As Microsoft unraveled its long-tangled plans to integrate Office365 and SharePoint this week, one big question remains: How will legacy data move from existing on premises files into the cloud?

Data migration vendors once feared the folks in Redmond would develop an in-house solution.  But now it appears Microsoft will encourage its customers to choose a third-party vendor -- and the vendors are poised to reap the harvest.

At this week's SharePoint Conference in Las Vegas, Microsoft executives spent almost the entire first day singing the praises of the marriage of Office365 and SharePoint. Soon, you'll be able to add maps in Outlook messages, collaborate on files in Yammer groups and switch seamlessly between Office apps, finding the documents you want in a flash on any computer where you sign into your Microsoft account. As Jared Spataro, general manager for Microsoft's Office division, noted, Office365 has grown into a $1.5 billion business for the software giant, and its growth is accelerating with this announcement.

A New World

It's  a different approach, and long overdue as we move to the world of mobile computing, touch screen computing and cloud-based storage. Customers who've adopted Windows 8.1 already have a taste of this bold new world, and there is much, much more to come. No more kludgy files gumming up your PC's programs and memory. Instead, you'll run apps extending from a Microsoft network in the cloud. Do you like DropBox and Box? Microsoft bets you'll love the way its Office apps connect seamlessly with OneDrive.

However, the announcement begged the question about the migration strategy to get legacy files -- like documents, photos, videos and email -- into the new system. It's an important issue not just from a functional point of view, but also to meet compliance and audit requirements. This is serious business for corporations that could have millions of documents they must track.

Metalogix, a company with 11 years of migration experience, had a quick answer. No sooner did Microsoft announce its plans in an early morning keynote address than the company pumped out a news release touting "the first complete, unified and highest fidelity solution to move email, files and SharePoint to Office365."  The new products, Email Migrator 3.0 and Content Matrix 7.0, will help move email, files and SharePoint into Office365, the company said. 

"With these announcements, Metalogix is the first tools vendor to seamlessly enable the migration of email, files and SharePoint to Office365," CEO Steven Murphy said in the statement. However, it isn't the last vendor to do so.

Other Players

Companies like ShareGate and AvePoint also play the migration game and are also gearing up to fill the coming demand for their services. Jeremy Thake, vice president for product management at AvePoint, told CMSWire "we want to make it more efficient" for customer to migrate their files. That will likely happen in stages, he explained. Some files can move right away, but others will probably have to wait because some Microsoft APIs still "need polishing."

Is Thake worried that Microsoft could reverse course again and build its own migration software? That isn't likely, he said, although he wouldn't be surprised if Redmond acquired a migration tools company.

At Metalogix, Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer Jignesh Shah and CTO Trevor Hellebuyck sounded confident that their long years of migrating products within the Microsoft sphere had prepared them well for the task at hand.

There will be some changes in file structures and locations, they said in an interview, just as you would need to rearrange furniture when you move from one house to another. They also said they can help companies determine which files should move, and which should remain behind -- not everything must go.