33 things that can cause a hassle when migrating to SharePoint Online

Migrating from SharePoint on-premises to SharePoint Online is not an easy task. But with the following few points in mind, you’ll have less of a hassle for sure.

I wanted to know more about the pitfalls of a potential migration to SharePoint Online, because I know that we have less control in the target system, new limitations and stricter security constraints. Just to name a few.

Therefore I was reading about the SharePoint Migration Assessment Tool (SMAT) and stumblet upon those gems I’m about to write: The SMAT reports.

Those reports are packed with best practices and good to know facts. I’d like to emphasize on some in this blog post.

The source article can be found here.

First things first

I wrote the following:

Only team site (#STS) or personal site (#SPSPERS) templates are available in the cloud. Everything needs to be migrated to either of them.

I read that here and was convinces that only team sites and personal sites can be created in the cloud.

Roland, a teammate from Garaio (I work there), pointed at a blog post from Joanne that explained that the templates are still there but are not selectable trough the UI. Joanne wrote that she was able to submit a site creation task with another template, but the site was never created. This was in 2016.

So, I just gave it a try in 2019:

New-SPOSite -Url "https://engineerer.sharepoint.com/sites/templatetest" -Owner "kai@engineerer.ch" -StorageQuota 1 -Title "Engineerer's Test Site" -Template "BLOG#0"

And voilà, I was able to create a site collection with the BLOG#0 (Blog) template.

SPO site with a blog site template created via PowerShell

We just saw that even information on Microsoft Docs can lead us in a wrong direction… Just keep that in mind 🙂

What I learned from the SMAT reports

What’s not migrated to SharePoint Online but can be recreated or reconnected:

  • Add-Ins need to be readded and even migrated seperatly if they are hosted on-premises.
  • Alerts need to be recreated.
  • BCS Connections need to be recreated.
  • Customized Pages need to be recreated.
  • External Lists needs Hybrid Business Catalogs Service setup.
  • InfoPath Forms might need to be reconfigured.
  • IRM Enabled Lists are only migratable if you disable IRM on-premises, migrate your content and then reenable IRM in SPO.
  • Custom Master Pages should be reset to the default master page during migration. Otherwise it’s possible that the page doesn’t load properly after migration.
  • Secure Store Applications need to be recreated.
  • Workflows 2010/2013 are migratable but in progress workflow are reset to stage zero.

What’s gone after migration and can’t be reenabled:

  • Email enabled lists need to be replaced with new solutions (here are some alternatives).
  • Components that rely on full trust solutions won’t work anymore and need to be replaced with SPFx solutions, Add-Ins, etc.
  • Excel files larger than 10MB won’t oben in Office Online. You will be prompted to open the file in the Client Application.
  • Sandbox Solutions need to be replaced with SPFx solutions, Add-Ins, etc.
  • Web Application Policies are not available anymore. Admins can use the tenant admin page (e.g. https://engineerer-admin.sharepoint.com) or work with licensing to change user permissions SPO-wide.

What can cause problems during migration:

  • Large List Views can be subject for throttling.
  • Lists with more than 20’000 items can cause issues.
  • Large Sites can cause issues.
  • OneDrive URLs will be longer in O365, because the URL schema changes. This can cause URLs to become longer than 400 characters. The SharePoint Migration Assessment Tool (SMAT) creates a report of files that will have an URL longer than 400 characters.
  • Managed Metadata Columns can only work if you copy your Term Sets prior to the migration. With Hybrid Taxonomy you can even keep the term sets in sync between SPO and SP on-premises. Here is shown how to do this. The SharePoint Migration Tool also migrates the Term Sets since the newest release (Source).


Browser File Handling set to Strict

Means that some file types are not opened in the browser. The user is prompted to download the file instead. HTM and HTML files can be renamed to ASPX to be able to render in a page viewer web part or in the browser directly.

Custom Profile Property Mappings

It’s not possible to add custom profile property mappings in SharePoint Online. But creating new profile properties and pushing values to them via CSOM or PowerShell is possible.

Don’t try to push values to User Profile Properties that are mapped to Azure AD attributes. Those will be overwritten in the next Full AD Sync Job (source).


I learned a lot crawling through the SMAT reports and saw that a new version of the SharePoint Migration Tool just came out a few days ago.

I think Microsoft will improve the migration toolset further, what will save us even more hassle in the future. And that’s a good thing!

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