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Cover Your Assets Before You Migrate to SharePoint Online


Today, more companies than ever are taking the plunge and migrating from on premise SharePoint to SharePoint Online (SPO). Benefits include having the latest and greatest version of SharePoint, continuous feature and security updates, 99.9% uptime, integrations with many other Microsoft cloud products, and savings on costs of maintaining infrastructure and support staff.

Coordinating a migration can be a complex process and has many moving parts, but there are a few simple steps you can take even before you start, to make the experience smooth and save you significant time and headache. Here are a few:

Purge Data Before You Begin

Make a coordinated effort to identify and remove any outdated or unneeded assets before you start. You can do so by carefully choosing engaged department representatives and/or identifying site owners to head up content removal for their respective sites. Ideally, they should be people who have moved into a new home in the past 6-12 months, because they will identify with the pain of moving things they long since should have discarded!

Humor aside, purging your source environment before you migrate is a very important step and will save you time. There is a lot of outdated material that will do nothing other than take up unnecessary space and bandwidth if you do not delete it first or filter it from your migration jobs. 


  • Come up with a date threshold as to what will be migrated. For example, only items 18 months or newer gets copied to SharePoint Online. 
  • Run a report that shows content that hasn’t been modified since a certain date. Politely ask content owners: Do you really need this Gantt Chart from 2002?
  • Create a single archive site collection to consolidate must-have assets.
  • For business critical data or records exceeding the date threshold, have employees file an exception request and they can be handled on a case by case basis.

Use Azure and the SPO Migration API for Lightning Fast Speeds

If you heed only one piece of advice in this article, let this be the one: The SPO Migration API will significantly speed up your migration and save you time and money.

Prior to the introduction of the SPO Migration API in 2015, uploads to SharePoint Online were all processed through the client side object model (CSOM). This translates to throttling, competing with other traffic, and as a result, slower uploads. The pipeline allows for a way to side step those limitations by creating a staging area in Azure in which SharePoint batch processes and imports your data. The differences in speed are often 10x and worth the small costs and minimal storage required in Azure.

All major 3rd party migration vendors support and largely automate the process of preparing and deploying these migration packages, which can be tedious for larger migrations.

Note: It is important to create your azure storage account in the same region as your SharePoint online tenant to minimize latency. Contact your Microsoft account manager to find out what region you are in.

Identify and Isolate Large Assets 

You mean lists with 500,000 items exist? Yes. 100+ Gigabyte site collections? You bet! And it’s not as rare as you’d think. Even with lightning fast speeds of the pipeline, too many massive lists or huge site collections can slow your progress. 


  • Run a report to identify site collections, lists, and libraries over a certain threshold, and selectively pull those out of a site collection migration and work around them. 
  • Consider processing large assets in a standalone job or on a separate migration machine. 
  • For very large site collections, break down migration jobs by subsite when possible.

Out with the Old…

After the migration is complete and you’ve cut over to SPO, set on premise site collections or ideally the entire content database(s) to read-only after migration to avoid confusion and duplicate work. Inevitably some documentation or links will point to the old system. It’s best to catch this in advance so users aren’t updating documents in the wrong places.

If for some reason there are applications that will stay on-prem, consider moving them to an isolated content database and setting the rest to read-only.


SharePoint migrations are complex and you’ll often run into unexpected bumps in the road along the way. But by employing these best practices, you’ll save measurable time and money, while properly identifying and covering your assets in preparation for migration.


About The Author

SharePoint Consultant
Greg is a consultant in Cardinal's Tampa office. He has extensive experience in SharePoint, Cloud, and collaboration technologies. When not solving problems for awesome clients, you'll likely find him podcasting, at CrossFit, or cheering on The Ohio State Buckeyes.