In this series on migrating to Office 365, we first covered the reasons to migrate to Office 365 and how you can make your project a success. This was followed by a post exploring the common mistakes made during Office 365 migration. Our third post looked at technical considerations you should be aware of before you start the process.

After this, we discussed managing data volume, and most recently, interdependencies and data elimination. This leads us on perfectly to part six in this series, where we’re exploring how third party products can support the migration process, and the various benefits delivered. In addition, we will take a look at how to evaluate which third party supplier is most suitable for your email migration to Office 365.

Why consider third parties?

As you’ll have noticed throughout this series, email migration to Office 365 involves a lot of moving parts – all of which need to continue moving throughout the duration of the process. Taking the manual approach to migration, without any support from tools or solutions that can help align these ‘moving parts’ and keep them in motion, is a significant undertaking.

If you need to optimise speed, and ensure business continuity, there’s simply not enough room for error. Some of the most notable issues within migrations come as a result of migrating rapidly without planning, and as Microsoft MVP Brien Posey mentions, whilst easier than it once was “the migration process is still tedious and requires a lot of advanced planning”.

Migrating without planning is clearly not an ideal situation, and the use of toolsets and specialist consultants are available to assist. The right tools and consultants can:

  • Speed up planning, testing and execution
  • Transfer useful knowledge to better maintain and manage your new environment
  • Enable in-house staff to continue focusing on their day-to-day business during the project

As a comparatively low-cost and low-risk way of ensuring all bases are covered, migration consultants are also able to help build your business case. Legacy systems can be costly to support, and there are often clear operational savings to be made using Office 365. An experienced consultant can help you calculate licensing costs for email and archive services, as well as any migration tools you may need. They can also make sure the benefits are fully realised, and that any risks of service interruption are anticipated and minimised.

Furthermore, consultants can ensure all stakeholders understand the timescales and any potential impact on normal operations. Depending on your migration requirements, they can also help you decide how much migration infrastructure you need to provision for the project – or alternatively, whether opting for a cloud-based or managed service would be a better option.

Email migration is not a new challenge. There are well-tried policies and conventions that can accelerate successful completions. What’s more, real-world experiences are constantly being fed back into toolsets by vendors to automate common tasks, and minimise the necessity for administrative intervention.

Third party tools

There is a bewildering array of third party migration tools available for Office 365, but often, each solution only addresses part of what’s needed. For example, one vendor may specialise in archive migrations and another in live mail. This means that many organisations need to have multiple solutions for the different areas of their project.

To cover the entire email ecosystem – including PSTs and public folders – you or your consultant may need to select and coordinate several different suppliers (with different contracts, service level agreements and requirements) during the project’s lifespan. By trying to minimise the number of vendors you use (whilst avoiding any compromise on service quality or suitability) you can reduce the hassle of coordinating different solutions, projects, and processes. Not only that, you also have less people involved in the migration, which is bound to make the transition smoother, and more cohesive.

Evaluating potential Office 365 email migration tools

If you’ve got to the final stages of reviewing potential third-party suppliers, there are several pertinent questions that need to be asked:

  • What source environments are supported? Are there any special features optimised for key platforms?
  • Are duplicates readily identified and stripped out to reduce data size?
  • How effectively are user accounts reconciled against actual mailboxes?
  • How are leavers/terminated accounts and other exceptions handled (including those that happen during migration)?
  • How clear and transparent are the alerts requiring manual administrator intervention?
  • Can PSTs be identified, retrieved and deleted from all sources – including USB drives?
  • How efficiently are data payloads prepared for transmission?
  • What is the typical ‘Time To First Item’ migrated? (TTFI is the speed at which you’re able to get from project start to actual item migration)
  • Does the vendor’s ingestion protocol offer any speed advantages over comparable formats?
  • What infrastructure is needed for data processing and conversion?
  • Is the solution available on premises, as a cloud service and/or as a managed turnkey service?
  • Is the solution independently certified for eDiscovery and data integrity?
  • Are live mail, public folder, PST and archive tools part of a common framework with combined licensing and pricing?
  • Does the vendor manage support in-house? If so, how good is their first response time?
  • How long has the vendor been involved with email migration? What track record and references do they have? What relationships and accreditations do they have with the main email and archiving vendors?
  • How are you going to measure the migration? Are there ways to monitor progress, and (at a later stage) usage, as your end-users begin to adopt the new services and systems?

All of these factors are extremely important at the decision-making stage, and taking your time to consider what’s best for your organisation and its configuration will help to avoid any unpleasant surprises mid-migration.

In our next post, we’ll be discussing the actual process of running an Office 365 email migration project, but if you have questions before then, why not leave a comment?

Cogmotive is the leading global provider of enterprise level reporting and analytics applications for Office 365. Find out more now.

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