Helping you adopt & adapt the Microsoft Modern Workplace & Azure Cloud for your business



Do you need to migrate thousands of PST files, really big mailboxes or large email archives to Microsoft 365 (and is drive shipping the answer?)

What is drive shipping?

Microsoft’s drive shipping service is multi-step process via which large amounts of data can be uploaded into Microsoft cloud via an interim device which is physically shipped to a Microsoft location.

This is how it works:

Instead of transferring data across the network, the technique involves writing PST files to a hard drive along with a mapping file (for example, migrate PST <filename> to <username> primary or archive mailbox).

The (encrypted) hard drive is then physically shipped to a designated Microsoft location from where data centre personnel pre-stage the contents into Azure.  The files are then ingested into Exchange Online according to the supplied mappings.

If you have TBs of emails you want to move into Microsoft 365, drive shipping via PSTs is an option open to you.

This Microsoft article goes into all the different iterations of what you need to do and the cost of using this service.

The same technique can be used to perform migration of mailboxes that are over 100GB in size or if the user’s mailbox contains one or more messages that exceed the 150-megabyte (MB) message limit (in which case resorting to PST files is recommended).

Using interim PSTs is also an option for migrating the contents from large email archives such as Enterprise Vault and EMC SourceOne, or email journals form platforms such as Mimecast.

The question is:  Is drive shipping PSTs a good option for your large email archive migration? 

Here are the pros and cons:


  • It’s low cost…on paper*. The cost to import PST files to Microsoft 365 mailboxes using drive shipping is $2 USD per GB of data.
  • It minimises impact on your network: if you have a sub-optimal network that cannot handle large amounts of data being transferred, using a data drive to ship PSTs to Microsoft negates any network concern. Even on networks that can support around 500Mbs you can experience slow performance when you start to drive a large migrations alongside regular user activity.
  • It avoids the impact of Microsoft throttling:Microsoft applies throttling to avoid overloading its servers. Although you won’t experience the effect of throttling when using native Microsoft mailbox moves to migrate your mailboxes, many email archive migration solutions use the EWS protocol to move your data, and this protocol is subject to throttling, although Microsoft has made throttling easy to ease off during the course of a bulk migration.


  • *It can work out expensive:At face value, $2 USD per GB is cost-effective, for example, a 20TB project would be $40,960 to ‘drive ship’, but this does not include the added overheads of getting your data onto the drives (see next point).
  • PST preparation is labour-intensive. Suffice to say that manually extracting data from archives into PST files and then preparing them for upload can be super time-consuming.  Native tools for extraction out of third-party archives (such as the Enterprise Vault extraction wizard) are slow and not geared up for performing automated mass exits. Once you’ve extracted files, you’ll need to make sure they are prepared properly for Microsoft.  This includes the creation of a mapping file, so Microsoft knows what files(s) belong to who, and where you want them putting.  Check out the steps you’ll need to carry out.  Whilst it’s possible to automate the PST extraction and preparation process using third-party migration software, you’ll need to factor this additional cost in.
  • It can take a long time:You’ll need to allow 7-10 days for your data to be uploaded from the drives into Azure (as we said earlier, this is where your data is pre-staged) and then Microsoft offers an ingestion rate of 24GB per day.  Using our 20TB example, this means your PSTs would take 860 total days to ingest.
  • It introduces an element of risk:When using multiple hops and manual interventions to move your data, there’s the potential for things to go wrong.  Even though drive shipping uses Bitlocker encryption to protect your data in transit, there are many other steps that introduce the potential for human error, this includes the process of babysitting the extraction into PST files from your archive and the mapping of PST files to their owners.  This, combined with the fact that extraction tools typically have no inbuilt error-checking, are unable to recover in the event of a failure, and no auditing, will make it difficult for you to prove chain-of-custody.  Oh, and did I mention that PSTs as an interim file construct are prone to corruption?
  • Your source data needs to be static. If you’re migrating the contents of an email archive using drive shipping via PSTs you’ll ideally need to make your archive static during the course of the migration.  This means stopping any archiving activity for the duration of your archive project, otherwise you’ll have the overhead of subsequently migrating any additions to your archive.  We’ve encountered several projects where stopping archiving is not possible.
  • Shortcuts aren’t being addressed (and create confusion). You will need to have a game-plan for dealing with the shortcuts (also known as stubs) that typically link to archived items.  Many enterprises end up migrating shortcuts along with regular emails into Exchange online mailboxes.  Whilst in most cases it’s possible to retrieve the full item across the network from an on-premises archive whilst your migration is taking place, you’ll have various issues that emerge once your PSTs have been uploaded into Microsoft 365.  This includes broken shortcuts (assuming at some point you will decommission your on-premises archive) and legacy shortcuts that can appear along with the full migrated item in the event of any eDiscovery exercise.
  • Other limitations:
    • Message Size Limits of 150MB
    • No more than 300 nested folders
    • Doesn’t support Public Folders
    • You don’t get flexibility on where your data is migrated to destination and split of data
    • Volume restrictions of up to 10 TB
    • A maximum of 10 Hard drives for a single import job

So should we use drive shipping for our migration?

In summary, the only time we can see drive shipping using PSTs as being beneficial is if you have:

  1. Very slow network connectivity
  2. Lots of inactive data to migrate. For example, archives belonging to ‘leavers’

Our email archive migration service uses a series of techniques to mitigate the impact of Microsoft throttling, enabling us to move archives directly from your archive into Exchange Online (either primary mailboxes or archives) at a rate in excess of 3TB a day.  There’s also no overheads or time delays involved by extracting into PSTs first.

We can also schedule migration activity to coincide with less busy times on your network.

Also, the fact that we can move your data in one step, direct from source to target avoids the non-compliance risk of interim storage and human error.

We can also help you avoid moving everything.  For example, by applying date ranges.

You can also avoid creating a storage overhead in the cloud by managing where data gets migrated to.  I.e., by moving messages over a certain age into archive mailboxes or moving PSTs belonging to leavers into a separate (but indexed) Azure-based store.

On a final note, using interim PSTs is also an option when migrating journals from services such as Mimecast and Proofpoint, but there are a few things to watch out for when migrating into Microsoft 365.  You can find out more about migrating journals to Microsoft 365 in this article.

Find out more for your PST migration project

Get in touch with our migration experts for an unbiased chat on the options open to you.

It has been well documented over the past 24 months, that whether we like it not, all of us have been forced to do something that was previously a face-to-face task, online. From corporate meetings to Speed Awareness Courses or even Zoom quizzes with your granny, the modern world has been thrust upon us.

Now in 2022, with ever-increasing fuel and property costs and with 62% of the workforce happy to work remotely for some portion of their working week, businesses around the world are adapting to some form of hybrid working.

Facilitating hybrid working goes much deeper than providing a laptop, writing a new company policy and a setting up a hot desk booking system when visiting the office.

Questions now arise around how businesses can successfully onboard new staff as well as keep a hybrid or more permanently field-based workforce up to speed with the skills they need to do their job and meet their compliance remit.

Whether it’s as simple as a health and safety course, right the way through to a complex, sophisticated training plan that builds someone’s career path, both may now need to be conducted fully remotely – or at least in a hybrid form.

This poses challenges when it comes to implementing a learning management system (LMS):

  1. How do companies enable remote and hybrid learning successfully?
  2. How do you keep users engaged without falling to ‘digital fatigue’?
  3. How do companies with a mainly field-based workforce maintain an ‘accessible by all’ ethos?
  4. How can the business remain compliant and report on learning progress, certifications and statistics?

I could keep going but I don’t want you to succumb to digital fatigue!

Learning where security is essential

Tackling any of these hybrid workforce training challenges isn’t easy, especially when maintaining a secure environment is an over-arching requirement.

We have recently delivered a LMS for a large UK Police Force whose main challenge was to keep its entire internal training content accessible to all users, whether they were in the office, out on the ground or travelling.

This hybrid approach to learning and training delivery in the police force is revolutionary in comparison to years gone by, where booking onto classroom course and spending days out of the office or out of active duty were the norm.

Now effective policing means embracing new ways of working and collaborating, and this extends to keeping up-to-date on the various technical and interpersonal skills that allow them to complete their duties effectively.

Mindful of needing to support a wide range of technical ‘savviness’, the Force’s was keen to provide ‘2-click’ experience that gave retired colleagues that were rarely in the office the same easy access to training as currently-serving police officers, whether out and about or sitting in front of a desktop at HQ.

The learning management solution we provided (LMS365) enabled the Force to digitise its training content, build it into their Microsoft 365 environment and present it to users via Microsoft Teams, Microsoft SharePoint, or their mobile device.

From a user perspective this meant learning content could be consumed alongside what they were already using daily to communicate and collaborate.  In other words, ‘Learning in the Flow of Work’.

Leveraging the Microsoft Security Stack

In addition to providing the best experience for end users and learning and development staff alike, the Force faced the added security and data protection concerns that come with any Police sector application.

All ‘I’s must be dotted and ‘t’s crossed for a system to be introduced into their environment.

Fortunately, our solution sits on Microsoft’s multi-layered security ecosystem that includes Microsoft Azure for strong identity management and Microsoft Intune for mobile device security management.

This means our LMS has been assured for use throughout UK governments and is included in the (G-Cloud) digital marketplaceIts compliance with government cloud security principles is also verified annually by the Government Digital Service (GDS).

Similar robust security requirements for online training and training management have been seen with a recent implementation at a large energy supplier within the UK.

Again, the organisation has thousands of users that must be able to prove they are authorised to be working on a particular project/site by presenting a valid training certificate from their mobile phone.

For more information or to arrange a demo for your  L & D and/or your IT team, get in touch today.

Learning in the Flow of Work

If you want to find out more about delivering learning ‘in the flow of work, or migrating from an existing LMS system to one that’s designed for Microsoft 365, get in touch.

What are hybrid meetings?

As we emerge from the pandemic, the way we work is likely to have changed forever.  The term ‘hybrid working’, reflects a now commonplace scenario where the workforce comprises a mix of remotely based and office-based colleagues.

Hybrid meetings are a new genre of meeting, where participants might be in the same physical meeting room OR connecting in from home or other satellite location over a video conference link.

Having good technology is an important component in facilitating such meetings:  A poor-quality microphone and lack of presentation and visual aids that offer a shared experience can wreck your hybrid meeting.

There are lower-tech, more practical considerations for your meeting, such as having the optimal acoustics and seating arrangement for video conferencing to take place.

Equally important is having clear guidelines and etiquette that enable remote participants to participate and contribute on an equal footing to their colleagues that are physically ‘in the same room’.

Here are our tips for facilitating successful hybrid meetings.

Check the tech

Don’t spend half of your allocated meeting time fighting with technology and a lack of facilities.

  • Make sure the meeting room you book has the right equipment and services to support your hybrid meeting.
  • Get any special equipment such as a video conference screens, microphones, speakers and interactive whiteboards booked and set up in advance by in-house AV experts.
  • Ensure the seating layout and lighting in your room is optimal for including all ‘in room’ participants on camera.
  • If you have visitors, make sure they have the right guest network credentials and HDMI connection options in order to share content from their laptop or tablet.

Microsoft has some of its own tips for preparing your hybrid meeting workspace in this article:

Brush up on hybrid meeting etiquette

When you have a ‘hybrid meeting’, it’s easy to make a few basic mistakes than can make remote colleagues feel disenfranchised.

Continuing a conversation that started during a coffee break (that remote colleagues are not ‘privy to’) or using conventional flip charts or post-it notes as visual aids (that can’t be viewed outside of the room), are examples of behaviours that will hamper effective collaboration.

Even when attending in person, some individuals may feel uncomfortable making their voice heard in a heated debate.   Sadly, it’s even easier to shrink into the background when joining a meeting as a remote participant.

You can resolve these issues with good hybrid meeting etiquette and using appropriate technology.

For example, polling everyone for their input at regular intervals and making it clear on the outset how you plan to handle questions or how you want participants to raise questions.

If you’re using Microsoft Teams, make sure you keep an eye on the raised hand facility or chat window and invite remote attendees by name to share their comments and points.

PRO TIP: If you’re presenting on a Teams call, instead of sharing the screen you have your PowerPoint presentation running on, use the Teams Presenter Mode

That way, you can continue to see the other people on the call as you present.

You can also use the recently announced new Surface Hub Whiteboard facility for a unified experience for your hybrid meeting.

Upskill for hybrid meetings

Along with training on etiquette for organising and running hybrid meetings, a general brush up on meeting skills and best practices for on-camera presentation could be introduced as part of your company’s learning and development content.

For example, one principle we always try to stick to is to keep the camera switched on when having virtual meetings with clients and colleagues.

When you add facial expression and body language to a social interaction you are creating a far richer communications experience that can help avoid any confrontation or miscommunication.

And, along with the whiteboard utility and presentation mode feature we mentioned earlier, there’s other new tools to become familiar with, such as how to configure and conduct ‘break out rooms’ in Teams.

PRO TIP: Trawl the internet for resources, including Microsoft’s own training videos, and build a knowledge base and mini training course on your intranet or learning management system.

Pick the right sort of meeting

As we’ve discovered during the pandemic, many meetings can be conducted extremely effectively – and very efficiently – over a remote link.   In fact, many meetings work better in a remote format.  For example, my own failing eyesight means it’s often easier to review figures and detailed content in presentations on my own zoomed-in screen.

There’re some meetings, however, where it really does pay off to get all participants in the same physical meeting space.

For example, if you’re wanting to harness the creativity of a team with some ‘blue sky thinking’, introduce new colleagues to their co-workers and forge bonds over pizza and beer, then a physical meeting is your best option.

Make meetings easy to organise

Streamlining the process of planning and booking a meeting, be it an ‘all hands in the office’ or hybrid meeting will help you get the most out of your tine together.

Workplace booking systems can be extraordinarily effective at enabling this, making it easy to:

  • Find and then book a suitable workspace, along with resources like video conferencing equipment,
  • Request additional facilities and services such as catering, parking spaces and AV assistance,
  • Prioritise bookings for specific groups on specific days.

Microsoft is about to announce new capability in its Teams meeting settings that enable the certain tasks involved in setting up a hybrid meeting to be delegated to an assistant.

Workspace booking tools (like those available from Essential) make it possible to organise myriad other meeting facilities and services directly from Microsoft Outlook or Teams when you schedule the meeting in the first place.

Such tools can also help your facilities team optimise the utilisation of video conferencing facilities (let’s face it – they’re not inexpensive), get a clear picture of how their video conferencing facilities are being used, and predict what future provisions need to be made to support your new hybrid workforce.

Hybrid meeting room booking software for Microsoft 365

Read more about services to help your enterprise book, provision & manage your workplace for hybrid working and beyond.

Does the workspace booking system you’re planning involve selecting an available desk from a list or an interactive floor plan?  If so, physically applying the corresponding numbers to your desks in the office is a vital part of the jigsaw.

You’d be surprised to know the number of projects we’ve encountered where this step was not ‘in the plan’.

“We only have a 30 hot desks and staff already know where they are”

“We’ll put a big print out of all the desks on the wall in reception”

“It will make our desks look untidy”

These are just some of the comments that we hear regularly.  But (sorry) they’re not valid excuses for failing to clearly and individually desks in a way that matches in with your desk booking system.

You only have to think about what happens when someone parks in ‘bay 9’ instead of ‘bay 6’ to understand what confusion and ‘world of pain’ can ensue as everyone has to work around the mistake of occupying the wrong space.

Returning to a ‘hybrid office’ space, with different desk layouts and new collaboration spaces can be daunting enough – even more so if you’re a ‘new start’.  The last thing you’ll want is an argument over whether you’re sitting at the right desk or not.

What’s the best way to physically number desks?

By all means, you can use individual desk devices that incorporate contactless booking and check-in functionality, a status indicator and the desk number in one neat package, but you don’t have to go to this expense.

Our low cost favourites include:

Engraved steel disks that can incorporate QR Codes for booking and check-in using a mobile phone.

Neat desk booking sign example incorporating QR code

Not only are they nice and neat, they don’t cost a lot at all and come with different fixings.  Our team can also help you generate a file of QR codes you can send to the nice folk that make them!

A card holder clip that sits nicely on top of workstations:

Low cost desk booking signage

These cost 5 pence each and all you need is some coloured cards and a printer!  What could be simpler?  You could also incorporate a QR code into the sign.

For more tips on how to go about numbering your hybrid workspaces in a way that’s both fool- and COVID-19-proof, check out our earlier blog.

Future Proof Your Return to Work Desk Numbering Scheme

Covid-secure workspace management

Read more about services to help your enterprise book, provision & manage your workplace for social distancing & beyond.

Scanning a QR code from your mobile device has become a familiar way to get contactless and convenient access to restaurant menus, registering your visit to a venue using the NHS COVID-19 App and more.

Now you can harness the power of QR codes to book the office workspaces and other resources available to your workforce.

Using strategically placed QR codes on printed signs, or on display screens located in corridors or foyers, you can enable contactless selection and booking of a range of resources with pre-applied criteria to make life as easy as possible:

  • Show all currently available hot desks in this area
  • List the video conferencing rooms available RIGHT NOW for at least an hour
  • Display available pool cars today
  • Pinpoint all accessible desks in this office on a map

These are just a few examples of the different resources and attributes you can give your workforce instant access to.

OK, so there’s some behind the scenes magic involved.

You will need a resource booking system that supports this functionality, and that is where we can help with our SaaS-based enterprise booking systems.

Already using Microsoft resource mailboxes to book meeting rooms or workspaces via Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft 365?

Great.  You can now seamlessly extend this functionality and use QR signs to book the same resources from mobile devices on arrival to the office.

You can also use display screens outside meeting rooms, desk status devices and fully interactive maps to provide the ultimate flexibility for your new workspace management strategy.

Get in touch to find out more.

Modern workspace booking systems

Read more about our services to help your enterprise book, provision & manage its workplace for social distancing, shrinking office space & beyond.

Have you started getting excited about the coming holiday festivities?

Pre-COVID-19 in the Essential office we loved the festive season.

December 1st would be marked by putting up our funky corporate Christmas tree (black with blue lights) and each department would put up their own trimmings (naff tinsel and USB light strings).

Over the following weeks an array of edible goodies would pop up in strategic places; countless boxes of chocolates, Lidl stollen cakes, panettone, those little cheesy balls that come in canisters….

This year (like the last one) will of course be different.

Although I personally won’t miss the countless trips to the front door to intercept Amazon deliveries, and our waistlines will no doubt benefit, we will all miss the buzz and the opportunity to socialise in person over a mince pie or three.

So, this year we are attempting something new.

On the count-down to Christmas we will be using our SharePoint intranet to host a ‘virtual advent calendar’ and get everyone involved in a range of virtual festive activities.

This will start off on day 1 with a questionnaire in Microsoft Forms to make sure everyone’s involved and all the different ways we have of celebrating the holidays are represented.

Suggestions to get everyone’s festive thought juices going are:​

  • Polls: Best ever Holidays Movie/song
  • Debates: Sprouts: devil’s food or (pre)fab?
  • Christmas quiz (we’ll probably host this in Teams using breakout rooms to work in groups)
  • Fundraiser: Suggestions for this year’s Essential charity & pledges
  • Raffle: An opportunity to unload last year’s unwanted Xmas gifts to the highest bidder
  • Big & exciting project updates
  • Worst Xmas sweater day (schedule a get together on Teams)

Apart from helping ‘create the holiday buzz’, this exercise is useful for any enterprise that is looking towards its company intranet to support a remote and hybrid workforce.  Why?

It’s a great way to make your intranet a daily habit

As we wrote in our recent eBook, It doesn’t matter how well designed your SharePoint intranet is, if there’s never anything new for employees to engage with, they won’t come back.

This means it will fail as a way to provide much-needed information, corporate values, connections, training and context – especially to new hires.

Essential is just like any other company in that setting up an advent calendar on SharePoint will help us form the intranet habit – both for our workforce and, importantly, for the people that maintain it.

It’s also going to help the new recruits that have joined since March 2020 feel part of a bigger picture, familiarise them with our corporate personality, and encourage them to engage and participate in other programmes on offer.

It’s an opportunity to support your workforce

It may be too late to launch a full on advent calendar for your company, but there’s still time to ‘trim up’ your intranet with some holiday-themed graphics and content.

Also don’t forget that, as well as being fun, the holidays can be a stressful time and put pressure on us all.

Having an engaging and topical theme that captures folk’ attention is a great platform to ‘spotlight’ relevant learning and development content.  For example, resources that are relevant to mental and physical health and wellbeing issues.

Often such content is available, but can get ‘buried’ in a learning management system (LMS).

In short, getting departmental managers and the Learning and Development and HR departments to think about how they can make their training content topical and dynamic will help keep employees ‘coming back for more’, well into the New Year.

Digital Workplace Essentials

If you use Microsoft 365 and want to find out more about delivering learning ‘in the flow of work’, or modernising your SharePoint intranet, get in touch.

Microsoft recently announced Viva – an employee experience platform (XP) that pulls together the threads of a number of existing applications including Teams, SharePoint, Yammer, AI, Workplace Analytics, etc. to provide solutions in four key areas:

  • Viva Connections:  A way of curating, centralising and personalising workforce communications that builds on SharePoint, Yammer and Stream
  • Viva Insights:  Tools to bolster workforce wellbeing, both at a personal level (MyAnalytics) and an enterprise level (Workplace Analytics)
  • Viva Topics : A way of harnessing knowledge ‘in line’ leveraging (what you will have previously known as Project Cortex)
  • Viva Learning:  Learning content delivery ‘in the flow of work’*

In the case of Viva Learning, learning content providers Coursera, Pluralsight and Skillsoft have been quick to announce their support for the Viva platform.  You’ll also have access to content from LinkedIn Learning, Microsoft Learn, and of course, your own content (although there’s no mention of support for importing SCORM content that we can see with Viva Learning).

Similarly, learning management solution providers Cornerstone, Saba and SAP Success Factors have announced their plans to integrate with the Viva Learning platform.

An important point here is that Viva Learning will be more about aggregating and presenting content, and not so much about managing enrolment flows and reporting.  In our experience of working with learning and HR managers, deep functionality in these areas is high on the agenda.

We’re excited to say that the LMS platform Essential delivers will extend the capabilities of Viva Learning to provide the all-important administration, tracking and management of learning content in a way that is also embedded into the Microsoft 365 platform.

“The LMS is really where critical things like compliance and professional development  happens. We do not, absolutely, mean to replace the LMS. We are not going to be in a position to have the same level of specificity that an LMS can offer. Microsoft Viva interacts and interoperates with the LMS to give people the ability to view and search their entire learning catalog right within Teams.”

Alessandro Giacobbe,
Microsoft General Manager of Enterprise Corporate Learning

*What does Learning in the Flow of Work Mean?

The Viva Learning approach is to use Microsoft Teams to deliver learning content, enabling users to organise, locate and share training in Teams chats, channels, and tabs.  That is to say: putting the learning experience right where they collaborate every day.

In fact, in describing its solution, Microsoft uses a sentiment that’s been the LMS365 mantra on the outset, namely training and development ‘in the flow of work’.

The fact is, anything that involves logging into a separate portal becomes a disjointed experience for the end user, and therefore risks being neglected.

Sharing learning in Microsoft Teams
Source: Microsoft

How to get (managed) learning in the flow of work today

The timelines around when Viva Learning will launch are not solid (perhaps towards the end of the year), so it could be a way off yet.

In the meantime, our fast track implementation combined with a SaaS licence means you can start delivering your training content to your hybrid workforce today – and in a way that’s embedded in their day-to-day Microsoft 365 platform.  Simply add in Viva Learning later.

Get in touch to discover how you can embed learning into the Teams and SharePoint experience, and achieve many other things besides, such as handling the enrolment and tracking of Virtual Instructor Led Training (using Teams sessions).

Learning in the Flow of Work

If you want to find out more about delivering learning ‘in the flow of work, or migrating from an existing LMS system to one that’s designed for Microsoft 365, get in touch.

In the early days of corporate email communications, messaging was not viewed as a formal business record despite emails being more verbose compared to the average email in 2020.

Policies about the use and retention of messages generally did not exist because of the relaxed view of email in the workplace. If there was a corporate policy about email, it was usually to impose small quotas on mailboxes, erroneously believing that this would control storage growth and would mean that messages were deleted after a certain period.

All of this changed when email messages played significant roles in high-profile litigations, with the smoking gun being an email that was thought to have been deleted.

The corporate world soon realised that what they did not know could hurt them, and governments moved to pass legislation imposing regulatory compliance requirements for specific industries to keep records.

Journaling provides a “golden copy”

There are three reasons that you need journaling:

  1. Your organisation falls under legislation or one of the regulatory regimes that mandate it, and/or
  2. Your legal department says so
  3. You’re not sure Microsoft 365 will fully meet your email retention needs

It is common for legal teams to require email journaling because it offers them the option of conducting early data assessments in the event of claims. Legal teams can make an informed decision about whether to fight or settle the matter when they have a reliable, golden copy to explore early in the process.

Many legal teams find the cost of journaling and early data assessment to be far less than deciding to fight and later losing based on surprise email evidence.

Does Microsoft 365 solve my journaling needs?

The short answer: Partially.

Although you can configure journaling to take place in your Microsoft 365 messaging backbone, you cannot use Exchange Online mailboxes to provide the storage for your email journals.

You have to store your journals elsewhere.

As found in Microsoft’s documentation:

You can’t designate an Exchange Online mailbox as a journaling mailbox. You can deliver journal reports to an on-premises archiving system or a third-party archiving service. If you’re running an Exchange hybrid deployment with your mailboxes split between on-premises servers and Exchange Online, you can designate an on-premises mailbox as the journaling mailbox for your Exchange Online and on-premises mailboxes.”

Microsoft 365 journaling hacks

Arguably, by setting the right retention policies in Microsoft 365 you can recreate the ‘effect’ of having a journal – including capturing those emails that were ‘BCC’d’.  You can read more about the importance of capturing BCC’d emails (and how to do this in Microsoft 365) here.

It’s also possible to migrate your historic journals into Exchange Online.  This might involve migrating a journal from Exchange on-premises, a third-party archive such as Enterprise Vault, or a hosted journaling service such as Mimecast.

Whilst this is technically possible – for example, by taking an extremely large journal and chopping it up into smaller chunks that will fit into a series of Microsoft 365 shared mailboxes with appropriate use of retention policies –  this approach is a hack.

For example, it can create search and discovery complications downstream as, in order to be complete, all relevant shared folders would need to be included in any future eDiscovery exercise, alongside regular mailboxes.

You should test any retention and eDiscovery strategy to ensure it aligns with your legal and compliance requirements and that the hold, collection and eDiscovery workflows deliver the results you expect.

Journaling Microsoft 365 in the Cloud

Cloud-based journaling can work alongside Microsoft 365 to solve both the retention of legacy journal archives and the go-forward journaling for an ‘air-gapped’ golden copy.

Much like insurance – you never know when your organisation will need to pull data from old emails.  If you don’t have a journaling system in place you run the risk of lacking the information needed which can ultimately cost much more than implementing a proper journaling solution in the first place. That’s why preparing in advance is key to preventing unnecessary problems in the future.

If you haven’t started looking into email journaling, now is as good a time as any to start.

Migrating Email Journals

Find out about the range of journal options available to you.

The ability to automatically update Active Directory from its HR systems proved vital for this mining company in terms of improving its customer services

Whenever staff transferred roles, or went onto different support shifts, reflecting this change into the company’s messaging, email and ‘phone systems was dependent on manual updates.  Unsurprisingly, these updates lagged behind.

UnitySync was used to immediately publish any updates made into the company’s HR system into all key directory systems, including Active Directory.

The company now has both accurate staff information and staff roster information across all its directories.

So, for example, when a staff member changes role or location, this change is reflected on the same day in AD, and an email response can be made accordingly to customers emailing in.

Likewise, when someone goes off shift, their cross shift contact is automatically added to their alternate contact details.  E.g. “Brett Carson is off shift until the end of month; please contact Ben Green.”

According to Andrew Dugdell, Business Systems Manager at Kumtor Gold Company (KGC):

“There is now a greater confidence across the business that the information people now see in their iPhones and email is accurate, and manual data entry has all but been eliminated.”

Easy Directory Synchronisation Tool

Discover how you can synchronise Active Directory with HR databases and other data sources.

Are you planning a hybrid workspace that can withstand another set of COVID-19 restrictions?

Most of us can go back into the office now, but from speaking with lots of facilities managers recently, we know that being flexible, and able to respond to any Government guidance changes with ease, is essential.

With this in mind, here’s 5 top tips when it comes to labelling your desks and workspaces.

1. Walk the floor to ensure a logical numbering sequence

It’s tempting to use CAD diagrams as a reference when numbering workspaces, however in our experience these can quickly become out-of-date.  Desks can get informally ‘nudged’ around and added or removed over the years.

You may also find there’s glass partitions or dividers that give extra protection that are not obvious in a CAD diagram.

There could also be some ‘desire paths’ (as opposed to the originally intended walkways around the office).  These will need to be taken into consideration (or blocked off) to avoid traffic passing too close to desk occupants.

If possible, the best starting point is to physically walk the floor and number each desk as you encounter them.  This is the best way to ensure your staff can easily find the particular desk they’ve booked with minimal hunting around (see our next point).

2. Treat your workspaces like hotel rooms.

Emulating the convention that’s used to signpost hotel rooms will help your staff rapidly locate their workspace with the minimum of effort (and minimal criss-crossing the floor).


  • As with hotel rooms, use the first number to indicate the floor, and the next digits to signify the workspace number.  This will help you avoid mix-ups where there are multiple desks numbered ’15’ on each of several floors.
    3 digits will give you up to 99 numbers to ‘play with’ per floor. If you have more than 99 desks on a floor, you will need to use 4 digits in total.
  • Numbers should be allocated logically and consistently within a ‘desk block’, to minimise the amount of walking around to find a desk.
  • Likewise, consider numbering your desks in a clockwise direction as you walk around the office floor, starting from the main entrance (e.g., the main lifts).  This means you can say: “Desks 1-50 are on the left, and 51-100 on the right-hand side of the floor” which will help maintain social distancing as your workforce tracks down their booked workspaces.
  • You may consider adding signage in strategic places (e.g. other entry points to the floor) to signpost desk ranges – exactly in the way hotel room ranges are indicated when you come out of the lift at a hotel.
  • If you have a large office floor and have introduced the concept of zones or neighbourhoods to help staff members find where they need to be, make sure these conventions are physically signed across your workspace (and not just used on your workspace booking system).
Tips for numbering your desks for a Covid-secure booking system
Best way to number your hot desks

The above example shows the right way and the wrong way to number your desks.

Our tip is to imagine you are walking along the floor using the main thoroughfares and following a logical flow.   How would you feel if desk 19 was on the other side of the floor from desk 16?  Confused, we think.

Finally, even if you just have one floor of desks, it’s useful to include a ‘0’ on your desk numbering, so count 001-099, not 1, 2, 3 up to 99, as some desk booking systems sort alphanumerically.

3. Number all potential desks (not just the safely spaced ones)

We have seen (and thankfully, averted) more than one project where the intention was to only allocate a consecutive number just to the ‘safely distanced’ desks.

For example:

The key downside to this approach is that social distancing requirements may change.

Even after we are now out of this lockdown, Sir Patrick Vallance indicated that additional measures may need to be re-introduced when we move into next Winter.   This could mean the wearing of masks, but also the increasing of social distancing measures in the office.

Also, if you use a workspace booking system you will have to change up your desk numbering accordingly.

By allocating a consecutive number to each potentially available desk on the outset, you won’t need to make any physical changes to your desk numbers at a later date.

Instead, you’ll just have to amend what’s bookable in your workspace management system.

By numbering each desk, you can also take advantage of auto-zoning technology.  To see this in action, check out this video.

As you’ll see in the video, when a user selects their preferred desk, adjacent desks are automatically ‘blocked out’ according to specified rules that can be applied across the board and updated as needed.

4. Prepare for something different altogether

With the home working genie fully out of the bottle, our physical office spaces will probably never be the same again.

Research carried out by Cisco indicates that 77% of larger organisations will adopt a more flexible working policy post pandemic.   It’s not surprising, therefore, to learn that 53% of organisations predicted a reduction in their future office space footprint.

Whilst turning half of your office space into a fully stocked bar (like high-end tonic maker Fever Tree) might not be an option, shrinking or re-organising your office space to reflect your predicted future utilisation, should be on the agenda now.

If there’s any silver lining to this situation, it’s that pre-pandemic, introducing a desk sharing scheme (often referred to as hot desking) tended to be an emotionally charged affair.  In short, staff were happy to be able to work from home but were not at all happy about losing their desk.

The Coronavirus has forced the situation, with workforce safety trumping desk ownership politics.

Given that ‘return to work round two’ could be a while off yet, enterprises like Fever Tree are taking action and re-mapping their office now.

Whilst a bar might be a popular attraction for your workforce, rearranging your office space to accommodate your future needs might be more realistic.

Figuring out what workspaces will be required going forward may need some analysis:

  • How many days in the week will staff typically want to visit the office?
  • Will staff want to come in for focus time? In which case, you may need to more quiet areas.
  • Is the main driver to meet with co-workers? If this is the case, you’ll need more smaller, collaborative areas?

It’s probably going to be a mix of both types, but the reality is, you may never return to a 1:1 ratio of desks to staff.

5. Physically label your workspaces!

This is the final piece of the jigsaw and avoids much confusion.

You’d be surprised at the number of clients we encounter that allocate numbers to desks and workspaces on their floor plans and resource lists, but omit to physically label up the actual workspaces themselves.

Labelling can be as simple as printing a number on a sticker and fixing it to the desk or screen.

Also, if your workspace booking system uses a check-in option that involves scanning a QR code, you can combine the number and the code on the same label.

We’ve recently encountered this rather neat solution which uses engraved disks.  You can simply send across a spreadsheet of workspace IDs and QR codes and the engraving company will do the rest.

Other clients have used simple labels.   You can read more about these options in this article.

Of course, you can always use more sophisticated options that include red/green status lights and RFID check in capability.

The key aim is to ensure your workforce know they have safely arrived at the correct workspace and that you as a company are able to register that fact and provide the necessary COVID-19 safety and capacity and workspace planning services ‘behind the scenes’.

Covid-secure workspace management

Read more about services to help your enterprise book, provision & manage your workplace for social distancing & beyond.