by Benjamin Niaulin
This is going to be a very popular subject in 2013. We’ve been using SharePoint 2007 and 2010 for quite some time now, and now SharePoint 2013 is at the door knocking. This means we will be hearing a lot about SharePoint migration. The thing is, it might be very different this time around. In SharePoint 2007, when we did a migration, most of the time we would just restart because we saw it as an opportunity to do it right this time around. But most of us are now quite comfortable with SharePoint, enough to have used Content Types and a well-structured architecture this time. This means we might actually want to migrate our site between versions. There is no easy way to do this.
What’s to migrate?
Of course we have to make sure we understand the structure before we can talk about ways to migrate. Saying we want to copy or move a site is nice and all but how is it actually stored in SharePoint? SharePoint sites are always part of a “Site Collection” this is all sites that are grouped together by a single hierarchy and a top site, the root site. Sites are not individually stored in the Database but rather the Site Collections are. This would make it easy for us if we were migrating a SharePoint Site Collection. Why? Well using the interface or PowerShell we can isolate a Site Collection in a Database. We can take that database and move it to the destination, which in this case would be SharePoint 2013.
But first things first, what’s a SharePoint Site? We can look at it as a container. We create a Site to group lists and libraries together. Those are the only objects that exist inside of our site. So when you migrate a site, you’re basically migrating a container of lists and libraries.
What are your options?
This is where it gets complicated, there is no “Migrate Site” button in SharePoint, you have to figure it out yourself.
As mentioned above, one way would be to take the Database with the entire Site Collection in which your site is located and do a database-attach upgrade.
Once you’ve attached your database in a test farm or test web application, depending on your infrastructure, you can use the SharePoint tools to export your site and import it to a new location. The tricky thing is to never forget that your site was part of a Site Collection. Which means it might have been dependent on features, site columns or content types that may have existed at the root site or site collection level.
Microsoft always offers ways, either by PowerShell, SharePoint Designer or the interface to manage sites within the same version. Unfortunately there is no easy way to move across versions. One thing I noticed throughout my migrations is that this can be a very long process just to move a few sites. Without a good SharePoint Migration tool it can be very hard or very long for us to do it.
SharePoint 2013 only supports Database-Attach upgrade scenario. So we have to find ways to get the sites that we want into a database in 2010 and bring it over to 2013 to then move it to the right destination. And if you are one of the very many still on SharePoint 2007, Site migration is going to be very difficult without passing through 2010. I would even say impossible without custom tools.
No easy way
My conclusion is that when doing a SharePoint migration of sites between versions, you will probably run into a few problems. Microsoft recommends migrating by taking the databases of the old and upgrading to the new keeping everything as is. We have to play around with this to make it work for our Site migration. If you are planning a large number of site migrations or do this on a regular basis, you’re probably better off investing in a SharePoint Migration tool.
Biography – Benjamin Niaulin
Benjamin Niaulin works as a SharePoint Geek at Sharegate, a Montreal-based software development firm specialized in SharePoint migration.
Passionate about SharePoint, Benjamin has been helping people around the globe reaching their goals by simplifying SharePoint solutions. With his Microsoft Certified Trainer certification and over 5 years of Training and Speaking experience, he has acquired the skills needed to help everyone understand and use SharePoint.