One would think the easiest way to migrate data from a source location, e.g., SharePoint 2019, to a target location, e.g., SharePoint Online, is by downloading the source files and uploading them at the target location. This approach would be equivalent to uploading a new file to the target location, without any metadata.
When migrating any on-prem file system files to Azure files solution, such procedure is often sufficient because there is usually not much important metadata stored per file. However, for files previously stored in SharePoint, valuable metadata such as a file's creator or editor, version history, access rights, or certain other attributes would be lost.
A more advanced approach is to employ PowerShell scripts and leverage the Office 356 Migration API, but this requires research, scripting knowledge, and – most importantly – time. Consequently, if looking for a way to migrate content within a tight timeframe and if caring about metadata, a migration tool is the best option to support your journey.
For these reasons, we opted to employ a migration tool that offers the ability to migrate most of the metadata associated with files and allows the migration of whole document libraries or even sites in one click.
The first option that comes to mind is the SharePoint Migration Tool provided by Microsoft. It offers to migrate files, folders, lists, and even entire sites to SharePoint Online while retaining content metadata. To our dismay, it limits the supported SharePoint sources to SharePoint Server 2010, 2013, and 2016, so this was not applicable in our case.
The second option to choose from the long list of available third-party migration tools.
In the next part, we will look at the migration tool selection process in detail.