Getting Help in the Move to Microsoft 365

Now that I am once again working for a company that provides migration software, I’ve been thinking about some of our active marketing campaigns targeting the audience for these products. In fact, we’ve been partnering with Microsoft on some joint-marketing efforts to reach out to “dark” accounts. These are customers who, for the most part, still have the majority of their systems on-prem. They may have Office 365 or Exchange Online for email and some basic cloud productivity, or may have moved some of their employees to Microsoft Teams, but for many/most of these customers, the bulk of their content and collaboration depends on SharePoint servers and other on-premises solutions.

For many companies, moving existing SharePoint environments into the cloud is no small ordeal. Due to massive investments in customizations, workflow and complex business process management solutions, and in some cases, detailed line of business (LoB) application integrations, the path to the cloud may take time. Microsoft recognizes this, which is why they are partnering with companies like AvePoint that have extensive experience in moving SharePoint, file shares, and a variety of competing platforms and tools — including from other disparate cloud platforms, such as Google, Box, eRoom, Jive, Dropbox, and many others. Microsoft and AvePoint have also invested in solutions and content surrounding hybrid deployments, helping customers to leverage the investments they’ve already made, but begin to also take advantage of the new cloud tools.

AvePoint migration services

So what is the recommended approach, and what is new for migration in SharePoint? Since the 2013/2016/2019 platforms have been available for some time now, there is plenty of documentation out there from Microsoft and the community. In terms of the overall approach to the migration, Microsoft recommends a 3 stage process (Prepare, Upgrade Databases, and Upgrade Sites), and outlines their upgrade documentation on

Of course, moving content from one version of SharePoint to a newer version of SharePoint is just one aspect of the move to Microsoft 365, making it an even more complex effort. Your move most likely will involve SharePoint content, email, local file shares, as well as a mix of content from various cloud-based file shares, such as Google Drive, Box, and personal OneDrive accounts. Each one of these systems will require separate planning, making the move to Microsoft 365 (depending on the number of users and complexity of sites and data) a phased process.

While there is no one-size-fits-all migration strategy, especially when moving content and workloads from many disparate systems into one, I do have some advice on how to approach your planning efforts:

1) Assess and prioritize what is to be moved.

Nothing will capsize your migration plans quicker than an undocumented web part, customization, or third-party tool, so do your best to complete a thorough assessment of what has been built out to date, and then prioritize what should be moved (individual data elements, sites and site collections, business processes, and so forth). Before you attempt to move a single file, begin the process with a detailed discovery process and thorough assessment.

2) Delegate to end users what you can.

A lesson learned through many migrations is to give your end users as much control over their content as possible. Depending on the workload being moved and the sensitivity of the content, this may not be possible for all of your sites and content, but you should involve them when you can. Moving content from cloud-based and local file shares is one way to involve your end users, and give them extra incentive to start using the new Office 365 platform.

3) Move one workload at a time.

As the majority of Microsoft 365 customers have shown, moving your Exchange data first makes the most sense, and then once end users have been established, your strategy can move to other workloads.

Regardless of the investments you’ve made on premises, I encourage you to start thinking about how you will move to the cloud and Microsoft 365 and how you can start benefiting from all of the great new features that Microsoft has introduced in Microsoft 365.

And if you find that you need help with your migration, please reach out to me. AvePoint provides a number of Migration-as-a-Service options, including Fast Track program options.

Christian Buckley

Christian is a Microsoft Regional Director and M365 Apps & Services MVP, and an award-winning product marketer and technology evangelist, based in Silicon Slopes (Lehi), Utah. He is the Director of North American Partner Management for leading ISV Rencore (, leads content strategy for TekkiGurus, and is an advisor for both revealit.TV and WellnessWits. He hosts the monthly #CollabTalk TweetJam, the weekly #CollabTalk Podcast, and the Microsoft 365 Ask-Me-Anything (#M365AMA) series.