10 Tips to Smooth Exchange to Office 365 Migration

Aftab Alam
Aftab Alam | Updated On - 05 Nov 2020 |

Read time 6 min

With the advent of cloud computing, each business organization wants to encash the benefits of moving their onsite resources to Office 365. It is a cloud platform from Microsoft which provides an enterprise-level emailing system at an optimal price. There are multiple reasons which attract you to office 365.

  1. It is an online service so that you can access the data on any mobile device like a smartphone and laptops.
  2. As it is a Microsoft product, you can work with applications like MS Outlook, OneNote, Publisher, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. All these applications are integrated to Office 365 in their full capacity and features.
  3. It lets you store a significant amount of data. If the size of the entire data reaches more than the available space, then you can get additional storage space.
  4. As your data is residing at the Microsoft Datacenters, you can relax about the safety and security of the data. The data centers have advanced systems which check for virus attacks, data integrity, malicious software, etc. for 24 hours, 7 days a week.
  5. In Office 365, you do not need to pay for any updated and the latest version of each software. You will get the newest feature with each upgrade without the need to install or uninstall the software.
Some important points to remember before Office 365 migration

Although the benefits of Office 365 are a lot, if you ask any of your Exchange Administrators who have earlier migrated Exchange mailboxes to Office 365, he would tell you that it is not an easy job. You must prepare a lot and test several scenarios before actually going for the migration.

Here are some points which will help you to evaluate the pros and cons of Exchange to Office 365 migration –

  1. Choose the most suitable migration method

    Selecting the most appropriate migration method is the first and foremost job of each Exchange Administrator. There are multiple Exchange migration methods to migrate mailboxes to Office 365. You need to find a method depending on the Exchange Server version and the number of mailboxes. Here is a list of various migration methods –

    • Cutover migration
      It is the easiest migration method for the on-premises Exchange server (2003, 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016). It is also called the Express migration because all the mailboxes are supposed to migrate at once. But the number of mailboxes you want to migrate should be lesser than 2,000.
    • Staged migration
      You can prefer this kind of migration, when you are using an older version of Exchange Server (2007, 2003). Also, the number of mailboxes should be more than 2,000.
    • Hybrid migration
      Hybrid migration is suitable when you want to maintain both on-premises Exchange Server and Exchange Online. You can go for hybrid migration in the following situations–

      • You are using Exchange Server 2013.
      • You are using Exchange Server 2010 and want to migrate mailboxes in multiple batches.
      • You are using Exchange Server 2010 which has up to 150-2,000 mailboxes.
    • Time management

      As you want to instantly migrate the mailbox, and start using them on Office 365, you should correctly estimate the required time for migration. If you do not migrate the data in multiple batches, then it may take an unreasonable time to complete the migration. So, it is wise if you create multiple batches and divide the data for better migration.

    • Plan your Exchange infrastructure

      Before starting the migration, you should make sure that your current Exchange Server environment meets all the necessary pre-requisites and Exchange is in good health. And, you should have an Office 365 plan that fits your current requirements. Also, you should have all the technical requirements to start and complete the Office 365 migration in time.

    • Run several pilot migrations

      Before running the actual migration, you should run some demo migrations. Try to migrate a small set of mailboxes. If these demo migration works, then you can try to run larger batches.

    • Be prepared for downtime

      Migration may impact the availability of the Exchange Server, and you should know and adjust to it. For example, while you run a migration in Exchange Server 2003, then the mailboxes will become unavailable. So, be ready to face such changes.

    • Check the version of Exchange Server

      The version of Exchange Server has an impact on the migration process. If you have Exchange Server 2007 and 2010, then you will have to make several changes in the environment. The method of the migration essentially depends on the version of Exchange Server.

    • Test your Outlook clients

      Older versions of Outlook like Outlook 2007 and 2003 are not compatible with Office 365. So, if you are not planning to use Outlook web application, you should have a later version of Outlook application for your end users.

    • Perform health checks

      Before starting the migration, you should prepare your Exchange server environment. There is a tool in Office 365 named Health, Readiness and Connectivity checks tool. It will check how much the environment is ready to migrate mailboxes from the Exchange server.

    • Have patience with migration

      Every kind of migration takes time to complete, and you need to have patience. Each migration type (like staged migration and hybrid migration) has its own challenges, requirements, and changes in settings. So, be patient with the whole migration process.

    • Don’t hesitate to rely on an Office 365 migration tool

      There are several inbuilt features in Exchange Server and Office 365 which can make the migration process easier. Some guides like Exchange Deployment Assistant also can be useful in the migration process. But many third-party tools make the migration process completely automated. You can easily migrate either Offline EDB files or Live Exchange Server to Office 365. So, don’t hesitate to try them.

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Appendix: Some common questions faced by administrators before Office 365 migration

Here are some migration-related questions that every Exchange Administrator faces while planning the migration.

Q- During the migration, how many mailboxes and public folders you want to migrate to Office 365?

A- The number of mailboxes decides the migration method. The distribution list and public folder come secondary, but they also weigh up the size of the data. Depending on the volume of data and the number of mailboxes, you can decide the type of migration.
Small organizations want a quick migration, and they can prepare their data easily. Here, cutover migration is the suitable migration method where a lesser number of mailboxes are migrated.

Q- What kind of email platform are you using?

A- Office 365 supports all types of email platforms from which the migration can be committed. If you are migrating the content from any platform other than Exchange, then the hybrid migration will not apply to you.

Q- How difficult will it be to manage the migration?

A- It is easier to migrate the emails, contacts, calendars, and permissions. If the Exchange has multiple Active Directory environments from the earlier migrations or mergers, it is right first to run a test migration and then go for the large-scale one.

Q- How will the user choose the correct migration method when using SharePoint on-premises, Skype, or Microsoft teams?

A- All these applications are supported by different manual migration methods. When different platforms are involved in the migration, you need to adopt the migration method suitable for each platform. You can try professional solutions, as well.