Organizations that host Microsoft Exchange on-premises are now seeing the value of migrating their services to the cloud, but they may not know where to start. Listed below are three important steps when developing the best migration strategy for you and your business.
The first step in developing the best strategy for you is to understand what cloud migration is and how it can benefit your business. Cloud migration is the process of moving a company’s digital assets—its operating systems, services, databases, IT resources, email servers, applications, etc.—to a cloud computing environment. Some companies move all their digital assets to the cloud, while some move only a portion of their assets. Every cloud migration is different, though, and finding the right way to move your digital services to the cloud is the key in helping your company achieve a smooth transition.
The benefits of cloud migration are many, and include a reduction in costs, faster time to delivery, increased security, more freedom to collaborate, and enhanced opportunities for innovation. The cloud also provides agility and flexibility, both of which help meet ever-changing consumer and market demands.
The second step in your plan before you migrate is to perform an honest assessment of your current on-premises environment. Is it in a healthy enough state to migrate over? If your current environment is in disrepair—shoddy remote access, error messages, unreliable access times, or database corruption—it’s likely these troubles will follow you over when you migrate to your new online environment. Take the time to get your current environment healthy enough to migrate. It’ll help in the long run.
If you need help in this department, Microsoft offers a free tool called the “Exchange Deployment Assistant”, which is a web-based tool that asks you a few questions about your current environment and then generates a custom step-by-step checklist that will either help you deploy Exchange to your existing on-premises organization, update Exchange (install cumulative updates), or migrate Exchange to Office 365.
The third and final step in this process is to choose the migration method that best suits your needs. If a full-scale migration intimidates you, it might be comforting to know that plenty of companies use a hybrid environment to migrate mailboxes from Exchange on-premises to Microsoft 365. The migration method you choose, however, will most likely be dictated by your business needs—your source systems, the number of mailboxes and public folders you have, your administration processes, and the other quirky customizations and ad hoc portals that might define you as a business.
The most flexible method is to create a hybrid environment by extending your on-premises organization into the cloud by creating a Microsoft 365 tenant and connecting it to your on-premises environment. A Microsoft advisor will likely offer you three types of hybrid environments; full hybrid migrations, minimal hybrid migrations, and express hybrid migrations, all of which have similar strategies and features, such as synchronized usernames and passwords, static profiles, and mail that flows between all users, regardless of environment.
If you’re feeling confident about the current state of your environment, you can also jump right in and migrate all your mailboxes at once. This is often called a “cutover” migration, and you’ll probably want to choose this route if your on-premises email system is Exchange Server 2003 or later, or if you have fewer than 150 mailboxes to migrate, or if you just want to get it over with and complete this migration as fast as possible. You can also migrate in batches, especially if you have more than 2,000 mailboxes, and/or your on-premises email system is Exchange 2003 and newer.
There are a number of third-party companies available to help you migrate, too—some highly automated, some less so. BitTitan and Quest, for example, are known for assisting with migrations from on-premises Exchange to Office 365, and they offer many tools that provide help with tasks such as scheduling, forecasting, user communications, tracking, reporting, and much more.
Remember, every migration is different, and there will be a lot of hard work ahead of you and your employees, but if you follow these three preliminary steps before you tackle your migration, you’ll be on the right track for a successful leap to the cloud.