existing partnerships which tool you select. I suggest you assess all three of these tools. If you’re moving from SharePoint to SharePoint, a third party tool is almost always the way to go, at least in my experience.

An alternative to using a third party product is to build your own tool, or write a custom script. This is often a cheaper alternative to buying a product, and can often be the best option if you’re doing a relatively low complexity migration, for example from a file share into SharePoint. The thing to keep in mind is that your mapping logic will need to be sound, and you will probably need a complete extract of all the source data.

The final option is to get users to migrate content manually. I find this is a good choice if you have lots of rubbish in your source system that needs serious housekeeping: if your business people are migrating content themselves, they are inherently more motivated to do some proper housekeeping by virtue of the fact they will be reducing their own workload when they come to actually move the files. It is also a solid option for web pages if you have defined some nice new layouts in your target system, but still need to take across page content (particularly true of content stored in Content Editor Web Parts on SP2010 and MOSS 2007).

Trial run

Before migrating into your production environment, it’s worth doing a trial run into your pre-PROD or User Acceptance Testing environment (you’ve got a UAT environment, right?). You can test your mapping logic, tooling, and – perhaps most importantly – get a good idea for how long the process will take. This information will allow you to plan downtime, change freezes etc. more accurately, and ensure you can set the expectations of your stakeholders correctly.


You need a plan for verifying a) that the content has all been moved, and b) it’s in the right place with the right metadata in your target system. Another key thing to test for is broken links, which will almost certainly be a problem if you’re migrating any pages. Users and content authors don’t tend to understand the concept of relative URLs, so it’s likely any links between pages on your old system will be broken post-migration.

The actual migration

You need a solid plan in place for the actual migration into live, and you may need to communicate/enforce a change freeze in the source environment. An alternative to a change freeze is to migrate, get your users on the new system and then go back and ‘mop up’ the delta between your first migration and the go-live on the new system. A good time to do migrations is usually over a weekend, since they often cause disruption (either through change freezes or ‘locks’/performance problems when extracting or importing data).

Change Management

From the outset of the migration project, you will need a solid communication plan in place. You need to tell your stakeholders what will be expected of them and when, plus informing any users of the source system what is going on. You need to explain to users why the migration is happening, when it is happening, and anything they need to do (or not do).

You will also need to train your users with the new system: content authors will need to know how to create/edit/publish pages; users will need to know how to upload documents, categorise information and navigate the system; and site admins will need to know how to add new libraries, folders etc. The type of system you are migrating from should also impact how much training you need to do (for example, migrating from MOSS 2007 to SP2013 won’t be a massive step-change, but going from an ancient file share to an all-singing, all-dancing SharePoint system will be a major shock to the system for your users).


One final thing: if you don’t want your new system to descend into chaos, you will need a well-defined, enforced governance plan in place. Governance is a big topic, so I won’t open that particular can of worms here, but it’s something you need to ensure you have in place in order to realise many of the benefits of migrating to SharePoint in the first place.

Bringing It All Together

So that concludes my whistle-stop tour of how to approach a migration project with SharePoint. The complexity of migration should not be underestimated, and it is rarely a case of a seamless “lift and shift”. Even for simple migrations, there is a lot of analysis, stakeholder engagement and planning that you need to do in order to ensure success.

Thanks for reading.


Multilingual in SharePoint: Part 2 – How much will it cost?


In the previous post in this series, I discussed the options you have available if you are considering implementing multilingual in SharePoint, as well as some of the factors that should influence which of these options to choose. In this second and final post in the series, I will talk about how to assess the true cost of implementing multilingual.

CapEx Costs

The upfront costs to implement multilingual are often considerable. There needs to be careful design planning, as well as changes to how you develop custom functionality and deploy it. After code-complete, the costs of content creation and training will also increase. For multilingual, the following upfront activities need to be taken into consideration on top of the costs you have already projected for SharePoint:


If you are implementing variations in any form, you will need to consider the following additional activities as part of your solution design. You should also refer to the TechNet article about planning variations and utilise the resources provided there.

  • Determine which languages are required;
  • Plan which variations sites you require;
  • Plan which language site will be your source;
  • Plan your information architecture around the site collection limitations of the variations framework (i.e. variations works within a site collection, not across the web application/farm/tenant);
  • Plan timer job schedules (on-premises only);
  • Define who will be the designated contact for each of your variation sites;
  • Plan how search will work in your new multilingual architecture; and
  • Define your content translation process and any custom workflow required.

If you are implementing MUI (Multilingual User Interface), you will need to do the activities detailed below. If you are implementing MUI + Variations, you will need to do the activities below in addition to the activities above:

  • Define and document the translations required for all terms within your taxonomy, for all required languages;
  • Define translations for custom content type names;
  • Define translations for custom column names;
  • Define translations for managed property names;
  • Define translations for custom web part titles;
  • Define translations for lists and library titles;
  • Define translations for custom text within web parts; and
  • Define translations for custom user profile property names.


As part of your development costs, you also need to account for the following tasks:

  • Provision custom site columns to support localised names;
  • Provision custom content types to support localised names;
  • Provision document libraries and lists to support localised titles;
  • Provision custom web parts to support localised titles;
  • Provision custom web parts to support localised content;
  • Create a custom control for search refinement panels (if you intend to use anything other than the default language label for a term in your search filters);
  • Provision your taxonomy with language labels for each term;
  • Provision user profile properties with labels for each language;
  • If using taxonomy-driven navigation, develop global navigation in such a way that it supports awareness of localised term sets;

Term Labels


You need to test a multilingual solution in all languages. You will often find that your test execution estimates will multiply by the number of languages the solution will support, unless you opt for lightweight smoke testing. You also need to consider the following additional testing tasks:

  • Test UI in all languages to ensure the desired layout is still achieved with different word lengths for different languages;
  • Test content synchronisation processes;
  • Test search experience in all languages; and
  • Ensure all spellings are correct for all languages.


For variations implementations, you will need to consider the following additional deployment tasks:

  • Configure variations timer jobs (on-prem only);
  • Configure variations settings and labels; and
  • Create variations hierarchies.

If you are implementing MUI-only, you will need to perform the below deployment tasks. If you are doing variations, you will need to do the tasks above and the tasks below:

  • Download and install all required language packs (on-prem only); and
  • Configure the language settings for sites.

Create content

Something that is often overlooked as part of multilingual implementations is the need for content to be created. In a typical intranet, dozens (perhaps hundreds) of sites will need page content and supporting documentation created and uploaded by devolved owners before the system is ready to be rolled out to the organisation. With multilingual, it is likely that the content creation effort will multiply by the number of languages the solution must support. All content must be localised for the correct language, including pages and documentation.

Business Change

Additional communication and training will be required to enable your content owners to use the solution correctly on an ongoing basis. This becomes much more relevant and important for variations, but should also be considered for MUI-only multilingual situations. You need to account for the following additional business change activities above and beyond what you would do in a “normal” SharePoint implementation:

  • Assign responsibility for the translation/localisation of content to appropriate people for each language;
  • Create governance plan (or add a new section to your governance plan) specifically for multilingual, and the rules and policies that govern how it is to be enacted in your organisation;
  • Communicate the publishing and translation process to all stakeholders;
  • Train source site content authors how to publish content to target sites;
  • Train target site content authors how to translate and publish content to their site; and
  • Train administrators how to monitor and report on variations.

OpEx Costs

Additional up-front investment is only half the story: by implementing multilingual, you are also introducing increased costs on an ongoing basis.

IT Support

Multilingual is technically complex, introduces risk and therefore increases your support costs. Your service desk will almost certainly need to field more calls for a multilingual implementation than they will for an equivalent single language solution. Support costs could increase by as much as 50% per month, depending on the exact solution.

Content Translation

So you’ve implemented a lovely multilingual solution that is reliable and works well, but you still need human intervention to localise content. This will be the single biggest cost increased incurred from going multilingual, but it is very hard to project. It largely comes down to whether you will localise content yourself, internally, or whether you will outsource the translation to a third party supplier.

If you need to translate/localise content using internal resources, you will almost certainly need additional headcount. The best way to estimate the increase in work is to get some stats for how many pages get produced per month (or year) and how many languages these will need to be translated to. News articles are the biggest source of ‘churn’ in terms of new pages on a typical publishing intranet, so these are a good starting point.

A company producing 500 news articles per year and implementing just 5 foreign language sites is going to require 2500 localisations of pages per year. That’s a lot of work. It’s also worth noting that you’ll probably need at least one translator per language site, because it’s tough to find people with the ability to speak more than two languages to a fluent, professional level.

If you outsource the translation of content, there will obviously be costs incurred. I would advise seeking quotes from translation companies, which are typically based on number of words to translate.

Future changes

Any future changes to your system will incur increased design, build, test and deployment costs in order to accommodate multilingual – just like the points outlined in the CapEx costs section of this document. This isn’t necessarily something you can allow for in a business case, but should definitely be kept in mind. The increased costs will keep on coming for every new investment you make in your multilingual platform.

Bringing It All Together

There’s a chance after reading this series of articles that you’re feeling a bit bummed out about the prospect of implementing multilingual in SharePoint. It’s expensive, but sometimes the business case will stack up because the need for localised content outstrips the costs incurred. For those companies that have the cash, SharePoint’s MUI and variations framework offers a robust means of delivering a multilingual solution. But you should never underestimate the increased effort, risk, and cost that must be absorbed in order to deliver such a solution.

Thanks for reading, and thanks to my colleagues Paul Ryan (http://paulryan.com.au/) and Chris O’Brien (http://www.sharepointnutsandbolts.com/) for facilitating some of my thinking in this area.


Part 1: What are my options?

Part 2: How much will it cost?