SharePoint Upgrade or SharePoint Migration: What’s best?

by KnowledgeLake on Mar 16, 2018

People often use the term content migration and upgrade interchangeably but they are actually different matters. On the most basic level, an upgrade is the process of replacing your existing software with a newer version of the same product. A migration often involves replicating your data and processes on an entirely different platform. However, a migration can occur across versions of the same software product, like Microsoft SharePoint. So when evaluating whether a SharePoint upgrade or migration is the best option for your organization, consider these facts.


What is a migration? 

Importing content and metadata into SharePoint from any legacy document repository… even if that legacy document repository is SharePoint.

What is an upgrade?

The process of updating an existing SharePoint installation to a newer major version. An example of this would be if you use SharePoint 2010 but are switching to SharePoint 2013 or if you've already got SharePoint 2013, your company may be in the process of modernizing its SharePoint 2013 platform to SharePoint 2016.

When should you consider upgrading versus migration? 

A SharePoint upgrade is recommended when:

  • Existing farm is SharePoint 2010 or higher
  • Existing taxonomy is well-formed
  • Site collections and content databases are properly architected
  • Content is properly distributed and folder structures are not too shallow
  • Site templates used include Team Site, Document Center or Records Center
  • Migrating from a given version of SharePoint to the next major version of SharePoint

A SharePoint Migration is recommended when:

  • The source document repository is not SharePoint
  • The source document repository is not SharePoint 2010 or higher
  • Moving up more than one major SharePoint version (e.g. SharePoint 2010 to SharePoint 2016)
  • Taxonomy information architecture needs to be redesigned
  • Content databases need to be split to improve content database performance or to meet RTO (Recovery Time Objective) or RPO (Recovery Point Objective)
  • Content is improperly distributed (e.g. folder structures too shallow)
  • Custom site template was used for document repository site collection – making the upgrade overly-complicated

More about upgrades

A SharePoint upgrade can either be an In-Place Upgrade or a Database Upgrade. In-Place Upgrades involve executing the next version of SharePoint installer on an existing SharePoint farm; upgrading all SharePoint components in place. Database Upgrades will install a greenfield, next version SharePoint farm, then attach previous version content databases and/or service application databases.

During an In-Place upgrade, the pre-requisite requirements are very important! During a Database upgrade, the Content database/site collection preparation is very important!

More about migrations

Conducting a business content migration or consolidating legacy information into a new environment is no simple task. There are many challenges, benefits and technical considerations. For example, it is important to reduce risk factors by considering a few key best practices before, during and after the actual SharePoint data migration.

Learn more as to why and when to consider a migration from a legacy system to a SharePoint Enterprise Content Management (ECM) solution.

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