2 crucial steps to avoid data loss during your Microsoft Teams migration

avoid data loss during Microsoft Teams migration

You want to migrate your Microsoft Teams without risking the loss of valuable data. By following a couple of simple steps, you can rest easy knowing your data will be protected before, during, and after your migration.

Currently, there’s no native solution to migrate Microsoft Teams from one tenant to another. This leaves you with a couple of options to execute your migrationyou can perform a manual migration or use a third-party tool to simplify the process.  

One of the biggest migration concerns is data protection and ensuring that nothing is lost along the way. The best way to do this is by careful planning and taking inventory of all of your valuable data that you want to migrate.  

Teams has its roots firmly planted in the Microsoft cloud, meaning that its data is not stored in a physical location. Because Teams is built on various other Microsoft 365 apps and services, in order to back up this data, you would need to first find where it resides within the Microsoft 365 productivity suite.  

In this article, we’ll explore two crucial  steps for a successful Microsoft Teams migration so you can get started on the right foot and avoid losing data in the process. 

Understand Microsoft Teams architecture 

It might be news to you, but Microsoft Teams derives most of its functionality from other Microsoft 365 apps and services. Understanding the structure of Teams is vital to performing a successful migration, and minimizing the risk of data loss. 

👉 Don’t miss a thing: Download the complete guide to Teams migration

Before you can back up your data, you need to know where it’s stored. This is one of the primary challenges of performing a Teams migration because there’s no centralized location for all of your data in Teams. Depending on what you’re looking for, you’ll find it in various locations across your Microsoft 365 apps and tools. 


Once you have a solid understanding of where everything’s stored, you’ll be in a much better position to manage and protect your existing data before, during, and after your migration. 

This will also help to inform your data governance strategy.

Ready for more? Read all about how Microsoft Teams, Microsoft 365 Groups, and SharePoint work together.

Back up your Microsoft Teams data 

While there is no out-of-the-box solution to back up your Teams data, you can put policies in place to protect and prevent it from being deleted.  

Retention policies in Microsoft Teams 

There are a few ways to put in place retention settings to safeguard your valuable data against deletion. When planning and executing a Teams migration, you may want to consider what kind of scaffolding you’ve got in place, if any, and adjust to ensure that your data is protected in your current environment, and as it migrates to your new tenant.  

You’ll do this by using retention policies, or retention labels, or sometimes a mix of both. Retention policies govern content at the container level, based on where it was created, and retention labels govern content at the item level. 

Retention policies are overarching, meaning that you can create one policy and have it apply across multiple locations, or to specific users, as you wish.  

Policies can be applied to various apps and services, such as: 

  • Exchange email 
  • SharePoint site 
  • OneDrive accounts 
  • Microsoft 365 Groups 
  • Skype for Business 
  • Exchange public folders 
  • Teams channel messages 
  • Teams chats 
  • Teams private channel messages 
  • Yammer community messages 
  • Yammer user messages 

When you set a policy for a specific location, all content that is stored in that location will be managed under that policy, and retained for the specified period of time. This allows you to tailor your levels of data security according to where your most valuable data is stored.  

For example, you might not feel the need to put retention policies in place for Teams chats, whereas that team’s associated SharePoint site may contain content that you’d want to preserve for years to come. 

When you move content outside of its original location, it is no longer governed by the same policy. 

Retention labels can be designed for and applied to specific types of content, according to the needs of your organization.  

Once applied to a specific piece of content, that content will be governed by that retention label regardless of where it lives within your Microsoft 365 ecosystem. You can also set it up so that labels are automatically applied to content based on specific keywords or sensitivity labels, allowing you to automate the process rather than manually apply these labels each time a new piece of content is created.

As mentioned, you can use retention labels or policies, or a combination of the two. How can you decide when you might want to use a label over a policy, or vice versa? 

Let’s say you have marketing materials that you’ll want to retain for at least 5 years in the same SharePoint site as tax forms that you know you’ll only need for the next two. In this case, you’d want to make use of retention labels rather than policies, because you don’t want all of the content in that location to be retained for the same amount of time. 

So, that’s the jist of retention settings in Microsoft 365. If you want to get into the nitty gritty, check out the official Microsoft documentation on the topic

The bigger your migration project, the greater the risk of potential data loss along the way. By gaining a solid understanding of Microsoft 365 architecture and putting retention settings in place, you’ll be doing yourself and your entire organization a service, and ensuring that you’re prepared in the event that things do go a little bit sideways.

Don’t forget to keep end users in mind during this process! A solid user readiness plan is key to the success of any Microsoft Teams migration.

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