Will Holland is a Senior Software Engineer at ThreeWill. Will has proven to be adept at understanding a client’s needs and matching them with the appropriate solution. Recently he’s developed a passion for working with .NET, MVC, and cloud-based solutions such as Microsoft Azure and Office 365.
This month, I’m continuing the trend of reviewing some of the migration tools that I’ve used of the course of the past few years. Up this time is Metalogix’s migration tool – Content Matrix. This was actually the first tool I ever actually got to lay hands on. It’s a tool that gets included in any discussion regarding SharePoint migrations and for some good reasons. Today, I’m going to share some of my likes, dislikes, and other insights I’ve gathered from my experiences using this tool to migrate my client’s data to SharePoint online.
Metalogix has a lot to offer, but here are the top three things I like about Metalogix.
Most every tool out there allows you some amount of flexibility while migrating content. You can migrate entire Site Collections, or get down to just a single list item, for example. In my experience, though, nothing I’ve used compares to Metalogix when it comes down to just the sheer number of options you’re given. You can migrate documents by content type, lists by a particular template, sites that match a particular pattern, content created by a particular user or modified after a certain date…this list goes on.
There’s also the proverbial ton of options related to site configuration options, such as content type mapping, versioning, ghosted files, gallery content, term store migrations, audit settings, navigation…again, the list goes on.
Most migrations that I’ve been a part of have been for fairly small farms, ranging from 100 to 300 GBs of data. For those sorts of migrations, having a single “migration node” – a server where your migration tool is working – is typical. However, when you’re dealing with terabytes of data, attempting to run things from a single node quickly becomes a limiting factor.
In the largest migration that I have personally taken part in, we installed Metalogix on 8 different Azure-based servers and, with some serious scripting, fully automated the entire thing. Two things made this possible.
First, Metalogix licensing allows you to install their software on as many of your servers as you want. More importantly, though, is that their PowerShell cmdlets are extremely robust. If you can do it through their UI, you can do it in PowerShell as well.
One other thing that I’ll add is that Metalogix has the option, at least when you’re dealing with a source environment that’s On-Prem, to migrate straight from a content database without SharePoint being installed. That means that you could make a backup of your production content database, move it into a SQL Server instance that is not a part of any SharePoint farm, and migrate things just the same. That allows you to run migrations 24/7 without fear of impacting production availability.
Regardless of how many nodes you’re running, so long as all instances of Metalogix are configured to use the same database, Metalogix does a great job at allowing you to see – in real time – exactly what it’s working on. As a migration engineer, that is an extremely powerful capability, as it equips me with the ability to see exactly what is happening, respond to any issues quickly, and communicate the current migration status to my client at a moment’s notice.
It seems like such a small thing, but it’s truly a touch that I greatly appreciate.
Content Matrix, like Sharegate, isn’t perfect. Here are three things that I wish were better.
To paraphrase Peter Parker – “With great power, comes huge amounts of documentation that you need to read”. That’s always the downside to having a lot of choices, isn’t it?
Metalogix has, as I stated earlier, a lot of options. And to somewhat complicate matters, some of the options available are a little vague or confusing as to why they’re even an option.
There’s not really anything in the tool itself to explain what those options do and reading the documentation doesn’t do much to explain exactly what they do or what happens if you elect to not use those options.
Towards the end of every migration project, I’m usually asked to train a user or two on how to use the tool they’ve purchased. Explaining how to use Metalogix to someone who has never used it takes roughly 4 hours, and that’s the abbreviated version.
While Metalogix’s licensing model does allow you to install the tool on as many servers as you need, they do not allow you to migrate as much data as you want. Instead, their licensing model requires that you purchase blocks of data, and their tool keeps track of how much data you’ve migrated using it.
That becomes a bit of a challenge when you want to do a test migration, or something goes awry, and you end up needing to re-migrate a 100GB site collection. I’ve seen them work with one of our clients to “forgive” test migrations, but that was on the largest migration I’ve ever done, and that client is a Fortune 500 company. For some of the smaller companies, which is more typical, they required us to purchase additional blocks of data. It gets a bit frustrating.
Combine that with the fact that, early on in migrations, you’re going to be doing a lot of iterating. There are so many options in Metalogix, you’ll spend a great deal of time, in the beginning, trying different permutations and test/UAT migrations, it’s very difficult to gauge just how much data you’ll actually need.
When dealing with someone else’s product, especially for a migration tool, support is important. Unfortunately, I feel like Metalogix’s support team really falls short.
I’ve had to deal with them on numerous occasions, for issues big and small. In each circumstance, I’m convinced that the person who initially gets assigned to my case isn’t familiar with the tool and is just looking to set up a WebEx and then can close the ticket as soon as I get too busy to respond to their last email.
I’ve had a few success stories when dealing with their support, so it’s not always that bad. You just have to get past their initial line of defense, which doesn’t leave you feeling very supported.
One other thing that I’ll add, Metalogix is the “big dog” when it comes to migration tools and, as such, they appear to have some influence with the SharePoint team. That’s something that can come in handy if you have some “special circumstances” …and enough clout yourself.
Metalogix is, in my experience, one of the most powerful tools out there for dealing with migrations. If you’ve got an extremely large amount of content that needs to be moved ASAP, and you have access to people with experience using the tool (or a great partner), Metalogix is a great place to start the conversation. Be sure to sign up for a free trial and experience it for yourself.