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Email Archive Migration: What You Need to Know

20 Jan 2020 by Jason Jacobo

A long list of everything you need to know for email archive migration.

Email archive migration can be an arduous endeavor, and without the correct tools, knowledge, and preparation, it can be time-consuming, costly, and catastrophic.

Frequently, email archives are an afterthought in mailbox migrations, but it’s highly recommended to migrate them at the same time as live mailboxes. Doing so minimizes user impact and reduces the technical footprint within the organization.

If you’re moving your mailboxes and email archives to Office 365, you need to have strict processes in place to ensure success. In this guide, we’ll offer a few pearls of wisdom to make sure you aren’t caught out.

Starting your email archive migration

Before getting started with an Office 365 email archive migration, you need to know exactly what’s in your environment and how it’s functioning. One of the most vital practices in migrations is conducting an inventory and health assessment of all applications (and their dependencies) in the current environment and recording it for evaluation. Most issues impacting an environment will only be pronounced during a migration, and understanding those issues is important when setting expectations of what can be migrated and how quickly it can be done.

Once complete, a review of “what you have” is needed to determine what is in scope. Sure, active users are in scope for migration, and maybe even the Journaled data…. but what about shared archives? Will you continue to preserve data from people who have left the organization? What about archives whose owner is ambiguous? Will you migrate that data too? Determining the scope of a project clearly, in the beginning, helps to set more accurate, holistic project expectations.

think carefully about your email archive migration

Migrations can be a messy business. Some number of failures are next to inevitable. Think about how issues will be triaged and how you can fix them: Who is needed to address mailbox issues? Account issues? Source issues? Network issues? Knowing what happened quickly and who needs to be engaged to resolve it is key to the success of any email migration.

After you have determined what you have, what you need, and what you will do when something goes wrong, you can then determine what “success” is for your project. Determining an acceptable failure rate, which can be drastically impacted by an unhealthy source, is important. Setting a goal of what is “acceptable” does not prohibit you from going beyond it… it just ensures you look closely as to why you may be far from it.

Migration projects have a huge “human” factor to them. Too frequently they are addressed as a technical issue only and struggle as a result. It’s important to educate your users on what you will be doing to the environment before starting anything – at the beginning, during, throughout, and at the completion of a migration project. Consistent, clear communication to those impacted minimizes help desk calls and helps to manage the user experience.

You can download our Data Migration Risk Assessment Template, allowing you to answer all relevant questions before embarking on your journey.

Enterprise Vault archive migration

If you’re migrating Enterprise Vault content, you don’t want to get ‘stubbed’ by existing shortcuts created by your users.

Stubs (or shortcuts) enable users to seamlessly access items which have been archived into Enterprise Vault. Here, the only recognizable differences between archived and live items, is that the icon has changed, and a momentary (mostly unrecognizable) delay occurs as they are opened. Comic picture of someone stubbing their toe in relation to email archives

When migrating data with associated shortcuts to Office 365, there are specific concerns that must be considered. For example, if migrating the data to the same location as the shortcut, a user will likely perceive a duplication of items, until shortcuts are deleted. This issue shows both a human and technical challenge. Some element of user education is required along with the ability to delete, convert, or transform shortcuts in a timely manner aligned with each user’s archive migration.

Ensure whatever approach or solutions being used during the project allows you to migrate both live and archive data, while maintaining the user experience to both. Ensure users and their data are treated individually while being processed en masse. Ensure you’re able to perform timely operations at the exact right time to ensure a smooth migration and happy end-user.

Quadrotech’s Enterprise Vault to Office 365 migration solution is designed to automate all the operations required surrounding a migration (like removing shortcuts from mailboxes) are executed in an automated workflows that can be customized and executed in parallel; minimizing user confusion and automating “busy work” to ensure consistency, reduction of errors, and an overall improved migration experience.

Pssst… don’t forget your PST files

Although they aren’t technically considered archives, offline PST files (or OLM for Mac), are devious in the sense they can contain critical data, which isn’t monitored, controlled, secured or easily discoverable.

PST files originate from your users’ machines, and they can be found all over the network, on local computers, or removable media. In many cases, these files are automatically created in Microsoft Outlook and, as such, thousands can often be scattered across an organization’s environment. They’re essentially security or compliance landmines if not managed correctly.

A black and white image of bomb disposal robot investigating a PST landmine.

Offline files can exist without an obvious trace and sometimes contain highly sensitive information, which poses a huge risk to the parties involved if exposed. Vulnerable PST files are particularly detrimental for organizations and can lead to a high-profile data breach case, landing you with hefty compliance fines, especially in relation to Europe’s GDPR and Rule 37E in the US, as well as the soon-to-be-introduced California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).

It’s important that PST elimination becomes prioritized in your migration plan. The only way to manage this highly risky stage in your project is by identifying, migrating to Office 365 where appropriate, prohibiting the use of, and ultimately eliminating PST files from your entire environment. This is a complicated task that requires not only the right solutions to solve the technical challenges, but appropriate management to address the very critical “human” side of this issue.

Quadrotech’s PST migration tool can identify, process, and eliminate PST files in your environment saving you from the long and tedious process, all while maintaining your users access to their data.

Pack it up, pack it in

Once you know what you’re migrating, the question becomes who are you migrating? And how are they being migrated? You may want to consider prioritizing the migration of your C-suite members first, for example. You can learn more about the necessity of planning and scheduling based on location, seniority, and function in this blog post: Office 365 Migration Batches: How to group and wave users.

Due to technology advancements in Office 365, the line between live and archive mailboxes is now somewhat ambiguous. If you’re stripping down your data prior to your migration, which we highly recommend, using archiving might not become a necessity in your Office 365 environment. You might even decide that all the data from your mailboxes and legacy archives can sit in one mailbox per user. Microsoft now offers a new E5 plan; with this you get 100GB of data for your mailbox and custom email domain address, which is more than enough for most to store both historically archived and live mail.

With regards to meeting with the GDPR legislation, it doesn’t matter whether you store your data in the live or archive mailboxes. Provided it’s stored somewhere and accounted for, you’ll be fine. For users, the only noticeable difference is that when they’re offline, the live mailbox gets cached while the archive mailbox is an online-only resource.

Since 2011, we’ve helped hundreds of organizations move petabytes of data to the cloud, so if you need expert help with your email archive migration project, check out our fully managed ‘fixed cost, fixed outcome’ Office 365 migration services.

Jason has been at Quadrotech since 2014, moving from the Delivery team to Product Owner for Archive Shuttle. He has been in the industry for decades, in a variety of different roles. Jason would describe himself as an “exploratory tinkerer” and a technical veteran. The main thing that drew him to technology was a passion for solving problems wherever he sees them.