Migrating from Legacy SharePoint to SharePoint Server 2010 : Formulating a Migration Strategy

1/23/2011 11:51:04 AM
Many organizations have existing SharePoint products and technologies deployed in production environments but are interested in taking advantage of the new features in SharePoint 2010. Many of these organizations have significant investments in the existing infrastructure, however, and need to ensure site functionality throughout the upgrade process.

SharePoint 2010 includes two built-in migration options that seem deceivingly simple, and the process itself is not actually complex. That said, the process is limited to migrations directly from SharePoint 2007, and some components will not migrate easily. In addition, the two Microsoft upgrade options are drastically different in approach, so it is important to explore the pros and cons of each option before making a decision.

Formulating a Migration Strategy

Migration from SharePoint 2007 to SharePoint 2010 for small environments is relatively straightforward and can be performed with minimal risk. For organizations with a complex or large SharePoint 2007 environment, however, migration to SharePoint 2010 can be a daunting task. Fortunately, the migration tools built into SharePoint 2010 enable a gradual migration approach, in which groups of sites are migrated slowly over time, allowing for reduced risk of failure or downtime and enabling administrators to test site functionality before finalizing individual site migrations.

The most difficult part of a migration subsequently becomes the validation portion, in which an assessment of existing SharePoint 2007 site functionality and whether it will migrate successfully is determined. This can be even more difficult for those environments with a heavy investment in third-party add-ons to SharePoint 2007. It is subsequently critical to formulate a migration strategy before beginning the process.


There is no direct supported migration path to SharePoint 2010 from the 1.0 or 2.0 versions of SharePoint technologies, including SharePoint Portal Server 2001, SharePoint Portal Server 2003, SharePoint Team Services, or Windows SharePoint Services 2.0. The only way to migrate these environments to 2010 using Microsoft techniques is to first upgrade the servers and sites to SharePoint 2007.

Microsoft provides for two out-of-the-box upgrade options: the in-place upgrade and the database-attach options. Each options has its particular pros and cons, and it’s important to understand first what each migration option is before committing to one or the other. No matter what option you choose, it is critical to test the migration process first before beginning.

Examining the In-Place Upgrade Scenario

The first and most straightforward option for upgrading to SharePoint 2010 is the in-place upgrade option. With this option, an existing SharePoint 2007 server is upgraded in place to SharePoint 2010. The advantage to this approach is that it is easy to perform and utilizes existing hardware and preserves custom farm settings such as Audiences or Search customization. The main disadvantage to this approach is that the hardware must be SharePoint 2010-capable and there is no going back when the migration starts.

The key to this approach is that the existing servers must be SharePoint 2010-compliant, which means they must be running the following minimum levels of OS and software:

  • Windows Server 2008 x64 or Windows Server 2008 R2 x64.

  • SQL Server 2005 x64, SQL Server 2008 x64, or SQL Server 2008 R2 x64 for the database.

  • Service Pack 2 for WSS 3.0 and MOSS 2007, if using those products..

Examining the Database Attach Scenario

The database attach upgrade process works off of a completely different concept. With this approach, you build the new SharePoint 2010 environment on completely different hardware and configure it to best practices. You have the option of completely rebuilding all farm aspects and can even have the new SharePoint environment serve as a farm target for multiple source farms of various versions (WSS, MOSS Standard, MOSS Enterprise). When the migration is ready to take place, it is done one content database at a time and is performed by attaching the database (or a restore of the database) to the new farm and upgrading it on that farm.

The significant advantage to this approach is that it is much more forgiving if there are errors, and it allows for easy fallback to the old farm if the migration fails. In addition, for larger and more complex environments, it allows for a phased-migration process, rather than the need to do a “big-bang” upgrade. The main disadvantage to this approach is that it migrates only content and does not migrate any farm settings, such as audiences or custom search settings.

Examining Alternative Approaches and Third-Party Migrations

Although the in-place upgrade and database attach upgrade approaches are the only two direct Microsoft supported migration scenarios, various other approaches can be used, including the following:

  • Third-party migration tools— These tools typically do not have limitations to what versions can be migrated from and also allow for splicing and splitting of site collections and content databases, something not supported in the Microsoft approaches. They also typically handle exceptions better.

  • STSADM exports or backups/restores— Although STSADM, the command-line tool, can only export or back up/restore to the same version, it can be used to export SharePoint content to a farm of the same version level and then run the upgrade process on that farm. You can use this same concept with database restores as well.

  • Manual content move— Some organizations simply prefer to build a new SharePoint 2010 environment and then show their users how to move content from the old farm to the new farm. This is particularly useful if there is a great deal of abandoned or useless data in the older farms.

Determining which approach to use is critical during the planning phase of an upgrade or migration project.

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