Migration fever strikes whenever Microsoft readies a new version of SharePoint for launch — and SharePoint 2016 was no different. Some people just can’t seem to wait for the new features and changes a new version brings. 

But unsuccessful migrations only complicate things, and you may find yourself riding on a road to nowhere — no shiny new features to play with, no updates to explore. 

Putting some hard work in in advance of migration pays off in the long run — it ensures the migration goes right and that SharePoint 2016 does exactly what it promises to do: work for your organization’s collaborative content development.  

Here are five questions you should answer before you migrate to SharePoint 2016.

1. How Stable is SharePoint 2016?

Microsoft based SharePoint 2016 on the SharePoint online source code, which has been in use for some time now to users’ satisfaction. 

SharePoint online source code, in turn, is based on the SharePoint 2013 code, which received its fair share of migrations from older versions. With this long ancestry in mind, we can safely presume that SharePoint 2016 will be a steady version. 

Microsoft has touted SharePoint 2016 as the bridge between the Office 365 and SharePoint on-premises experiences. Now it is for you to decide how much of “hybridity” between online and on-premises systems you want to maintain. 

2. Does SharePoint 2016 Contain Architectural Changes? 

SharePoint 2016 does include some architectural changes and enhancements in server topology. 

While they promise to bring better resilience, load balancing and performance, deciding which services to run on which server can not only be intricate but may also require running extra servers, which introduces an extra cost factor into the entire scheme.  

From a setup standpoint, small, single server deployments are easier to accomplish than large multi-server deployments, but they may have redundancy and performance problems. SharePoint 2016’s real advantage lies in the ease of setup even in the large, multi-server scenarios. 

3. What Is the MinRole in SharePoint 2016?

To relieve the SharePoint admins of the task of streamlining server topologies where they decide which services will run on which server and when, Microsoft created stand-alone groupings of services that are logical to run on a particular server together. These grouping are called MinRole. 

MinRole may require running more servers than you ran in your previous SharePoint environment. Another option is custom role. In custom role, you can choose to run a single server setup, but that may miss out on getting the best possible performance that MinRole promises.  

4. How Do We Apply Patches and Bug Fixes?

If you don’t have an active, redundant SharePoint farm, applying monthly patches and bug-fixes means hours of downtime (even though patches have been made smaller in the upcoming version). This causes a major pressure point for many organizations. 

How does SharePoint 2016 deal with this? If you choose the redundant “MinRole” service architecture which requires additional servers, SharePoint 2016 promises near-zero downtime in applying patches and bug fixes. Inheriting architectural changes from SharePoint online means SharePoint 2016 will run faster and smoother with fewer downtimes — but consider the cost factor before you decide to migrate. 

5. What Backup and Restore Strategies Does SharePoint 2016 Offer?

Database sizes for SharePoint 2016 can go well over 200 gigabytes for very large deployments. Too large a database means backup and restore operation’s performance may take a setback. 

Take this database-size aspect into account before moving from SharePoint 2013 or older versions to SharePoint 2016. No backup policies exist that move old, less frequently used data out of the SharePoint environment, but still allow searching and accessing it from within SharePoint. So the question of size factor can be mute provided you have or plan to have such policies in SharePoint 2016.

To Migrate, Or Not to Migrate

SharePoint migrations haven't offered an in-place upgrade for the last few versions. Migrating to SharePoint 2016 will require you to stand up a new farm and then move content to it. 

SharePoint 2016 has a lot to offer from a feature standpoint, but that comes either at the expense of architectural simplicity or smaller total cost of ownership. In the long run, the benefits usually outweigh the costs. Nevertheless, treat the decision to migrate to SharePoint 2016 seriously. 

Title image "Wildebeests" (CC BY 2.0) by  Stig Nygaard