IT Tips & Tricks

Risks and Rewards: Migrating from SharePoint On-Premise to SharePoint Online

Published 5 March 2024

Are you considering moving from SharePoint on-prem to SharePoint Online? Are you wondering about the differences between the two? Do you know how to approach your migration? Below are some answers to commonly asked questions.

The Differences Between On-Prem
and Online

In terms of functionality, there’s virtually no difference between SharePoint Online and on-prem, but there are some logistical variances.

  • Up-to-date infrastructure makes it easier for your IT department to support both kinds of applications. Such infrastructure enables the delivery of public cloud-like economics with private cloud benefits — making it easier to combine the synergies of on-premises infrastructure and public cloud.

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  • Data storage is another difference. Any on-prem operation is limited by the size of their server. Although the online option doesn’t offer unlimited data storage capacity, every user is entitled to 1 TB + 10 GB and additional storage can be purchased relatively inexpensively, with an overall data limit of
    25 TB.
  • SharePoint Online offers superior scalability. Whether you want to scale your usage up or down, SharePoint Online offers you the flexibility to pay only for what you need. With SharePoint on-prem, you simply don’t have the same degree of easy flexibility
    and scalability.
  • Microsoft handles all the updates, security patches and infrastructure management for SharePoint Online users, making it relatively hassle-free for you. For certain businesses, security is a primary concern and storing confidential data in the Cloud is not an option due to compliance or legal reasons. In that case, an on-prem option may be best, but you’ll need to download and install the monthly updates and security patches released by Microsoft and take care of infrastructure management.
  • Remote access is natively supported in SharePoint Online. SharePoint on-prem will require additional setups, such as a VPN or the ability to log in to remote computing.
  • For SharePoint Online, you’ll be dependent on Microsoft’s global data center locations. With on-prem, you have full control of your data within your own data centers.
  • Customizations: SharePoint Online may or may not support your current customizations of add-ins. SharePoint on-prem handles customizations much more easily.
  • Security: While there may be concerns around Cloud security, it’s important to remember that Cloud service providers are constantly working to protect your data. However, any on-prem situation is going to require your in-house expertise and vigilance in the
    security arena.
  • Backups: With SharePoint Online, backups are managed by Microsoft every 12 hours. You can go about your business without even thinking about it. For on-prem users, backups and their frequency are entirely up to you and your IT team.

Clearly, there are many logical reasons to consider SharePoint Online and based on the figures below, millions of happy users would agree.

How Popular is SharePoint?

SharePoint’s reputation as the world’s most popular base technology for intranets is backed by the latest industry statistics.

  • SharePoint currently has over 200 million active monthly users.
  • Around 80% of Fortune 500 companies rely on SharePoint.
  • SharePoint Online has become the preferred option for 65% of small and medium-sized businesses.
  • SharePoint’s adoption rate is steadily climbing.

With its ability to deliver flexible, robust and innovative intranet solutions for businesses of all sizes, SharePoint’s star will, no doubt, continue to rise.

The 5-Step Program: Migrating from On-Prem to Online

While SharePoint Online undoubtedly offers a host of benefits, you’ve got to get there first. Upgrading from SharePoint on-prem — whether that’s SharePoint 2019 or SharePoint Server Subscription Edition (SPSE) — to SharePoint Online can be a bit of a drag since one is an on-prem version, while the other is cloud-based. But the result could be well worth the effort.

It’s important to bear in mind that the migration process will differ from organization to organization depending on your needs and the complexity of your SharePoint environment. The following five steps are intended to serve only as a broad guide. At the end of this article, you’ll find links to other articles that go more deeply into various aspects of migrating data to SharePoint Online.

1. Assessment

One of the first steps in your migration strategy should be an assessment of your current on-prem environment, where you’ll take stock of your content. This is a crucial step in planning your strategy, and should also include points such as the anticipated time frame, required resources and a thorough risk assessment. Make sure to consider:


Your security stance could determine your choice of online vs. on-prem.

2. Planning

With your assessment complete, it’s time to plan. Now is the time to create a detailed roadmap for your migration, in which you define factors such as:

  • The scope of the migration, which will include things such as your SharePoint content, users and customizations.
  • The timeline, including start and end dates, as well as any
    major milestones.
  • The best migration method for your situation, such as hybrid, staged, or cut-over. A hybrid migration ensures that the on-prem and cloud environments exist at the same time. It’s more complex than staged or cutover migration. A staged migration involves migrating data in batches and is recommended for medium and large-sized enterprises where the volume of data is too high to be migrated overnight or over a weekend, for example. A cutover migration is the most straightforward of the three. It involves migrating all resources in a single migration and is best suited for smaller organizations with fewer users.

If “hassle-free” is your mantra, consider that Microsoft handles all the updates, security patches and infrastructure management for SharePoint
Online users.

3. Prepare Your Destination

Before you start moving your content, you need to make sure your SharePoint Online environment is prepped and ready for you. These are the “housekeeping” tasks to cover:


A well-thought-out roadmap can get both your data and your IT department where they need to be.

  • Create a new site collection in SharePoint Online.
  • Configure the needed site collection settings, including the site theme, language, time zone and
    so on.
  • Based on roles and responsibilities, assign user permissions to the site collection.

4. Time to Move

Once your SharePoint Online environment is ready, you can begin migrating your SharePoint on-prem content. These are the steps
to follow:

  • Use either Microsoft’s SharePoint Migration Tool or a third-party tool to export your on-prem content to a local folder.
  • Convert that local folder content to the appropriate format.
  • Import the converted content into your new SharePoint Online platform using the tool of your choice.

Want to go about your business without even thinking
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5. Testing

Once the migration is complete, it’s time to test your data to ensure things are as they
should be.

  • Validate the content.
  • Test customizations.
  • Verify users.

SharePoint Server Subscription Edition

SPSE focuses on three core principles:

  • Constantly Current: Agility is a must for ever-changing modern business conditions, so SPSE allows customization for your specific enterprise needs with regular updates.
  • Steadfast and Secure: Preventing security breaches and maintaining regulatory compliance are priority issues for any IT department worth its salt. With SPSE, you get scalability, dependability, and security, while still being able to rapidly handle massive amounts of data
    highly efficiently.

A migration without a safety net means no backup and recovery plan to help maintain organizational continuity during your
migration. Ouch.

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What do 65% of small and medium-sized businesses choose?