Preparing for your email archive migration

A Best Practices Guide

Email archiving solutions are a mainstay of the enterprise environment, particularly those that are in regulated industries or subject to ongoing eDiscovery requirements.

These environments have been subject to the same changes that have rippled through other facets of the online business world. In particular, the maturation of cloud-based archival and messaging platforms has seen organizations move to take advantage of their enhanced capabilities.

Email archive migrations are complex undertakings and there are numerous risks associated with poorly planned migrations. For instance, manual migrations are often hampered by the native tools of legacy archive platforms with out-dated APIs, making extraction slow and difficult.

Some common causes of data migration failure that can be avoided with a little forward planning include:

  • The appearance of unanticipated or unknown data formats
  • Insufficient or absent documentation for legacy systems
  • Corruption of legacy data
  • Breaking of chain-of-custody
  • Legacy data that does not mesh well with the new platform
  • Dramatic underestimation of migration time and cost

What Should I Plan For When Migrating?

Simply put, an email archive migration is the process of copying the content of an existing email archive platform to a new target platform.

Know where you're coming from and where you're going

It’s crucial to have an in-depth understanding of your legacy archive environment. How far does the archive go back? What types of data did it capture (i.e. emails, calendar appointments, attachments etc.)? What types of metadata did it capture? How much of this data do you need to transfer?

This information will provide insight into what data you will be migrating and whether your archive infrastructure will be able to accommodate the extraction process. Understand also your target environment. Will it be cloud, or on-premises? What types of data formats will it accept and what is its maximum rate of ingestion?

Assessing the particulars

Conducting an adequate pre-project assessment isn’t just a good idea, it’s a must if you want to effect a successful migration. It should provide you with a detailed picture of how much data exists in your archive, whether there is data – junk, perhaps – that can be discarded rather than migrated, and whether there are PSTs to include.

Crucially, a pre-project assessment will provide insight into any legal and compliance risks that may present including whether chain-of- custody needs to be maintained (see box-out). Other questions it should resolve is the overall approach – i.e, manual or automated migration, project costs and timeframes

Choosing your migration pathway

There are a number of different options when considering an archive migration, each with their own strengths and weaknesses

Parallel Systems and No Migration:

A parallel process that keeps both old and new systems running concurrently allowing the old archived data to be expired over time and not migrated.

Benefits: the new archive is available as soon as possible at minimum expense and the legacy archive is accessible and can be quickly reverted to in the event of problems.

Downsides: End-users have two systems to search for content, existing shortcuts will not always work, and ongoing support and maintenance costs with maintaining the legacy system.

Selective Migration:

Also known as a partial migration. A smaller group or subset of data is migrated rather than the entire archive.

Benefits: The ability to minimize the volume of data being migrated, reducing costs and enabling end users to access their data from a single location.

Downsides: To access ALL the data, two locations will still need to be referenced.

Full Migration:

All legacy data is migrated using a phased approach and the old system is decommissioned following verification of the migration.

Benefits: Old platform can be decommissioned and all data is located in a single place.

Downsides: Change for the organization, upfront costs.

Plan the work, work the plan

Once there is a basic understanding of the task ahead, it’s time to formulate an overview of what should happen, when, and who is responsible for its implementation. It should also feature a realistic breakdown of the estimated resources needed and a clear statement of purpose around why the migration is being undertaken.

Solicit advice from your compliance department and integrate their recommendations into your plan. Additionally, ensure that you communicate that plan to all parties likely to be affected to ensure everyone has a clear picture of what to expect, when to expect it and who to contact should the unexpected occur.

Cover your bases with a recovery plan

Finally, have a robust contingency plan, should a problem emerge that cannot be readily addressed. Not having an option to roll-back to a reliable ‘known state’ could prove costly and incredibly disruptive for your end-users.

Knowing Your Next Step

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 Networks

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.


Plow Networks
(615) 224-8735

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