In my last article, we talked about Microsoft’s SharePoint 2013 reaching end of life in April of 2023. This means that organizations using SharePoint 2013 must move to other options, and we gave a brief overview of the platforms that Microsoft has provided as choices going forward.
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4
This is the place where I should mention that there will be non-Microsoft options to consider. Microsoft has long been seen as offering one of the most capable and complete Enterprise Content Management tools or Content Services Platforms in the market, but there are others out there. If you want to move away from SharePoint, there is probably no defined process for migration that would preserve any of the metadata you may have added to document libraries. The path to another platform will likely require uploading your files and doing a complete rebuild from there. So, no, that is probably not what most would consider “easy.”
There is an option that comes with some serious downsides, but it could give you a brief resting point: versions of SharePoint that aren’t the most recent but aren’t quite as close to the end of life. SharePoint 2016 has already passed the end of Mainstream support, but you could at least have until 2026 before it would have no support at all. SharePoint 2019 wouldn’t reach the end of mainstream support until January 2024. SharePoint 2019 gives you almost no advantages. Migrating to it would be almost exactly the same amount of work as the most modern versions and wouldn’t give you a longer life for any of the old functionality you may want to keep. SharePoint 2016 may let you extend the lifetime of your current workflows, and some of the current sites and pages with minimal changes, but the catch is, it will still take effort to migrate to and it will give you only 1 year of extended function. This is really only an option if you think you will need a full year to plan your migration and you will have to migrate twice within that year. If you get migrated to SharePoint 2016, I recommend not pausing at all in the further migration to one of the most current versions.
After considering your options, let’s say you have decided to move forward with one of the Microsoft platforms. You still have a number of things to consider. If you choose to migrate to one of the most recent SharePoint options available, SharePoint Online in Microsoft 365 or SharePoint Subscription Edition, there is no truly direct path for migration. The only SharePoint product that has a direct upgrade path from SharePoint 2013 is SharePoint 2016, which has already reached its Mainstream End Date for support as of July 13th, 2021. Fortunately, there are a few tools that have been developed that can help fill the gap.
As Microsoft began to heavily focus on SharePoint in Microsoft 365 as the cloud solution that it believed most of its customers should move toward, they realized that their old method of upgrading from one version of SharePoint to the next (known as the content database migration upgrade path) was not viable for most customers. This method would only move content one version at a time (2010 to 2013, to 2016, to 2019, though SharePoint Subscription edition can do either 2016 or 2019) and required access to the database servers which are not available in SharePoint Online.
Microsoft once offered an option for customers to send their content database to them for conversion to SharePoint Online, but they have long suspended that service and instead have recommended either 3rd party vendors such as AvePoint, ShareGate, or others as providers for migration tools, or Microsoft's own migration tools such as the SharePoint Migration Tool (SPMT) or Mover.io.
No matter which tools you decide to use, the process probably won’t be a simple series of clicks resulting in your content magically appearing in its new location. There is a 10-year technology difference between SharePoint 2013 and the latest offerings. Most people don’t like change, but that is a long stretch in “technology years” to expect things to stay the same. Some features have changed over time in ways that make them almost unrecognizable, and quite a few that are completely new have appeared.
When I sat down to write this series of articles, I hadn’t made up my mind about this installment. We assist with this transition on a pretty regular basis and, mechanically, the process of migrating the contents of the libraries isn’t incredibly difficult. We have gone through the process so many times with customers, though we know there are always adjustments and bumps along the way. In the end, I had to come down on the side of…
No, there is no “easy” way to upgrade SharePoint 2013 to a current version of SharePoint.
If your 2013 environment has very little customization, branding and workflows included, SharePoint Migration Tool (SPMT) may be sufficient. It will make migrating documents and other lists and libraries somewhat simple. It has basic functions for migrating SharePoint 2010 workflows, but there are no automated functions for migrating SharePoint 2013 based workflows in either the free Microsoft tools or the more common commercial options.
The commercial options generally do a better job with Publishing pages (which simply don’t migrate to “Modern” sites well without PowerShell assistance: https://learn.microsoft.com/en-us/sharepoint/dev/transform/modernize-userinterface-site-pages-powershell) and give better options for scheduling and “batching” migrations. The more content you have and customized your farm is, the more likely one of the commercial options will be able to save you the price of its purchase by saving you people-hours during the migration. Unless your farm is very small, getting a migration completed in a long weekend is extremely unlikely. It will definitely take planning, which is the subject of my final blog, “What Can I Do to Prepare for My Upgrade from SharePoint 2013?” but there is a chapter to go before we get there.
“Change is hard” is the platitude that usually comes out at this point, but the truth is, not changing is just easier, up to a point. When circumstances force us to change, it doesn’t have to be a terrible experience, and we will try to carry that into our next installment: “Leaving SharePoint 2013 Behind: What Cool Stuff Do We Get Out of It?”
There we will explore all the new features Microsoft has been cooking for you and how to turn this transition into a fresh way to solve all of our business problems. OK, maybe not all of them, but I am trying to be positive here. See you soon!
Ready to begin your migration planning? Pait Group would love to help you!