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Email Archive Migration: Summing Up the Shortcut Situation

19 Jun 2020 by Jason Jacobo

An IT Pro managing an email archive migration, wondering how to manage shortcuts or stubs.

To an email archiving solution, like Enterprise Vault, ‘shortcuts’ (often called ‘stubs’) are one of the most valued components of the solution. They permit seamless integration with a user’s mailbox and their archived content. They act as placeholders for the original item. They are highly visible and without them, the usability of archived user data drops dramatically.

Conversely, to an email archive migration, shortcuts are often an afterthought, sandwiched among a list of concerns relating to the movement of this critical data, and frequently summed up by the most educated of migration customers as, “What about my shortcuts?”.

The response from most vendors will be a casual, “Yeah, we will take care of those,” and the conversation quickly moves to the next concern, often without any further mention through the remainder of the project.

One of the first lessons I learned while working at Quadrotech, is the importance of considering not just the technical aspects but also the ’human’ side of email migration. Highly visible issues can overwhelm a helpdesk, unsettle confidence in a project, or even result in project cancelation.

There is much more depth to the shortcut situation of a migration than is given credit. Commonly, this fact is undesirably discovered by end-users, far later than anyone wished, and within the production migration.

Planning

I have seen all sorts of methods for addressing shortcuts over the years. Determining ‘if’ your migration will ’handle your shortcuts‘ is frequently not enough to prevent these issues. It is important to understand how they will be addressed, which shortcuts are addressed, and when they will be addressed within the migration.

A good indication of how well a vendor understands the ‘human’ element of a migration can be seen in how integrated shortcut processing is in the actual migration of the archived email. Some tools never considered the need to process shortcuts within their product and later ‘baked in’ an additional application into their installation media to address the concern.

Others still rely on consultants to execute scripts as a ‘solution’ to shortcuts processing. Both approaches typically run on a schedule executed at a defined interval, commonly daily or longer. Leaving shortcuts in a mailbox after a migration has completed can result in a surge of helpdesk calls with claims of data duplication in user mailboxes. Some solutions can address shortcuts at the point of migration. This is the most ‘expensive’ approach and can result in much longer migration times.

Perhaps the best balance of these approaches is to be able to address all the shortcut concerns as part of a workflow for each migration following the completion of their migrated data. This provides continuity of user experience throughout the migration process, minimizes opportunity for users to discover ’data duplication‘, and provides the quickest cumulative migration and shortcut processing time possible.

Take No Shortcuts With Your Shortcuts

Next (and arguably most neglected), it’s important to understand what ‘shortcut situations’ are anticipated to be addressed. Most people assume a shortcut utopia where there is a matched pair of shortcut to item for every item within the archive, and addressing them is a single simple action.

However, shortcuts can be in several states or conditions that are not addressed by all migration vendors. Is the migration expected to act only against shortcuts that belong to migrated data, or perhaps all data? What about shortcuts belonging to data not migrated? How will it handle shortcuts from multiple archives in a user or shared mailbox? Will it address the shortcut my user copied to three of their folders? Will it convert them from one archiving solution to another, revert them from a pending state, or perhaps re-hydrate them into the current location?

Many migration solutions will have a very narrow scope of what shortcut conditions will be addressed, but it’s crucial to be mindful of any conditions that could derail your project, and mitigate against these in the planning stage.

Does this mean shortcuts need to take center stage of your concerns and are a huge hurdle to success? No. Great migration providers should make this complex and visible situation feel like it’s no big deal.

One of those life lessons I learned is everything is easier when you use the right tools.

If you have an upcoming email archive migration project, such as Enterprise Vault to Office 365, the combination of Quadrotech’s software and managed operations team can help you get there. Please contact us today to discuss your requirements.