Microsoft Announces Preview Import Service for SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business

If you have lots of data that you want to move to the cloud, a new migration feature in the Office 365 Import Service might be just for you. In addition to importing Outlook .pst files to Exchange Online, Microsoft recently announced the ability to upload data to SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business.

Utilizing Azure’s Import/Export Service, the SharePoint Online Migration API can be used to efficiently transfer datasets to the cloud. And for organizations with more than 10TB of data, there’s also the option to send BitLocker-encrypted hard drives directly to Microsoft’s datacenters.

Microsoft claims that its new migration pipeline is significantly faster than older transfer methods, and it works by first staging the data in Azure before it gets processed and transferred to Office 365. Because data is first moved to Azure, you can choose the Azure region geographically located closest to you, which is especially useful if you have a slow data connection. Alternatively, you can also choose the region in which your Office 365 accounts are located.

Azure storage accounts can be configured to be geographically or locally redundant (LRS), and this affects the speed in which data can be uploaded, with LRS accounts being faster. Other factors, such as international data transfers and link quality, may also have an impact on transfer speeds.

The New-SPOMigrationPackage PowerShell cmdlet is used to create new migration packages based on the source files you provide it, and Set-SPOMigrationPackageAzureSource to upload the prepared packages to Azure. Once uploaded, the SharePoint Online Migration API is used to migrate the data into Office 365 with Submit-SPOMigrationJob. Migration jobs are placed in a queue, and up to 16 jobs might run in parallel. Depending on the kind of data being migrated, the average transfer speed is around 2GB per hour.

Data transfer speeds for Azure Import/Export (Image Credit: Microsoft)
Data transfer speeds for Azure Import/Export (Image Credit: Microsoft)

Third-party tools can be used to migrate data using the SharePoint Online Migration API and Office 365 Import Service, and can automatically optimize data so that the maximum number of migration jobs run simultaneously. If you choose to use the PowerShell cmdlets, good preparation is key to ensuring a smooth transition. Microsoft Consultant Services states that migrating data from file shares to SharePoint Online and One Drive for Business is easier than from SharePoint, as there tends to be less issues mapping SharePoint-specific properties during the migration phase.

The new features of the Office 365 Import Service are free during preview, and Office 365 customers will have special offers for buying access to the service after general availability. For more information on the new features, see the Office 365 blog.