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Migrating email users to Office 365 with VDI on Azure

4 Sep 2015 by Peter Kozak

Moving to cloud would be easy if not for those pesky user mailboxes
Other cloud platforms are available, as they say, but we’ve been particularly impressed by Microsoft Azure’s capabilities. It seems we’re not the only ones.

The uptake of Office 365, built on Azure, is reflected in metrics like how many objects are being stored in Azure. By April 2015 more than five million organizations were represented in Azure Active Directory and 50 trillion objects were stored in Azure (equivalent to a threefold year-on-year increase in storage transactions).

Microsoft-watchers love stats like these, and with Azure RemoteApp (Microsoft’s service for streaming applications remotely in virtual desktop scenarios) joining the party, it’s argued VDI in the cloud is really coming of age. But there are rumblings that many organisations signing up to try Azure are hitting difficulties and letting their licences expire.

A huge blocker is that traditional mailboxes (those with the PST extension) won’t work in a RemoteApp environment. Neither will shortcuts to old Enterprise Vault archives.

Migrating to Office 365 improves email discoverability, security and management – so there are good reasons to do it anyway – and that bridge has to be crossed at some point if you’re serious about VDI. Then you can really start to roll out your Office 365/Azure strategy.

What’s a CIO to do?
Let’s look at Joe. As the CIO of a 5,000-staff blue-chip firm he’s been doing his utmost to lead strategic change, improve efficiency, reduce cost and put the business first.

But his infrastructure’s been creaking. Over the years the company has merged, demerged, acquired, grown, shrunk, and grown again. Resources have been patched up, integrated, de-integrated… you get the picture. Joe has already come to the conclusion that his organisation is a prime candidate for a strategic move to Office 365 with VDI on Azure.

Joe certainly gets the email problem. He’s already got his fingers crossed that the legal team don’t come knocking on his door to ask him to retrieve a vital piece of correspondence. His staff tell him that live mail on Exchange is over capacity (and a few samples have shown a high level of duplication). There’s also a ten-year-old Enterprise Vault installation that has, fortunately, never had to be interrogated. Joe can’t be sure what difficulties would be hit if the archive isn’t actually working properly.

And there appear to be several hundred PST mailbox files located on local desktops. PSTs don’t get centrally managed, so Joe’s got no way of confirming exactly how many, where they are, whether they’re corrupted, whether they’re duplicates or whether the people who created them have left the company.

Joe’s been doing his research. He read in Office 365 for Exchange Professionals that, even if his current Exchange Server supported them, large cutover migration projects can be logistically very difficult to perform. The book confirmed many experienced Office 365 consultants consider the practical limits of cutover and staged migration methods to be just 150 mailboxes. And that’s only the live mail. The authors acknowledge there are situations where “migration options are limited to third party tools”. Too right.

The right email migration tools can de-risk a project
There are migration tool vendors (hands up, we’re one of them), who are only too happy to point out the difficulties of manually running migration projects to Joe. He’s relaxed about that, as he’s not particularly fond of running projects based on spreadsheets. They’re too susceptible to error and slippage. Above all, they’re labour-intensive, and would require resources he hasn’t got. So it’s time for Joe to evaluate some possible tools.

Other vendors’ approaches typically focus on automating the easy parts of migration, bit by bit. One does archives, another does live mail, and so on. The logistical nightmare is only partly solved. Quadrotech’s approach is different. Our unique ‘triple stack’ integrated suite addresses live mail, PSTs and archive migration concurrently and safely. It deals with exceptions on the fly (rather than setting them aside to cause trouble later), automatically matches users to mailboxes, ensures leavers’ mailboxes get archived, and much more.

And our technology is also smarter. Data transferred to Office 365 is typically inflated by 300 per cent in transit because of the protocols used to wrap it, meaning that huge volumes of data are being pumped around in inefficient, time-consuming and expensive ways. Our Advanced Ingestion Protocol is more efficient than any other method, and we’re close to actually reducing the volume of the original data that needs to be transferred.

Joe decided to start with Quadrotech’s PST to Office 365 migration service, a rapid engagement that showed him the true extent of loose PSTs rattling around his business. By the time he’d climbed back onto his chair he’d decided the triple stack approach was the best route to go.

Expertise acknowledged by Microsoft
For complex migrations to Office 365 and VDI, being able to manage live, PST and archives together enables workflows to be arranged to suit you, rather than you having to work within separate frameworks dictated by vendors.

The triple stack epitomises Quadrotech’s completeness of vision. This, and its expertise in Office 365 migrations, are recognised by Microsoft itself. There are over 600,000 Microsoft partners worldwide but fewer than one per cent achieve Managed Partner status. We recently became one of them.

The CIO and his email lived happily ever after
Joe’s business wasn’t by any means the first to use the triple stack to migrate all three elements of the mail ecosystem into Office 365. But doing so has let him deploy Azure RemoteApp to support his own vision. At last he has control of his infrastructure.

Peter Kozak CEO, oversees the strategic direction of the Quadrotech Group and was one of the founding members of the buyout from GlassHouse.  Previously he was the Head of Development at GlassHouse, where he initiated the development tools for email archive migration and was one of the main inventors of products such as ArchiveShuttle and EVnearSync. Peter has worked extensively with Enterprise Vault since its early releases in 2000.