Email archive essentials

Key Considerations when Moving to Microsoft 365

The last few years have seen significant changes in the way that businesses conduct business. There has been an unstoppable momentum toward the embrace of cloud-based digital platforms that aim to unlock the capacity for greater collaboration and productivity amongst staff.

The pre-eminent example of such a platform is Microsoft’s Office 365.

Since its transition from locally-installed, licensed software to a full-blown Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) subscription platform, Office 365 has been adopted by over 70% of Fortune 500 companies, each seeking to take advantage of its superior collaboration capabilities, flexible configuration options, reduced licensing costs and ongoing improvements via its regular upgrade cycle.

With such rapid adoption on the part of enterprise and the tangible benefits that Office 365 can bring to businesses large and small, it’s easy to understand why so many businesses are either considering it or actively planning a migration.

With any move towards the adoption of a new platform, a bit of specialist advice to complement your planning could be the difference between a successful outcome and major headaches. In particular, this applies to migrating your existing email archive data.

Your data is valuable beyond measure, with many of us storing important information in our emails. Businesses depend on archives of these exchanges on a regular basis, and anyone considering Office 365 must allocate time to carefully explore the migration of email archive data as a distinct component of the overall Office 365 mail migration.

Defining Business Drivers and Required Outcomes

Before you start moving your archived email, it’s important to ensure everyone understands why this move is the best option for your business. You may be seeking to drive down costs, or perhaps to overcome environmental and technical hurdles. It is possible that you are presently using an aging platform and desire an upgrade to improve your overall user experience. It may even be all of the above.

Successfully identifying these drivers and understanding the corresponding impact on the outcomes of your migration will help determine the most appropriate approach to take.

When it comes to migrating your email archive data, there are many ways to manage and move it, each of which will deliver different outcomes.

Some outcomes require a more cautious approach resulting in a longer process. In other instances, where the requirements are less complex, you can cut through the rigor to deliver a much faster result. It really depends on your particular needs.

Without adequately defining those needs, you may be unnecessarily spending money on technology and processes. Before anything else however, you must know what your compliance requirements are. For example, having chain-of-custody obligations to meet will determine not just what data needs to be moved, but how it will have to be moved.

Typical Drivers for Archive Migration

  • Cost efficiencies
  • Upgrade from aging technologies
  • Improved employee collaboration
  • Expanded storage capacities and improved search-ability/eDiscovery

Know What Data You Need to Move

Once you’ve defined your business drivers, determined your compliance requirements and established the desired outcomes of such a move, it’s time to identify the specifics of your data migration.

The type of business you have will also help delineate what and how much data needs migrating. What is necessitating the move? It may be that your business is moving data centers, or that your current storage solution is nearing end-of life.

Consider also the nature of your typical operational requirements. Will you require your entire historical archive or simply need data for the current set of users? If your users are terminal or kiosk based, you may not need your historical archive. Heavy email users, on the other hand, may need their entire system migrated over.

Businesses with heavy regulatory compliance legislation must be able to prove chain-of-custody when their data is moved. Alternatively, some businesses may have compliance requirements dictating that only three years of data is required to be stored.

All of these considerations will affect the size, scale and price of your migration. Therefore it is crucial that time is taken to adequately assess this aspect of the move.

In Which Order Should You Do Your Migration?

Moving email to Office 365 requires two types of migrations – one for each of the Primary and Archive data sets. Identifying the key business drivers of your migration will determine the best order to migrate in a way that makes sense for your business.

Consider what processes you’re going to use to move your primary mailbox: will you use a hybrid option, or a third-party toolset? Your existing environment and the software and process by which you choose to migrate your Primary data, will dictate the order you move your archive.

Generally speaking, moving your archive first will result in the best outcome, guaranteeing that when your users go online in Office 365, everything they need to access is already there. In some scenarios, however, this is not possible – i.e., in migrations from Exchange 2007, which cannot be used in Hybrid mode and where no third-party tool is being used – and the archive migration will need to follow the primary mailbox move. Even in this situation, all data that users need can often be available day zero.

What's Your Bandwidth?

Consider any bandwidth limitations of your network infrastructure as it will directly impact the speed of your migration.

A staged migration often experiences an average throughput of 15GB to 80GB per hour. Are you able to utilize sufficient bandwidth during business hours?

From the outset, is your link even big enough to facilitate an online migration? If your bandwidth is not up to the task, you may need to factor in the additional cost of Microsoft’s Ship to Disk approach.

Planning Around Mailbox and Message Sizes

Microsoft has set a number of limits in Exchange Online impacting the supportability requirements. Some of these include:

  • Maximum message size
  • Maximum number of messages per folder
  • The number of attachments in your inbox and
  • The number of email recipients

Each of these items will have an impact on how data can be migrated. Additionally, Microsoft changes these limits quite regularly: it is vital therefore to remain aware of any such changes, as all will have an impact on how you can migrate your data.

It is also essential to ensure data is being moved in a supported fashion so that if a problem does emerge, it becomes less time-consuming to engage support with your migration vendor or Microsoft Support Services for the required assistance. Understanding the implications of these requirements is critical to ensuring a seamless migration of archive data

What is Your Existing Archive Policy?

In migrating archive data, businesses often need to stay compliant with regulatory requirements and require confidence in data integrity. All archive platforms are policy driven and these are often a good indicator of the business requirements.

All data needs to be migrated as efficiently as possible to the new platform, all the while dealing with existing shortcut (aka stub) emails.

As a business, you will need to determine what gets moved to the primary mailbox, and what gets archived. The approach you take for your migration and the technology you are using will impact upon how you deal with shortcuts before, during, and after the move.

You also have to consider how your business currently handles data associated with users that have left the business or who no longer use your systems. Decisions need to be made as to whether such user data needs to be migrated at all. If you do decide to migrate departed user data, questions will arise as to when to move it as license implications need to be considered.

Deliberations such as these make email archive migrations complex and involved projects. Knowing your existing data retention policy will provide a basis for business requirements, and make the decision process for what to move – and how – significantly easier.

Knowing Your Next Steps

Archives are a necessity helping us to manage the explosion of data that is typical of today’s information-rich environment.

When properly implemented, cloud-based archival storage can provide a great boon for efficiency. As such, it pays to get it right. Always seek the best advice and ensure it gets done correctly from the get-go.

Know your reasons for migration. Know what data needs to be moved, and how best to move it. Identify any limitations in your infrastructure, and what your compliance requirements are.

Knowing where you’re coming from will make it that much easier to see where you are going with your migration.

Any questions? Plow Networks can answer them.

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About Plow

Headquartered in Brentwood, Tennessee, Plow Networks is a Total Service Provider (TSP) with several distinct business practices that, when consumed together, offer our clients a unique, best-in-class experience. We give organizations peace of mind, valuable time back and the economies of scale that come with having one technology partner that is focused on exceeding their expectations with every engagement.

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