Picking Office 365 is the easy part -- now comes migration

Getting your email data into Office 365 can cause some heartburn, but there are many ways to minimize the pain

So you've decided to make the move to Office 365. Now you face big questions. How do you get your email data into Office 365? Do you even want to move all your email data into it? Just how do you ingest the data while ensuring the data remains unchanged from a compliance perspective? Have you analyzed where your data currently resides? Is it in Exchange or another email system? In a legacy archive? In PSTs?

It's quite possible you may not have all that data in one place. You may have email data in mailboxes and/or strewn about your network in PST files on users' desktops. There are third-party tools that can help you locate and ingest those PST files, and Microsoft has the free PST Capture tool to aid in migrating your email data.

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Before you jump into migration and worry about ingestion, perform a preliminary review of your messaging needs and generate a plan based on those needs. To help you do that, Microsoft has provided the MAP (Microsoft Assessment and Planning) toolkit for Microsoft Online Services. It's a powerful inventory, assessment, and reporting tool for making the move to Exchange Online.

Once you have a solid idea of where you are and where you're going, you can actually get there, and you can migrate to Office 365 in several ways.

If you have an Exchange environment on-premises, you can go the hybrid route and move mailboxes to the cloud at your own pace. But most folks want to make the move fast, and they have a tremendous amount of data to deal with. EWS (Exchange Web Services) is great for helping you bring in your legacy data, but it has a limit of 400GB a day. If you need to migrate 20TB, 50TB, even 100TB of email data, consider a product like Riverbed, which uses Steelhead appliances to deduplicate data and send it to be un-deduplicated on the back end.

What if you aren't moving data from Exchange but from a non-Exchange data format (EMLs, Google, NFS, Notes)? Or what about moving from a legacy archive system like Mimosa Nearpoint to Office 365? How do you make a move like that while retaining compliance -- especially if your existing system uses journaling? There's no shortage of scenarios for a migration and thus a need for a variety of ingestion scenarios to help you make the move. Fortunately, plenty of tools are available, so you'll likely find one that fits the bill.

For example, Archive360 can migrate Mimosa NearPoint to Exchange and Office 365. And Nuix has a solid migration engine that can perform the migration faster than out-of-the-box EWS.

Another option is to migrate that data from the existing location (PSTs, Exchange, legacy archive, whatever) to a modern, enterprise-grade archive system that ties nicely into the Office 365 infrastructure, though this may require a combination of products. I've seen Nuix ingest data from GroupWise into Mimecast's archive tool as part of an Office 365 migration strategy where the mailboxes are set up on Office 365, but the data resides with Mimecast.

This approach provides users access to their data from their new mailboxes through a separate cloud-based archive. The rationale is that some companies are nervous about giving all their data to Microsoft. Instead, they want to put it in the hands of a trusted third party and use Office 365 as the service for email, not as the service for data retention.

Signing up for Office 365 is easy. Making the transition to it requires a bit more thought and effort. As you can see, there's no single approach, but with all the options available, you can find the method that'll do the trick for you.

This story, "Picking Office 365 is the easy part -- now comes migration," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of J. Peter Bruzzese's Enterprise Windows blog and follow the latest developments in Windows at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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