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5 Stages to Consider for a tenant-to-tenant Office 365 migration

Sep 28, 2017 by Mike Weaver

You may have seen our announcement, but in case you missed it, here’s the article and a quick summary: Quadrotech is launching a tenant to tenant cloud migration product at Microsoft Ignite (September 25-29, 2017). This product will allow organizations to consolidate or split up Office 365 tenants.

From its inception as BPOS, Microsoft Office 365 has always had a strong focus on security. Office 365 was the first major step into pooled cloud computing for many organizations, and Microsoft made it a point to keep customer data separate. However, now that many organizations are using Office 365, when mergers, acquisitions, and divestures come into play, this strict separation can pose a problem for companies using Office 365.

Because this problem affects only a small portion of Office 365 clients at this time, and the focus remains on segregating client data from other clients, there are not many options for firms looking to undertake a tenant to tenant migration. However, those that do need to perform a tenant to tenant migration should ensure they are prepared, and have the skills, and tools available to successfully complete their project.

In the simplest terms, a migration project can be defined in the following stages:

  1. Project Initiation
  2. Pre-Migration Analysis
  3. Initial Coexistence
  4. Migration/Full Coexistence
  5. Post-Migration Analysis, Clean-up, and Management

Project Initiation

Mergers, Acquisitions, and Divestures have always been a major challenge for IT departments. There’s a lot that goes into a M&A&D project, including:

  • Monitoring Solutions
  • Customer Management Systems
  • Employee Resource Planning Systems
  • E-Discovery Systems

The tenant to tenant project should accompany the traditional Application Inventory, matching, and mapping process.

Pre-Office 365 Migration Analysis

Like most projects, we cannot stress the importance of the pre-migration analysis and planning. Regardless of the system being migrated, every organization should take efforts to engage their users and reduce the work involved. These steps should be done by both the acquired, and acquiring, company before migration planning occurs:

  • Identify dormant data repositories and purge those not under legal/compliance hold
  • Identify dormant applications and remove them
  • Identify dormant NT groups, Shared Accounts, Application/Service Accounts
  • Remove applications no longer needed on devices
  • Perform a full access control audit and remove all users from groups / repositories / mailboxes / applications that are no longer needed – reduces the “web”

Once these steps have been completed, a proper analysis can start to determine everything in scope, and make proper migration batch decisions that will minimize business impact. This prep work may seem basic, but it can have a significant impact when it comes to planning.

You will find that in some cases, users will have access to systems they no longer use. In other cases, these are “mandatory” systems and dictate their migration group. As a result, the user might be placed in the wrong migration group, or force the organization to take on excessive risk, or increased business impact, with larger migration groups. In addition, the migration process for tenant to tenant migrations is inherently slow. These factors, combined with large data limits, can slow down migrations unnecessarily when working with large batches. It is best practice to purge any data that is no longer needed to speed discovery efforts.

Initial Coexistence

Many organizations focus on the actual migration of users, but don’t spend sufficient time considering the coexistence and post-migration phases. Let’s look at a Merger/Acquisition example – for the organization to come together, users will be collaborating from both tenants. Although the goal will be to prioritize departments based on their business integration schedule, this is not always possible, or the reality. As a result, proper planning should be done to ensure that employees can collaborate effectively across both tenants.

One seemingly minor (but often major) example of this impact, is calendar sharing & free/busy information. This drives how teams and employees work with each other in the early stages of integration. In this example, we need users in both tenants to be able to see each other’s information so they can work together seamlessly. When the user from the acquired company is migrated, everything needs to work post-migration, and users on both the acquired and acquiring tenant need to be able to access this migrated user’s information. This coexistence needs to be planned for all workloads and applications.

Office 365 Tenant to Tenant Migration

You’ll have to ensure that the migration is completed for all workloads that are in use, like Active Directory/Users, Exchange, Skype for Business, and/or SharePoint/SharePoint Online. Since Office 365 tenant to tenant migrations can be complicated, it’s usually best to implement specialized tools for the job. Quadrotech offers an entire reporting suite for Office 365 tenants. In one console, you can monitor multiple tenants, which is especially helpful for tenant to tenant planning. A tool like this can help during the analysis stage, to further guide the migration. Quadrotech Cloud Commander can help you complete your tenant to tenant migration.

Post-Office 365 Migration Analysis

In the post migration stage, the organization should make plans to spin down the old infrastructure. However, it is likely that the old directory will need to remain operational until all applications are moved. Depending on when applications, software, or services are moved, some users from the acquiring company may need accounts in these environments as teams merge. This “fall back” scenario is often ignored, but it’s extremely important, and should be planned for. A simple way to counter this is by completing an application mapping exercise, and determining which applications are coming over from the acquired company, and when. The management of the source/old directory could be subject to applicable system audits, and will likely need ongoing maintenance to keep it accurate, and up to date.

Like most IT projects, if your organization goes through the appropriate preparations and planning, your tenant to tenant migration project will likely complete with fewer issues. If you’re looking for Office 365 tenant to tenant migration help, please reach out with your project requirements.