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Migrating public folder data to Office 365 Groups

May 23, 2016 by Wayne Humphrey

Ground-breaking analytics technology enables selective migration for better future collaboration
For over 20 years, Microsoft Exchange public folders have been an industry standard for storing different types of data records essential to business process and communications. These days, organizations struggle to manage the many terabytes of data these can hold and critical items are bundled in with plenty of old, unwanted data.

Microsoft initially encouraged enterprises to remove reliance on old public folder model by migrating to SharePoint. However SharePoint lacked much of the functionality users had come to expect from public folders, and migration was far from easy. Those organizations that continued with public folders and chose to move to Exchange 2010’s Database Availability Group (DAG) model found they had to wrestle with their data repositories to determine where each public folder should go.

A bridge of folders depicting public folders In 2014 Microsoft signaled the end when it turned off its own last on-premises public folders. Momentum toward Office 365 migration has quickly gathered pace, and today there’s a massive groundswell toward its adoption. There’s an option to move public folders into Office 365, but with every tenant limited to 1000 public folder mailboxes, a 50GB data limit per public folder and a 50TB total data volume, that’s simply not a practical answer for the heaviest users.

So what is the fate of public folder data? The answer is Office 365 Groups. These closely match public folder functionality and have enhanced features around document sharing, threaded conversations, shared calendars and OneNote notebooks, with access to task-based planning via the new Office 365 Planner application. You can access everything through a common portal with much improved reliability and stability.

To get started you have to identify the data you hold, figure out where it should go, and determine ownership. Until now there’s been no easy, comprehensive solution that will help you do that. Fortunately, the Quadrotech boffins have been hard at work again.

Dynamic grouping to support public folder migration projects
Quadrotech’s new Advanced Data Analytics and Migration (ADAM) engine, developed by working with Microsoft and now in limited release, has been created to move public folders and shared mailboxes from Exchange 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016 and Exchange Online to Office 365 Groups. It’s also able to export public folder data to PST files, ready for archiving.

Our aim was to prevent businesses losing value from the data they hold. Beside automatically provisioning Office 365 Groups and shared mailboxes, ADAM can rehydrate shortcuts from archiving systems such as Veritas Enterprise Vault, and provides full item-by-item auditing. In general release it will be available either as a cloud service, requiring no hardware or deployment of infrastructure, or as a standalone solution that can be delivered on-premises.

Public folders can span extremely large hierarchies and volumes of data. Because ADAM can determine not only what data exists, but also what data is valuable and what should be moved into Office 365 Groups, there’s no need to migrate everything wholesale. Paying to store old, obsolete, and unwanted data indefinitely in the cloud doesn’t make sense.

ADAM introduces the concept of dynamic grouping. Its deep analytics identify logical splits between subfolders in the public folder hierarchy, based on permission sets and common folder properties. Exchange administrators can review the output of the analysis before migration, and extend or narrow the scope via a powerful user interface to remove redundant or irrelevant data.

Deep analytics: the logic behind ADAM

A screenshot of Quadrotech's ADAM software

At the heart of ADAM is Quadrotech’s new, proprietary, patent-pending Deep Analytics Technology (DAT), which automatically analyzes data held in legacy systems and takes their characteristics into consideration to determine the most suitable modern target system.

Criteria like size, age, content type, and ownership are compared so that, for instance, an object that has not been accessed in seven years is categorized as obsolete data and recommended for deletion or for export. Public folders that are accessed by multiple users on a sustained basis over, say, the last three months might better be moved to an Office 365 Group.

We aim to roll out DAT technology to other Quadrotech products over the next year. For example, we’re looking at ways to process data drawn from files stored in document management systems and shared file servers.

Another major step forward in Office 365 adoption
As Tony Redmond, veteran Microsoft Valued Professional (MVP) and senior contributing editor for Windows IT Pro says: “After 20 years of solid service to Exchange customers, it’s time to change the basis of collaboration to something more modern, more capable, and more powerful. Office 365 Groups provide that basis for collaboration for Exchange Online tenants. Being able to move public folder content to Office 365 Groups is a great step forward.”

In a future blog we’ll be looking more closely at the technology underpinning ADAM. If you’re interested in finding out how ADAM and our other products can accelerate your adoption of Office 365 and Exchange Online, get in touch.

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