Choosing a Microsoft Teams migration tool: Microsoft’s SharePoint Migration Tool and ShareGate’s Teams migration tool compared

Image of one person carrying a box full of Teams data to help another person set up a new Teams environment. Image of one person carrying a box full of Teams data to help another person set up a new Teams environment.

Microsoft's free SharePoint Migration Tool includes Teams functionality—but is it capable of helping you with your Microsoft Teams migration? To answer that question, we explore some of the key differences between the SPMT and ShareGate Desktop's Teams migration tool.

Content is at the center of collaboration in Microsoft 365—whether that collaboration takes place in SharePoint, OneDrive, or, increasingly, Microsoft Teams. And with the rise in Teams usage, it only makes sense that we also want our Teams data to transition seamlessly with us.

Since the ShareGate team is well-known for ShareGate Desktop, our SharePoint migration tool—and since Teams is part of the same Microsoft 365 suite of productivity tools—our customers have been asking us how they can migrate their Teams resources to a new tenant in the context of a merger and acquisition. Another question we've been hearing a lot of lately: Can the SPMT help me with my Teams migration?

Our engineers did a ton or research into Teams migration in the course of developing our latest ShareGate Desktop release, and part of that process included looking at the SPMT to understand the capabilities and limitations of the tool. To help you assess whether the features are enough to help you with your Teams migration, we decided to share what we learned and highlight some key differences between the SPMT and ShareGate Desktop's Teams migration tool.

Where is Microsoft Teams data stored?

Microsoft Teams is a collaboration hub that simplifies the experience of working with Microsoft 365. When you use Teams, it's leveraging the strengths of other Microsoft tools—such as SharePoint, Outlook, and OneDrive for Business—by packaging them together in a unified interface with persistent chat.

But that means that most Teams data isn't stored in Teams. Teams data is actually stored in the following locations:

  • SharePoint team site: Files and folders stored in the team document library or shared in a channel, external emails sent to the team, the team's wiki page, and each channel's OneNote assets.
  • Exchange team mailbox: Group chat and channel chat conversation history, team mail, and contacts.
  • Exchange mailboxes of individual users: Private (1:1) chat conversation history, voicemails, and calendar meetings.
  • OneDrive for Business of individual users: Files attached to private chat sessions, or a chat during a meeting or call, are uploaded and stored in the OneDrive account of the user who shared the files.
  • OneDrive organizational document library: Users' personal OneNotes.
  • Azure (using Blob storage): Images and media (except for GIFs) shared in chats.
  • Stream: Meeting recordings.
  • Third-party storage provider: If your organization allows users to store files with a third-party storage provider, either through tabs or other partner apps, that information is stored directly in the system used by the partner.

This data sprawl complicates the definition of a "Microsoft Teams migration". Does the term refer to the migration of any, or all of the above? Can a Teams migration mean moving a team's SharePoint content to a new tenant? What about conversation history? Or channel structure? Or all of the proper settings and members for each team?

The storage of Teams data in so many different locations also complicates the execution of a Microsoft Teams migration. A lack of publicly available APIs from Microsoft make it impossible to migrate Teams automatically using out-of-the-box solutions; and migrating Microsoft Teams data manually is extremely time-consuming and involves multiple steps, some of which need to be repeated for every single team.

Microsoft Teams migration with the SharePoint Migration Tool

Since its initial release at the beginning of 2018, Microsoft has continued to invest in its free SharePoint Migration Tool (SPMT)—releasing new features, additional sources, and improved PowerShell support.

One such update, announced via a Microsoft Tech Community blog post titled "Microsoft Teams migration with the SharePoint Migration Tool", incorporated new Teams capabilities. But as commenters on the post were quick to point out, calling it a "Teams migration" could be a bit misleading depending on what, exactly, you're trying to move and where.

So what can the Teams migration functionality of the SPMT help you do? To understand the answer to this question, you first need to have a good grasp on how Microsoft Teams and SharePoint integrate with one another.

Good to know:

  • Microsoft Teams and SharePoint are united by a Microsoft 365 group
  • Each time you create a new team in Teams, you're also creating a new Microsoft 365 group, Calendar, Planner, and associated SharePoint team site
  • When you click on the Files tab within a channel in Teams, the files you see are actually stored in a document library on the team's associated SharePoint site
  • For every standard channel created in Teams, a folder within the team's SharePoint document library is automatically created for you—private channels each get their own SharePoint site collection, named after the team and private channel

This means that if you want to migrate content so that it appears in Teams—specifically, within each channel's Files tab—you actually need to migrate that content to the associated SharePoint team site. And that's where the SPMT comes in.

Microsoft Teams capabilities in the SharePoint Migration Tool

The SharePoint Migration Tool is designed to migrate content from SharePoint Server and file servers to SharePoint and OneDrive in Microsoft 365. Available to all Microsoft 365 subscribers as a free download, the SPMT provides a quick and simple solution for IT admins looking to bring their organization's information to the cloud.

Wondering whether the SPMT is enough to successfully complete your SharePoint migration project? Check out our take on Microsoft's free migration tool.

The Teams update mentioned earlier introduced Microsoft Teams as a target destination in the SharePoint Migration Tool. Since each team in Microsoft Teams has an associated team site in SharePoint Online, the Teams functionality in the SPMT is designed to help you map file data to the SharePoint folder structure created by Microsoft Teams.

Screenshot showing Microsoft Teams as a migration destination in the SPMT.

What does this mean in the context of a Teams migration? Well, it means the SPMT lets you migrate lists or files into a Microsoft Teams document library from an existing SharePoint Server site or file share.

But it can't help you migrate content from one Teams tenant to another. And the functionality doesn't offer any sort of chat-based migration—like group chat and channel conversation history.

Additionally, you need to manually create the teams and channels at the destination beforehand so that you have somewhere to migrate your content to:

Screenshot of SPMT UI to select the team where you want to migrate your content.

And while the SPMT has settings that enable you to automatically map users and preserve file share permissions, those controls don't replicate team membership and permissions in Microsoft Teams—they only affect the SharePoint permissions on a file or folder when it's migrated to Microsoft 365.

The SPMT permission control is also affected by various conditions. Check out the official Microsoft documentation for a full list of permissions conditions and results when using the SharePoint Migration Tool.

Screenshot of settings in SPMT.

Essentially, the Microsoft Teams functionality in the SPMT is a repackaged version of the tool's existing SharePoint migration functionality. It's aimed at IT admins looking for an easier way to make existing on-prem files accessible in Teams so their users can take advantage of new methods of collaboration in Microsoft 365. If this is you, then the SPMT is a capable and easy-to-use migration tool.

However, if your organization has already moved to the Microsoft cloud, deployed Teams, and/or is trying to migrate Teams data in the context of a business merger or acquisition, then the SharePoint Migration Tool alone might not provide the functionality you're looking for.

You could try to leverage the SPMT in the course of a manual Teams migration. But migrating Microsoft Teams data to another tenant manually involves multiple steps and a ton of heavy lifting on the part of IT, even with the SPMT.

Migrate Microsoft Teams quickly and efficiently.

See for yourself with a free, full-featured 15-day trial.

ShareGate's Teams migration tool: ShareGate Desktop

Instead of jumping through tons of hoops to get your users up and running in their new Teams environment, why not use a third-party tool to simplify the process?

ShareGate Desktop, our SharePoint migration tool, enables you to perform a Teams migration in every sense of the term:

  • Migrate on-prem content to Microsoft Teams
  • Migrate Teams data from one tenant to another
  • Migrate Teams data within the same Teams tenant

Migrate on-prem content to Microsoft Teams

Our SharePoint migration tool offers the same functionality as the SPMT if you want to make existing on-prem content accessible in Microsoft Teams. In just a few clicks, ShareGate Desktop migrates your content from SharePoint Server or a file share to the appropriate channel folder in a team's associated SharePoint site (or the appropriate document library in a private channel's site collection).

Import from file share in ShareGate Desktop.

Import content from a file share to a channel folder in a team's SharePoint document library.

Migrate Teams data from one tenant to another

ShareGate Desktop's latest release also introduced a dedicated Microsoft Teams migration feature to our popular migration tool. Migrate existing teams to another tenant—or copy teams within the same tenant—in just a few clicks. No need to manually re-create the teams you want to migrate at the destination first, and no need to script.

Screenshot of copy teams feature in ShareGate Desktop.

Choose which teams you want to migrate.

And you can migrate more than just your teams' SharePoint content—we'll also make sure all your teams' data is migrated, too!

With ShareGate Desktop, you can bring along:

  • Team settings and description
  • Membership (owners and members)
  • Permissions
  • Conversation history (including sender, threaded messages, links, and timestamps)
  • Public channels
  • Lists
  • Files (along with their history and metadata)
  • Tabs
  • Apps and bots (those that are available in the App Store)
  • SharePoint site customizations

ShareGate Desktop also has copy options that let you customize and control your Teams migration. Automatically map users at the destination—so they can keep working quickly with the right set of permissions post-migration. Rename teams pre-migration. And schedule a convenient time for your migration to take place.

Screenshot showing ShareGate Desktop copy options.

Configure copy options before your Teams migration.

Migrate Teams data within the same Teams tenant

You can even use our Teams migration tool to copy teams within the same tenant—just connect to the same environment for both the source and destination. This is especially useful for building templates with pre-built channel structures and settings, so that you can easily create consistent teams across your organization.

Copy teams in ShareGate Desktop.

Use the same "Copy teams" interface to migrate teams within a single tenant.

Microsoft Teams data migration feature comparison

We created this handy table to help you visualize the different functionalities that are available in the context of a Microsoft Teams migration.

For more details: Check out the official Microsoft documentation for the full list of SPMT supported features. And head to the ShareGate Desktop product page to learn more about what our Teams migration tool can help you do.

Supported...SPMTShareGate Desktop
File shares
SharePoint Server
SharePoint Online
OneDrive for Business
Microsoft Teams
SharePoint Online
OneDrive for Business
Microsoft Teams*
Files & folders
List items*
File & folder permissions*
Managed metadata & taxonomy
Content types and term stores; managed metadata migration is turned off by default, and taxonomy is updated in incremental rounds
Bulk manage and migrate customized metadata
Site migrationOut-of-the-box sites only
Supports SharePoint site customizations
Team settings & description
Membership (owners and members) & permissions
Conversation history
Public channels
Tabs, apps, & bots
*(SharePoint Server 2010 & 2013 only, SharePoint Server 2016 in Public Preview)

If you haven't tried our popular migration tool yet, what are you waiting for? ShareGate Desktop's UI isn't just just simple and intuitive—it's actually pleasant to use (really!).

Migrate to SharePoint or Microsoft 365 quickly and easily with unlimited data and custom reporting. And effortlessly reorganize and restructure your content until it's exactly how you want it.

Save time and migrate with total peace of mind, then get back to business as usual. See for yourself with a free, full-featured 15-day trial.

Ensure users have everything they need to succeed in Teams.

Seamlessly migrate teams from one tenant to another,
with ShareGate Desktop's Teams migration tool.

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