SharePoint Migration Checklist

You’re looking to migrate to SharePoint Online, but unsure where to start, or if this is something you should be taking on yourself? It’s a feeling that many of our clients have experienced, and we’re familiar with addressing those common concerns before beginning a SharePoint online migration project.

SharePoint migrations involve more than moving your files, you need to consider data mapping, pre-migration testing, migration execution, post-migration validation, user adoption as well as the file migration itself.

In brief:

  • Plan and define your migration goals and take an inventory of your files.
  • Test the migration process beforehand including the migration throughput.
  • Audit your migration afterwards to provide confidence to your stakeholders.
  • To support adoption, communication and training to users is key.

When you move home, you need a plan of action to get you through the process, and you will inevitably discover that there is much more to do than you initially expected. The trick to both moving home and going through a SharePoint migration is to make a list upfront of what needs to be done and then create an action plan that addresses all those points.

Just as you would go through your home, deciding what needs to stay with you and what can be disposed of, your business will need to go through its file servers and cloud storage systems (think dropbox, Google Drive) and establish what information is to be moved and what should be archived or deleted.

We divide the needs of our clients into one of three scenarios. These are:

  • Tenant-to-Tenant Migration - This is relevant for companies that are splitting or have made an acquisition/merger and are looking to migrate some or all of their data from one Microsoft 365 Tenant to a separate Tenant, i.e. SharePoint Online to SharePoint Online migration.
  • Tenant within Tenant Migration - This refers to clients that are looking to create a new information architecture from the ground up - reorganising their files and documents into a more logical structure.
  • File-Server to Tenant Migration - Organisations in this category are migrating into SharePoint from file servers or alternative cloud-based storage solutions, we often migrate from Dropbox to SharePoint, as well as Google Drive.

While the SharePoint migration checklist below will improve the outcomes of any of these scenarios, it is specifically tailored for file-server to tenant migrations.

Download our SharePoint Migration Checklist - it has over 70 steps in total and is broken down into five stages as follows:

Moving your files to a new structure in SharePoint is a great opportunity to validate that you are complying with your GDPR obligations by setting up appropriate retention policies and deleting data you should no longer be holding. Your SharePoint information architecture will help your organisation to stay compliant, secure and accessible.

Our experienced SharePoint consultancy team typically migrate over a million files a month to Microsoft 365, they work with our clients to implement a plan that follows our detailed content migration SharePoint strategy, ensuring we meet client needs and provide an efficient, cost-effective solution to complete their SharePoint migration.

If you’re happy going it alone, we’ve provided our SharePoint online Migration checklist below and also as a download, but if you want to know more about our SharePoint migration services, please feel free to get in touch.

Phase 1: Explore

  • Define your purpose
    • Why are we doing this?
    • How do we measure success? 

Phase 2: Explain

  • Access to environments
    • Request access to client source environment
    • Request access to client target environment

  • Analyse existing file shares
    • Validate Permissions (Request a user with the most evaluated permissions to Run the file analysis script and now compare this with the user account performing the migration)
    • Ensure you have full access to access all files + Permissions to install software if using SPMT / Tree Size or ShareGate
    • Identify large files and large volumes
    • Understand file growth trajectory

  • File analysis (out of scope, rework, further analysis)
    • Access databases
    • CAD files, Adobe InDesign or Photoshop files
    • Application install files or 3rd party application files
    • Large Media Files for editing
    • Linked Spreadsheets
    • PST Files

  • Information Architecture User Requirements Workshop
    • Follow the information from creation to destruction
    • Compliance: (Retention / Disposition)
    • Collaboration: Projects, Department workspaces
    • Filing: Contracts, Certificates
    • Permissions: Internal and external access
    • Publishing: Policies, Procedures and Knowledge
    • Archive: Rules on Records and destruction

  • Information Architecture Design
    • Communications Sites for publishing
    • Teams for Collaborating
    • Team Sites (with no Office 365 group capability) for document management filing
    • Hub Sites connect everything together
    • Navigation
    • Appropriate Geo-Location of Sites dependant on location of users

  • Migration Planning
    • Migration Mapping Spreadsheet (source to destination)
    • Files to be archived (Could still be SharePoint or Azure)
    • File to be deleted
    • Validate structure is compliant with maximum path length
    • Agree permissions strategy – we always start over

  • Adoption Planning
    • Current user skills gap analysis
    • Is it technical training or just informing where files now live?
    • Style of training expected (classroom, online, video shorts, guides)
    • Approach to cohorts, times zones, and alignment to migration batches
    • Separate training consideration for Power Users
    • Create a comms plan

Phase 3: Experience

  • Source Environment
    • Environment backup
    • Remote administrator access
    • Access granted to the migration tool
    • Ensure host machine is of sufficient specification to host migration software
    • If doing tenant-to-tenant then ensure your host machine is in Azure to benefit from the Microsoft Cloud network


  • Target Environment
    • Licencing Check
    • Storage Space
    • Permissions
    • Implement agreed Information Architecture
    • Pre-seed OneDrive for Business accounts


  • Migration Pilot
    • Connectivity test
    • Migration Volume & throughput calculations
    • Ensure sufficient bandwidth
    • Validate Reconciliation approach
    • Validate host machine is not timed to shut down/reboot/sleep/log you out


  • Migration Scheduling
    • Schedule migration batches
    • Allow for throttling during the week
    • Schedule weekend work if quick access is required
    • Consider bulk + incremental migration batches
    • Consider the impact on the user adoption plan
    • Ensure key staff are available out of hours for escalations

Phase 4: Expand

  • Adoption
    • Execute adoption plan in line with batches

  • Migration
    • Change source to read-only
    • Execute migration plan

  • Post-Migration Reconciliation
    • Run PowerShell scripts against both source + target to extract a log of all files
    • Verify and reconcile source vs target data
    • Share Report with Stakeholders
    • Note: Download all host machine log files to a separate place as often the host will be decommissioned – or you may lose access

  • Post-Migration Support
    • Keep mapping & reconciliation spreadsheets handy as people will complain that their files are lost
    • If produced, promote training materials

Phase 5: Expert Success

  • Ensure support staff are on hand equipped with:
    • Batch Plan to understand impacted users
    • Mapping Spreadsheet to locate "lost files"

Our SharePoint Checklist is evaluated after each migration we perform as best practice for SharePoint migrations continues to evolve. From complex security mapping to designing target structures for those with high compliance needs, we love finding unique solutions that suit each organisation we work with as no two migrations are the same.

The most important takeaway from this guide should be that you need to give yourself sufficient time, proper planning, and a rollback strategy if things don’t pan out correctly the first time. If you’re in any doubt about how to proceed, our team at Information EXP are here to take you through the process.


Frequently asked questions

Q: Which SharePoint Migration tool should I use?

When migrating to Microsoft 365 from a file server, we recommend SPMT, the free SharePoint Migration Tool from Microsoft. If you want to move a significant number of files within your tenant or move tenant-to-tenant, consider Sharegate. Read about all the tools we use

Q: How long does a SharePoint migration take?

SharePoint migration may take only a weekend, depending on the data volume, the connection speed between your source and target, and whether a batch approach is necessary. Planning, preparation, and file reconciliation take significantly longer. 

Q: How fast can you migrate files to SharePoint Online?

The duration to migrate files to SharePoint Online depends on your source environment, connectivity, and throttling by Microsoft. 100GB per hour is possible, but often data is transferred at a lower rate. Perform a test migration first and try to mirror production conditions as much as reasonably possible.

Q: What are SharePoint migration best practices?
  1. Design a SharePoint structure that reflects how you work 
  2. Don’t move everything – What can be archived/deleted?
  3. Check that files are “SharePoint Friendly” 
  4. Map where files will be migrated to
  5. Perform a practice migration 
  6. Migrate out of hours
  7. Reconcile your data
  8. Train your users  
Q: How to migrate from a file server to SharePoint online

Microsoft’s free SharePoint Migration Tool (SPMT) will do the heavy lifting, but a migration project needs to consider much more from designing a target information architecture, file mappings, batching planning and reconciliation.

Q: Can I migrate from Google Drive to SharePoint?

Yes. Microsoft’s migration tools make it possible to migrate Google Drive content to Microsoft 365 and convert G Suite / Google Workspace files to Microsoft Office Format. It’s important to plan the project carefully, not only because SharePoint is a more comprehensive platform but also because the user experience is very different.

Q: Can I migrate from Dropbox to SharePoint?

Using Microsoft’s migration tool you can migrate from dropbox. Our experience is that due to a lack of governance, the data requires significant reorganising before it’s ready to be migrated – this can be addressed as part of a mapping process.

Q: Should I map user file permission to SharePoint online?

Mapping user permissions when migrating to SharePoint isn’t generally a good idea. As a rule, we will not do this. Experience has shown that taking shortcuts to accelerate the migration project does not pay dividends. File permission migration functionality simply doesn’t work due to the different ways that SharePoint and file servers manage permissions.


Rupert Squires

Client Director

5 mins read

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