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Learn How To Migrate Over To Office 365 With Ease

Office 365 supports a various categories of migration methods that customers can use. The option of migration method can be influenced by a broad range of factors like the number of objects involved in the migration, the quantitative amount of data to be moved to Office 365, the version of Exchange Server (if any) executing on-premises, long-term migration or coexistence needs, whether the organization uses non-Exchange email servers, and the budget present to spend on the migration project.

The migration strategies that are available in Office 360:

  • Cutover migration
  • Hybrid configuration
  • Staged migration
  • Third party migration tools
  • IMAP migration

The most suited place to start is with the business requirements of the migration project. The business requirements must include factors such as the requirements to complete the migration by a specific date, whether a back-out option for the migration requirements to be included, or whether few email resources will remain on-premises.

As you will observe when you read through this content, each migration strategy has different benefits and constraints, and they might not all suit the business requirements of the project.

The next items to examine are the technical requirements, as they will frequently quickly eliminate some of the migration methods and permits the organization to zero in on the approaches which are possible for them to use in reality.

The diagram given below presents a solid example of the decision making process you are allowed to work through depending on your technical requirements to understand the available migration methods for your scenario.

The decision making process commences by asking whether the on-premises environment executes Exchange Server 2003 or 2007.

For such environments the next decision point is whether there exist more than 2000 mailboxes. Organizations with fewer than 2000 mailboxes are backed upon and supported for cutover, staged and hybrid migrations, whereas more than 2000 mailboxes are only backed up for staged or hybrid migrations.

Real World: Though 2000 mailboxes is the threshold mentioned by Microsoft in terms of support for cutover migrations, that does not implies that organizations with up to 2000 mailboxes must only consider a cutover migration. The logistics included in handling an outage for a huge number of users, as well as the desk-side support required to assist with re-configuring Outlook profiles and mobile devices after the cutover, might simply make a cutover migration too risky and complicated for the organization.

The fact is many experienced Office 365 consultants consider the practical restrictions and limits for both the cutover and staged migration methods going to be more like 150 mailboxes. Organizations larger than 150 mailboxes must give strong consideration to use a hybrid migration rather than a cutover or staged migration.

The 2000 mailbox limit doesn’t mean that organizations with less than 2000 mailboxes must automatically opt a cutover migration. For instance, if the organization need to migrate their users in smaller batches rather than one big batch then a cutover migration might not be suitable.

When cutover is either not desirable or not possible for an Exchange Server 2003/2007 organization the remaining options are staged and hybrid migrations.
In context to Exchange Server 2003 environment a migration to Exchange Server 2010 needs to be finished first. In concern to an Exchange Server 2007 environment at least one Exchange Server 2010 or 2013 server must be setup and installed in the enterprise to provide the hybrid functionality. Both options need directory synchronization to be deployed. Without directory synchronization, your migration choices are limited to third party tools.

An organization running over Exchange 2007 or higher can decide to take advantage of the free “Hybrid Edition” license available from Microsoft. This permits an Exchange Server 2013 or Exchange Server 2010 SP3 server to be implemented in the organization for hosting a hybrid connection with Office 365.
The Hybrid Edition license might not be used for a server that hosts mailboxes, however, the server can be used during the migration to Office 365 and retained afterwards for controlling and managing the Exchange attributes related to the on-premises Active Directory objects, and might also be used as an SMTP relay server for applications or devices on the corporate network.

In case the implementation of a Hybrid Edition server is not feasible, for example because of server capacity constraints, then a staged migration is the way forward.

The staged migration strategy is not available for organizations that run Exchange Server 2010 or 2013. The same 2000 mailbox support restriction and limit exists for cutover migrations, so smaller Exchange Server 2010/2013 environments might still select to perform a cutover migration. But, as we’ve already discussed, huge cutover migration projects might be logistically quite difficult to deploy.

The Exchange Server 2010 and 2013 are both capable of hybrid configuration with Office 365 you must give strong consideration to hybrid instead of staged or cutover.

Though this is the most complicated of all of the migration options, it also delivers the better user experience. Hybrid configurations permit the on-premises Exchange enterprise and Office 365 to perform function as though they are the same environment with seamless mail flow, a shared calendar and address book free/busy federation.

In reality, most users would not even be aware that they are working in a hybrid configuration with mailboxes implemented in both on-premises and Office 365. A hybrid configuration is also the only option that permits mailboxes to be off-boarded from Office 365 to Exchange on-premises without using third party migration tools.

Hybrid configurations depend on directory synchronization. In case for due to any reason the organization can’t implement directory synchronization then the options are limited to third party migration tools.

Lastly, businesses using non-Exchange email platforms cannot use the cutover, staged or hybrid options. For those businesses Microsoft offers an IMAP migration option for shifting mailboxes to Office 365, or alternatively a third party migration tool can be used.

As you will observe, the process of decision making needs careful attention even just for the technical requirements. Beyond that there are also other related factors like, whether the migration project is going to be handled in-house or by an external consultant, also, whether extra training is needed for IT staff to understand new functional features like hybrid configurations, and whether funding is present to pay for third party migration tools in case a native migration options can’t be used.

Note: Before you conclude your decision on which migration method to use it is strongly suggested that you read through the example migrations in this article from start to finish such that you can learn about any risks or timing issues which you need to be prepared for.

Do not begin a migration before you have read through the process from start to finish at least once. You must also consider creating a test environment and signing up for an isolated separate Office 365 trial tenant such that you can perform a hands-on test run of your chosen migration method.

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