Back to blog

An Archive Migration Tool or the Microsoft PST Import Service?

Oct 20, 2015 by Mike Weaver

Why don’t I just export my Email Archives to PST on my own and use the Microsoft PST Import Service?

This is the most common question we get asked right now. This applies to both Archive Migrations and PST Migrations going into Office 365. In this post, we want to cover where this is a good idea and where this isn’t a good idea.

There is a lot of buzz going around with the Microsoft PST Import Service. It is a great tool for small organizations to get their data into Office 365.  See our blog post from a few months ago; do you need an enterprise migration tool for your PST Files.

That said, with the announcement that the tool will have a charge, and the limitations that exist with it, we don’t see this as the best option for most organizations larger than 500 users.

To show this, let’s look at what it takes to perform an Office 365 email archive migration using the import service.

  1. After moving your user’s mailbox, log into your archive server and turn off the user’s ability to archive new data.
  2. Export the user’s archive to PST (one at a time in the majority of archive systems).
  3. Monitor the export ensuring it continues without interruption.
  4. Read the logs to ensure there are no failed items. If there are failed items attempt to remedy the situation.
  5. Either upload the PST file or put it on a hard drive and ship it to Microsoft.
  6. Create a mapping file that maps the PST to the user’s archive.
  7. Import the PST.
  8. Monitor the logs and check for any lost data (see Performance Testing Microsofts new PST Import Service )
  9. Delete any archive shortcuts.

Let’s compare this to an Archive Migration tool like Archive Shuttle:

  1. After moving your user’s mailbox, enable the user for migration.(automatic if the mailbox was moved with Mailbox Shuttle).
  2. Allow Archive Shuttle to move the data to Office 365. Archive Shuttle monitors all the processes and automatically retries errored items.
  3. Once complete, Archive Shuttle will clean up the shortcuts in the mailbox.

For a small organization, the first option may be a good solution. However, this doesn’t scale above 500 users or so (some would argue no more than 100 users). But here is an interesting problem, when the Import Service was free one could argue the manual work was worth it for them. With Microsoft’s prior announcement to charge $8 a GB for the service (this post was taken down and new pricing has not been released yet), that argument is no longer valid. Pretty much any migration suite in the business would cost, at face value, less than this.

Setting aside price for a moment, look at all the things that can go wrong in the migration process. If each step isn’t monitored correctly, you could have a real problem. An Enterprise Level Tool will keep track of data ownership, identify failures, and provide much of the error correction.

Regardless of what Microsoft will charge for the import service (whether it goes back to free, or up to $8 a GB) the other costs are quite high. Few organizations have the staff to do the migration. Plus when you add in the data risk, it just doesn’t scale.