Have you been faced with the daunting task of migrating your content into the cloud? Up to this day there still is no easy way to move your sites from your existing on-premise environment into Office 365. Microsoft expects that you'll simply use the built-in tools, including a datasheet view with copy and paste, an import list from spreadsheet option, and multi-file upload button to upload your files (which will hammer your created, modified, and modified by ). Believe me, this is a very time-consuming process, and you'll still be working and working and be very frustrated with the result. Or you'll consider a third -party tool or vendor to do the migration on your behalf. Today we'll look at one such vendor who provides a popular solution to addressing this need where you can do the migration yourself.
Figure 1: MetaVis Migrator for Office 365 – Migrating Data Between On-Premise SharePoint and Office 365
Understanding Challenges Today
The need for Office 365 is common… a cheaper solution, a consolidated solution, a place where you can collaborate with partners. No matter what the reason, you've decided you want to use Office 365 and the question is how one gets ones data into SharePoint.
Many third party tools require agents to be installed on the server. As a result, these types of tools do not easily work with Office 365 and are not an option when moving to the cloud. MetaVis Migrator for Office 365 is different. MetaVis migration products have always been agentless making it ideally suited for the cloud. The company's agentless strategy uses SharePoint Web services making its products easy to install and get up and running.
The MetaVis Migrator interface is designed with the end user in mind, but also with the needs of the administrator and power user. Easy as checking boxes, but you'll find help into most commands with a simple question mark to help educate the user along the way. It gets more powerful in each use.
Figure 2: MetaVis Migrator puts the power in the hands of the user. If you want to drag and drop, use a CSV, or write a script it's flexible to meet your needs.
Let's understand where your data is today and look at the challenges.
- File Shares – Legacy file shares continue to persist. It seems like no matter what we deploy these things just continue to be out there and growing. The need around migrating data isn't something that your IT department can just snap their fingers, and boom, it's in SharePoint. For one, the nature of the data is such that not all file share data is a good target for SharePoint. As a result it isn't always best to give the keys to the IT guy, but often it's an IT consultant who is working with the business groups to help them move their data. In the case of MetaVis the rights needed and the solution is honed in on the abilities of the business user to move the data. The interface is simple and it will try to do the right thing by default.
- SharePoint 2003/2007/2010 On-Premise – Various SharePoint environments are the source. The challenge is needing to purchase various modules or needing to revisit your licensing, based on the data migration needs, storage sizes, and so on. With MetaVis you pay and you can transfer the data between these sources and it leverages the APIs. Using SharePoint Migration tools out of the box won't let you migrate your SharePoint lists between versions. Sure, you can attach a database to upgrade it, but if you want to move a list or move a site, you've got to have it on the same version first.
- Upgrade – If you're simply trying to upgrade and you don't want to keep a lot of the legacy junk, or want to move out of customizations, a third-party tool is very important in your strategy. SharePoint out-of-the -box upgrade scenarios don't allow you to move out of the language templates, out of the site templates, or out of custom site definitions. In all of these scenarios, a third-party migration tool is required for remapping. In the case of MetaVis Migrator, it was designed to allow you to do the mapping to move out of site or list templates and from one custom content type to another and so on. Your ability to map one custom property to an out- of-the-box one can streamline your migration, and you can even take that knowledge and save it as a template.
- Granularity – The other challenges of today in SharePoint is the various levels. You may just want to be moving a file from one site to another, and having the flexibility to do that as a server administrator and not changing the created, modified, and created by is important. Most of the out-of-the-box tools, including SharePoint's Windows Powershell commandlets, won't let you do these moves without modifying those ever so important dates and names. Sometimes it's not just a file, folder, content type, it's a list, a library, a site or site collection.
- BPOS, Exchange Public Folders and Outlook – MetaVis Migrator also supports BPOS, hosted to hosted or Exchange / Outlook to Office 365.
Figure 3: MetaVis Migrator will allow you to output your migration to a command line script and scheduled
My Experience with MetaVis Migrator
When I think of migration tools I don't always get excited. I think of projects that seem to go on and on forever. As an Ops guy in my past life, one of the more boring things you can do is get caught up in a migration project. I was pleasantly surprised when I started digging into MetaVis Migrator for Office 365.
What I like about it is the ability to use it with little training. It's quite intuitive for simply dragging and dropping. It's powerful by default and will try to do the right thing. I was impressed how it shares what it's doing and will give you the CSV or the script to allow you to map it all out. The other thing that is a pain in migrations is the migration windows. You're often told you can only do the migrations off hours. Well, what you can do is spend your time doing all the mappings and then schedule it to happen off hours. The other thing I see in a lot of tools is a trade-off. You're either getting the granular control or you get the admin interfaces of moving lots of data at the Site or Site Collection level.
It seems to expose just what you need when you need it.
If I'm copying at the site level I don't necessarily want to get into all of the list details, but if I want to I can drill as deep as I need to.
Figure 4: MetaVis Copy Site Properties for Site Migrations
I do see how a lot of migration tools get this wrong. As well, the ability to move into or out of themes and master pages for consistency is important. I've found a lot of strategies focus on the ability to build the structure in a fresh clean out of the box environment with a simple master page that removes a lot of legacy dependencies. When it comes to a new taxonomy, information architecture, and content types, I've found the ability to map to these is really important.
One of my favorite features in MetaVis Migrator is Live Compare. Whenever you're doing migrations, you're always second guessing yourself. Did I already migrate the site, and if I did, did I migrate all the lists, and on those lists did I get all the files? Compare your on-premise environment to the Office 365, and quickly sync them up left to right. Rarely should a migration actually delete the data from the source, especially during the migration, but you can. There are options to do that as well. While I don't recommend it for this reason alone, it's important to be able to visually see that the data exists on both sides as planned.
Figure 5: MetaVis Migrator Live Compare in Action
Above: Compare your lists, compare your files, and compare the columns and property values
A lot of migration tools you may just plan to use at upgrade or migration time, but the more I've looked at MetaVis Migrator the more I realize it would be useful to have a copy for power users that are always going to have needs. There's always another file share, there's always another rogue SharePoint environment that will pop up. The other thing you may not think about is consolidation and splitting and dividing up sites. With size increases some are combining lists and creating content types to bring data together.
When I started looking at performance, I was impressed they build multi-threading into the product. They were thinking about the server admins. By default it will do five threads, but you can increase or decrease this based on the robustness of the source or destination. It will support multiple connections to Office 365 to get the job done faster.
One bonus feature is the ability to migrate out of Google Apps and Google Sites. I thought that was pretty cool. I hadn't seen a lot of that, but with the move to the cloud, some groups may already be off and running with their own solutions. This allows you to rope them in.
So what's the downside?
There's not a lot. I've been impressed with what I've seen. While things may sound very magical in the descriptions above (the reality is that migration is a pain, and migrations seem to rarely be perfect), there are some features in SharePoint that nearly every tool has problems with. There are at least three different types of workflows in SharePoint. When you copy a site, it will copy the workflows. It will copy the designer, based workflows and the out-of-the-box workflows. You can preserve the approval status and comments. Your challenge is in the Visual Studio workflows. Visual Studio produces server-side code, which isn't supported in Office 365. The other side of it is state. While you can migrate out-of-the-box and designer workflows, you won't be able to migrate state as well. If something is in process, it will need to get kicked off again.
Permissions are always a challenge, as well. When migrating between environments where the accounts aren't the same MetaVis Migrator will try to do the right thing, but this is an area where you'll need to pay particular attention. If you're using ADFS with SharePoint Online, the permissions should do pretty well. If you're not, the tool will try to match the names based on the display name which is nice, but sometimes it may get it wrong. To handle those situations where a programmatic account match is not possible, the tool does offer the ability to re-map users which will explicitly preserve those user accounts that are entirely different between your on-premise and Office 365 environments.
Something else you'll need to watch out for is InfoPath forms. It will do a pretty good job on most forms, but server forms it will have a problem with as will Office 365. Any server dependencies will need to be figured out. Meaning, you'll have to come up with a client-side solution or not migrate the form.
You should watch your links in your migration, but it will as well try to do link correction in the migration. When moving from on-premise to Office 365, most migrations will have different URLs for the sites. It does auto correct links within web parts, ASPX pages, embedded images, link columns, etc during the migration process.
Your Fab 40 site templates… Well, not all that functionality is in the box in Office 365. Now is a great time to get out of those and remap the features. MetaVis will do a good job of getting the content moved, but again server solutions aren't migrated.
Metavis Migrator will not install server solutions even from on-premise to on-premise. It will activate features if the features exist and if you tell it to, but it will not try to provision a missing feature.
It may be important to note that the tool can migrate into, out of or between multiple Office 365 environments (meaning source, target or both). Not all migration solutions can do this or they have difficulty with it.
Migrator for Office 365 can also work with and fully supports Term Stores in Office 365. It can copy term groups, term sets and terms from on-premise to 365 as well as assign/tag terms to items during the migration process.
As with any migration solution, it's important to spend time understanding the licensing. Contact MetaVis for licensing information.
MetaVis Migrator for Office 365 makes a lot of sense. The features of this product fit various roles that can help you automate large migrations and can be the tool of a power user in refactoring a list. Because of this wide variety, I recommend adding it to your migration bake-offs. It is a solid tool and time has been spent on making it easy to use and the focus on putting the power in the hands of the user who knows the data best while making the defaults try to "do the right thing" should be welcome.
For anyone looking at Office 365, I recommend downloading a free trial of MetaVis Migrator for Office 365 today at www.metavistech.com. You can also read MetaVis CEO, Steven Pogrebivsky's advice on migrating to Office 365.
This product review is a paid service by Joel Oleson of SharePointJoel.com voted by the community as Top SharePoint blog and viewed monthly in over 100 countries worldwide with over 3 million page views. How did I do? Do you need your tool or solution reviewed?