21 May 2019 by Steve Goodman
How to Migrate Exchange to Office 365: Step by Step – Part 2
How to set up Exchange Hybrid and migrate mailboxes.
This guide is also available as a downloadable PDF.
In this article, we’ll discuss how to import PST files to Office 365, but to begin, let’s reflect on the history of the humble PST.
An Outlook Data File (.pst) contains messages and other Outlook items, like tasks, calendar details, and so on. Originally called a personal storage table to differentiate itself with the tables in the server-based Exchange online database, the PST is now often referred to as a personal storage file or personal folders, which is a local repository saved on the client itself.
In these days of regulation and compliance, it seems unthinkable that a mailbox format could become so widely used without central management, backup and control. Anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of their personal computer’s file structure can copy, duplicate, move and create additional PSTs at will. Also, reliable network connections and fast speeds mean today’s users expect “always on” connectivity across all devices; with the exception of the synchronized cache there is no need to store local copies of mail in order to retain productivity.
Many customers I work with have lots of PST files in their environment. PST files can be found on local devices, network shares, home shares, and removable media. This sprawl can make a centralization project difficult. In the course of the migration to Office 365, organizations want to get rid of PST files and migrate them to the Exchange Online mailbox or Exchange Online archive to preserve the data. This helps resolve many of the issues with PST files, such as:
Note: The above list is taken from the Complete Guide to Eradicating PST Files, which discusses many technical, security and compliance-related issues, compares various ways of locating and eliminating PST files, and the complex challenges involved. It is highly recommended reading.
Following high-profile cases such as the Sony hack in November 2014, when attackers penetrated and retrieved 179 PSTs containing some 73,000 messages from the mailbox of Sony Chairman Amy Pascal along with other data, it’s easy to understand why companies are reconsidering the use of PSTs.
Microsoft offers an Office 365 built-in tool to import PST files to Exchange Online. This could be done in two different ways:
Important: Microsoft offers with both methods only the technical way of getting your data to Office 365. This technique doesn’t cover all the required planning and preparation, like locating all PST files within your environment, checking the PST files for corruption, removing passwords, identifying which PST files belongs to which mailbox, etc. All of these important steps must be done manually prior to migrating data to Office 365 and are covered in the Complete Guide to Eradicating PST Files eBook as well.
If you have sufficient internet bandwidth or very few PSTs to import, you can consider using the network transfer method to move the data across to Microsoft’s datacentre.
First, you need to assign the Mailbox Import Export role in Exchange Online to import PST files to Office 365 mailboxes. It is recommended to create a new role group in Exchange Online that’s specifically intended for importing PST files to Office 365. Further, you have to be assigned the Mail Recipients role in Exchange Online. By default, this role is assigned to the Organization Management and Recipient Management role groups. Or you have to be a global administrator in your Office 365 organization.
Once you have the AzCopy tool connected, and the key and secure upload URL have been retrieved, you can start uploading PST files across the network to Microsoft.
AzCopy is a command line tool and if you installed it in the default location, go to %ProgramFiles(x86)%\Microsoft SDKs\Azure\AzCopy
AzCopy has a lot of parameters that can be found in the help file:
C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft SDKs\Azure\AzCopy>AzCopy.exe -?
AzCopy 8.1.0-netcore Copyright (c) 2018 Microsoft Corp. All Rights Reserved.
AzCopy </Source:> </Dest:> [/SourceKey:] [/DestKey:] [/SourceSAS:] [/DestSAS:]
[/V:] [/Z:] [/@:] [/Y] [/NC:] [/SourceType:] [/DestType:] [/S]
[/Pattern:] [/CheckMD5] [/L] [/MT] [/XN] [/XO] [/A] [/IA] [/XA]
[/SyncCopy] [/SetContentType] [/BlobType:] [/BlockSizeInMB:] [/Delimiter:]
The important parameters for uploading PST files are:
The AzCopy tool is run from CMD.exe. For example:
C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft SDKs\Azure\AzCopy>AzCopy.exe /Source:”\\localhost\pst\” /Dest:”SAS_URL” /V:C:\Users\domin\AzCopy.log” /Y
The uploaded PST data is held in Azure for 30 days if there are no import jobs in progress. When you have completed your uploads you can create the PST mapping file. You can download a template of a mapping file here. The Office 365 Import Service allows you to specify a target folder in the mailbox to import the PST file data to, and also specify whether the data should be imported to the archive mailbox.
The CSV mapping file for our PST upload file looks like follows:
The most likely error you will run into is a PST that either hasn’t been uploaded or can’t be found by the import job because the path you specified in the CSV file is not correct. The PST file names and paths are also case sensitive so you should take care to use the correct case in the CSV file when you create it.
The Office 365 Import Service is a relatively straightforward tool that handles the basics of securely importing PST file data into Office 365 mailboxes. However, as with the Exchange Server Mailbox Import Request method, the Office 365 Import Service has several weaknesses that you should be aware of.
If you find that you have a more complex problem or are running into the issues discussed here, a comprehensive migration tool may be in order.
Quadrotech has focused on its PST Flight Deck solution, and their team helps handle everything from the software to implementation. Their focus has been on providing an upgrade experience, which extends to:
For further information on Quadrotech’s ‘fixed-cost, fixed-outcome’ PST file discovery, elimination and migration services, please click here.