Easy Way for Large Scale Email Migration to Office 365

Email Migration To Office 365

Attempting your email migration to Office 365? How do you carry out your large scale email migration to office 365 as simply as possible and without complex connectivity, minimum IT costs and the least disruption to end users?

This article outlines the steps required and some of the methods available to achieve your mailbox migration goals.

With the prolific take up of internet hosted services, hosted email was one of the first services to successfully switch to the cloud. With it’s low cost and high reliability, why payout considerable amounts for an on premise solution when in most cases you can make it someone else’s headache and the economies of scale moving your email to a large provider just make sense for many organisations. At the top of the tree for hosted email services now sits Office 365.

Office 365 can host your organisations email services but that’s not all, once you have your email there many have gone on to move other services like documentation, files  and collaboration websites.

But how do you get from your current email systems on to Office 365. You may have your current email on an in-house (on premise) email system or you may have been an early cloud adopter and already have your email on a cloud hosted system, but with another organisation other than Office 365.

When you start looking for ways to migrate large volumes of mailboxes across to office 365 you will soon realise the options to do this are many.

So, how do you carry out your mailbox migration to office 365?

As you are migrating to Microsoft Office 365 the best place to start looking for assistance with your migrations is Microsoft published articles so a quick search on google will bring up all you need to know. The articles are not for the faint hearted and will expect you to have a reasonable amount of technical ability so this is where your IT staff takeover if you have them.

One of the first question you need to ask yourself: How many mailboxes do I need to move and over what timescale?  This is a very important question as it has a big impact on how you carry out your office 365 migration.

You will see many articles talking about Cutover migration which basically means that you are moving all of your mailboxes in one go from the source system to the destination. Ok, that sounds a nice simple way of doing things, so we will warn our users and move everything across to the new system over the weekend and be back and running on Monday morning. 

Many articles say that’s fine to do up to 2000 users over a weekend but having done this many times, a practical amount is more like a 150 at most, in fact once you allow for corrupted mailboxes awkward end users, viruses and huge email attachments this could be as low as 25. This is of course making the assumption that you can afford to have all of your email offline over a weekend.

So what are the options if you have large volumes of email or users to move and realistically, you’re not going to be able to do this is over a weekend.

This is where Microsoft’s suggestion of a Staged or Hybrid Migration becomes a viable solution.

A Staged Migration is used if you’re planning to migrate from your source email system to Office 365 with the intention of shutting down your old system but with so many mailboxes to move it needs to be completed over a period of time. While you move the mailboxes across, communication including the routing of emails needs to be temporarily established between the two email systems to allow both systems to work together.

While a hybrid migration can also be used to provide temporary connectivity between your existing Exchange system and Office 365, it is mainly used to maintain connectivity between the two systems to allow them to permanently work together allowing more working flexibility and control. A hybrid migration allows both mail system to join as one and allows the move of mailboxes between your Exchange email system and Office 365.

With these solutions, there is a lot less rushing around involved as the migration can take place over days, weeks or months if required but this does mean a lot more consideration and planning. 

During the migration, email will need to pass freely between the source and destination email systems reaching the users mailbox no matter where they are. Once your technical staff have the connectivity up and running you can start migrating groups of users and after a few migrations you will get a good idea of how many you can comfortably move in a day and therefore how long your migration is likely to take.

Does this all sound like a great deal of effort to get you email migrated over to Office 365? Whilst Microsoft give you the tools to do this all for free, what it does cost is the technical expertise to carry it out and sufficient administrator access to the systems to configure the connectivity.

Third party Exchange Web Service Solutions like ours work very differently and requires a lot less effort, therefore far less technical staff cost.

You don’t need to link your new and old systems together to get it to work meaning far less technical knowledge to get things moving.

If you’re currently using a Microsoft Exchange email system in-house or from the cloud you can move all of your mailbox content to your new Office 365 account without the need to re-configure anything until the day your move.

Exchange Web Service tools use the web interface provided as standard with both Microsoft Exchange Server and Office 365. This means before changing anything you can migrate all of your user’s mailbox content in one go or over a period of time (pre-staged) while still using your current system.

Exchange Web Service based solutions work in the background and copy all of your mailbox content over the internet to your new office 365 account.  You can ask your users to log in to office 365 and check that everything is there before you go live.

Your incoming email is then pointed to your new Office 365 account (called an MX and SPF record change to your internet domain details). Your email devices are pointed to your new Office 365 (called an Autodiscover record change to your internet domain details) and then one last update (pass) on your third party tool is carried out to catch anything that managed to get delivered to your old system during the switchover. These record changes are required if you use a third party tool or Microsoft’s.

Whilst you have the choice of using Microsoft’s or a third party office 365 migration tool in many cases, what happens if you don’t have the level of access required to link your old and new email systems together? If the only access you have is to the mailboxes themselves then connecting your systems together just won’t work. Web access is all Exchange Web Service based solutions need so it doesn’t prevent access for an office 365 migration.  

Now it’s time to make the decision on which office 365 email migration tool is the right solution for you.

Happy migrating!

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