Automate and simplify your Exchange migrationAugust 24, 2017
Exchange migrations happen for many reasons. Maybe there’s been some organizational change in your company, so you need to move users around. Often that can happen as part of a merger, acquisition, or divestiture. You might also want to move some or all or your messaging to the cloud. Perhaps you need to meet new data security or compliance requirements for your region. Or maybe you just need to upgrade to the latest Exchange version to take advantage of new features.
Whatever your scenario, there are three key phases to these types of Exchange migrations. Below, we walk you through best practices for each. Then we go through several options for how you can automate, including DIY versus software.
Phase 1: Plan
Automation doesn’t come automatically, so you’ll need to spend a bit of time up front figuring out the logistics. Many organizations don’t spend enough time on the planning phase, which is why they often run into issues midstream. We often find with our clients that this step can easily take as much time (or more) as the migration itself. But if you put together a thorough plan, it helps speed your migration, keep you on cost and on schedule, and—most importantly—avoid disrupting your users.
In the planning phase, you should:
- Assess the ins and outs of your existing environment
- Decide what users and data you need to move vs. archive
- Choose the right migration solution, based on your requirements (more on this below)
Here, it’s important that you not bring over legacy “garbage” into your new environment. This could be anything from unused mailboxes or messages and attachments that are older than defined retention periods.
Phase 2: Coexist
This is an area in which automation can be extremely helpful. You will likely need your old and new messaging platforms to coexist for the weeks or months it takes you to migrate. If you don’t set up this coexistence correctly, it’s all too easy for basic email and calendar features to break. For example, regardless of their migration status, users should be able to:
- Send and receive email normally
- Look up others in a shared directory
- See free/busy availability on people’s calendars
- Schedule, update, reschedule, or cancel meetings
- Send and receive email from any applications with workflows that are tied to mail (like SharePoint or public folders)
The right automation solution can automate this coexistence and keep it running smoothly throughout your migration.
Phase 3: Migrate mailboxes
Now you’re ready to move on to the actual migration. As with other IT projects, it’s good to start migrations with a pilot. And then there’s an element of user communication and interaction that you can also automate.
Pilot with users. It’s usually a good idea to start with a pilot that involves a small number of users. This will help you find potential bottlenecks and other issues that you should fix before you start the full migration. This is also the time to test out your automation and make sure it’s working as expected.
Communicate with users. It’s important to remember that you’re migrating people, not just their data. Users will often have questions like:
- Can I change the date if I need to?
- Will my email still work during the migration?
- Will I be notified when you start and when you’re done?
- How do I get help if something goes wrong?
A strong migration solution can automate this communication for you. It can even deal with any rescheduling, so you don’t have to do this manually.
Move mailbox content. Mailboxes are relatively simple content repositories. So it’s pretty easy to move content from one repository to another. The challenge is to make sure the move is done accurately, efficiently, and with the highest fidelity for the content. This is an area in which automation is a huge help. It greatly speeds the process and reduces the chance for human error.
As you get a better picture of what you need to migrate, you can choose the most effective migration method. Each of the options comes with its own pros and cons:
Option 1: Do it yourself. This is where you write your own scripts to automate the migration. The pro here is that you can deeply customize your migration to your needs. But unless you’re a whiz at Exchange migrations, writing your own scripts can be a time-consuming option, with much trial and error. There’s a high chance that homegrown scripts can cause dreaded downtime and delays.
Option 2: Download a free script. There are often quite a few free scripts available on the Internet. Grabbing one of these can be tempting to save time and money and avoid recreating the wheel. But it’s unlikely that someone else’s script will be flexible enough to address all of the unique edge cases in your organization.
Option 3: Use a Microsoft tool. Migration tools provided by Microsoft can work well for smaller migrations with a limited scope. But it always comes back to the old adage: you get what you pay for. Free tools tend not to give you the flexibility and scale you need for larger enterprise migrations. Instead, Microsoft often relies on its network of partners to help out with more complex migrations.
Option 4: Lean on third-party software and services. This is often your best bet to automate your migration. In fact, many of our clients often come to us after having gone down the path of one or more of the options above. The benefit here is that you can partner with someone who’s an expert, who does Exchange migrations day in and day out. They’ve already done the automation and have put it through its paces with other companies before you. They’ve worked out the kinks and know what to watch out for to keep your migration on schedule and on budget.
Meet Exchange Pro
This is Binary Tree’s automated solution to migrate mailboxes and public folders to a new version of Exchange or even to Office 365. While you migrate, Exchange Pro also keeps your messaging platforms in sync, all without requiring downtime. And it’s flexible enough to handle even the most complex enterprise transformations.
With Exchange Pro, you can:
- Automatically migrate mailboxes and public folders to a new version of Exchange or to Office 365
- Migrate between any version of Exchange (2003 and onwards) or to Office 365
- Migrate public folders with one-way synchronization
- Automate user communication
- Let users reschedule the day and time of their migration
- Keep your messaging platforms in sync while you migrate
- Unify your address list so people can find each other as you migrate
- Keep your directories in sync as you migrate
- Show free/busy meeting availability during migration