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FACT: If you migrate legacy shortcuts into Exchange Online, it’s highly likely they’ll ‘still work’ if your archive remains on-premises

If you move shortcuts along with regular emails as you migrate mailboxes to Office 365, nine time out of ten they will still work: 

That is to say, when you double click on the shortcut, the original full email will be retrieved across the network from the on prem archive.

For example, with Enterprise Vault (EV), a user can still recall/retrieve old, archived email items using EV shortcuts. They can also use the EV Search service to access and search their archived emails as part of integrated search within the Outlook client or via a web URL in a browser.

The downside is that post-migration:

  • you can’t archive anything new in EV 
  • you can’t use web access to access the shortcuts (as Veritas doesn’t control the OWA servers)
  • end users cannot restore or delete archived email items from shortcuts

Other archive vendors may behave similarly.

There are a number of other downsides:

It’s unsupported

Microsoft won’t support this set up – why should they?  As indicated above – the archive vendor cannot control the Microsoft environment and will therefore be limited in what it can offer.

Over time, your on-prem archive will become unreliable and expensive

According to Stephen Appleby of An Post, the state-owned provider of postal services in the Republic of Ireland, “Although shortcuts to archived emails would still work across the network after we migrated to Microsoft 365, the prospect of maintaining a dedicated email archive on-premises was a non-starter.  The SAN it used was becoming increasingly unreliable and the overheads of maintaining it were costly.”

Not surprisingly, COVID-19 has also highlighted the challenges of maintaining and backing up systems that are sitting in a server room in the office.

Annual software maintenance and support costs can also escalate, and high costs don’t necessarily mean you get a high-quality service in return. 

For example, EAS, one of the first email archiving solutions on the market, has effectively ‘changed hands’ five times (from Educom – Zantaz – Autonomy – HP – Capax ….. ) Other solutions have become similarly acquired and/or merged into an existing portfolio, with each change risking an uncertain roadmap and lack of focus on development and support from the new ‘owner’.

You’ll have a separate place in which you’ll need to manage retention and eDiscovery

On-premises archives (and to some extent, hosted archives) are of a ‘technical’ nature when it comes to implementing retention policies and performing eDiscovery. 

It’s likely the IT department will still need to manage retention policies and do eDiscovery. 

We frequently encounter IT teams that spend hours responding to eDiscovery requests.  For example, a client using EAS found its eDiscovery service was simply not up to the job for the volumes they had, with searches taking hours and hours to execute.  The suggestion on the part of the archive vendor was to beef up the IDOL search servers available – something that would have been prohibitively expensive.

Likewise, the job of implementing retention policies typically falls on the shoulders of the IT team, with little guidance on deletion policies from the legal department.

The great news is that Microsoft 365 offers a compliance and eDiscovery capability that is becoming super-user-friendly, to the point that you can now shift responsibility for compliance-related activities OUT of the IT department.

The other big benefit of moving the contents of legacy archives into Microsoft 365 is that you can perform eDiscovery in one location.  Having multiple different locations to search and then reconcile introduces both time and risk, which brings us onto the next issue:

Ultimately, is it worth having a separate archive?

Those in the business of providing dedicated email archive services would, of course, argue for the need to have a separate archive in the cloud.

For example, there are Veritas partners that offer services to host the storage component or your entire EV environment in Azure.

Also some vendors offer a cloud-based version of their previously on-premises archive.  For example, you can migrate EV into Veritas’ hosted service, Enterprise Vault.cloud.

There are also hosted archiving services from organisations like Mimecast and HubStor (now part of Veritas).

This is where the blurring of the boundaries between archiving and backup come into play and that is a separate subject again.

Another factor with each of these approaches is that they require some form of change on the end-user’s view – i.e. the concept and convenience of shortcuts goes away.

Why you should move your archives to Microsoft 365

Unlimited capacity

The storage capacity benefits of using a separate archive have fallen by the wayside with Microsoft 365.  There’s very few email users whose mailbox and historic archives can’t be accommodated by Microsoft 365 licencing:

  • A Primary Mailbox can grow up to 100GB (E3 and above)
  • An Archive mailbox in theory has no cap on it

No charge for leavers

If you have archived mailboxes belonging to leavers, you can take advantage of inactive mailboxes and place them litigation hold (or specifying an appropriate retention policy) to retain their emails indefinitely (or as required) without incurring a licence penalty.  

The average ration of ‘leavers’ to ‘current staff’ archive mailboxes in the typical archive can be as much as 4:1, so this amounts to a significant cost saving.

Advanced Compliance Capability

As we said earlier, the compliance and eDiscovery capability now available in Microsoft 365 is ‘up to the job’ of handling most information requests and data protection needs.  Importantly – Microsoft’s trajectory is to provide services that don’t need as much input from the IT department.

If that is enough to compel you to shut down your on-prem or hosted dedicated, third-party archive completely and, ideally, get the contents of your archive into Microsoft 365, this is what you need to know:

Successfully migrating email archives into Microsoft 365 requires care (there is no real shortcut)

Migrating the contents of a legacy archive into Microsoft 365 is a speciality for Essential and something we’ve been doing since 2005.

One thing you’ll discover is that there are a few different routes you can take.  

For example:

  • Do you migrate shortcuts into online mailboxes using mailbox moves, and then replace them with the corresponding archived item later?
  • Do you migrate archives first?
  • Where do you put emails that users have deleted from their archive (but are still in the archive)?
  • How do you treat mailboxes that are too big according to Microsoft’s licencing rules and throttling measures?  This can become an issue when you ‘re-hydrate’ a shortcut with a much bigger archived item.
  • What about shared mailboxes, public folders and journal archives?

The answer to each of these questions will vary depending on a lot of things, including the capabilities of the archive you’re moving from.

For example, HP ACA and AXS-One are archives that need extra care and steps to ensure the best compliance and end user outcomes

According to An Post, whose legacy archive used HP’s ACA (Autonomy Consolidated Archive). 

Essential worked out the best strategy for migrating our archived emails into Exchange Online.  We received top notch documentation from Essential’s consultant, Toni Mallin, and this enabled us to complete our own migration with very little assistance.” 

As with An Post, the cost of a migration is always a consideration and we are able to offer a service that enables your IT team to easily oversee elements of the migration and reduce costs.

One thing for sure is that the cost of migration will be significantly less than maintaining an on-prem archive and performing countless eDiscovery searches.

Find out more about our email archive migration services.

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Are you being locked in by your cloud vendor?

Whenever I get on a flight I always count the number of rows to the nearest exit, so I can grope my way out of a smoke-filled cabin if the worst should happen.  A totally pointless exercise, as in reality I’d be toast, but at least it makes me feel better.

What is worth doing is checking your exit route if you’re planning to store your content in a hosted cloud service.

A common tale of woe relates to hosted email journaling vendors, whose built-in export tools are simply not up to the job of wholesale extraction when the customer wants to ‘move on’.

“It took us between 16 hours to a day to extract just one mailbox into a PST, which then needed to be re-imported.”

“We had to run a series of searches using the “from address” to collect all the emails belonging to each user.”

By all accounts, data extraction is not a fun exercise when you’ve got TBs of data to move.

Check your exit route

What’s involved in getting your data back out of the cloud has to be a primary consideration if you are planning to migrate into it.

Ask your prospective cloud vendor these questions:

  1. How easy will it be to get my data out,
  2. How quickly can I get at it? Will it be over the network or on a disk?
  3. What about chain-of-custody during the extraction process?
  4. How will I know I’ve got everything back?
  5. What format will it be in when I get it back?
  6. How much will it cost?

Cloud storage vendor escape route

If you’re stuck in a hosted journal service, or are contemplating your best options for zero lock-in cloud storage, get in touch!.

There’s a lot to think about when migrating email archives.  We caught up with Migration Consultant Jim Fussell over a cup of tea and a biscuit to pick his brains on getting your data into (and out of) Mimecast..

So James, what’s the first step?  Well, first you’ll need to define what you’re migrating. Often this will simply be a case of selecting messages within a time-frame that matches your retention policy. Lots of customers decide to migrate literally everything up until the point that their Mimecast Journal Capture service kicked in (or stopped).

Of course you might want to filter what you’re migrating, or exclude email from leaver’s mailboxes.  It’s up to the customer, their email retention policies any legislation that applies to their industry.

Can you migrate directly into Mimecast?

No, currently you will provide your data in PSTs or EML files. The PSTs need to be structured and named in line with Mimecast’s requirements, which we sort out.  We also keep them below a certain size to avoid corruption. Mimecast sends an encrypted storage device which they pick up when you’re ready and take it from there. Transferring data using this method is actually faster for the larger sites we deal with as network bandwidth can be a bottleneck.

Any other top tips for handling the PSTs in transit?  Yes. We always recommend customers store a copy of extracted PSTs until they receive confirmation that the ingestion is complete, and although it’s temporary, make sure it’s backed up.  It’s also worth bearing in mind that archives like Enterprise Vault compress and de-duplicate your email, so when you extract to PSTs you’ll need storage space that is 2 or 3 times bigger than your archive.

How long will it take? Hmmm, this is the million dollar question.  We get asked this a lot and the answer is, “It depends”.  We automate the extraction process making it a lot quicker than doing it manually.  In fact, any extraction over 1TB is a pain to do manually.  Running a couple of test extractions will give you an idea of timescales, but you should also get an estimate from Mimecast on their current ingestion times for an end-to-end estimate.

When should we switch off archiving on-premises? It’s always preferable to extract from a static archive so if your Exchange servers can cope, it will be best to stop archiving just before extraction. Mimecast will have probably started Journal Capture by then so you won’t be at risk from a compliance perspective.  It might just be a case of making sure your Exchange mailbox sizes don’t grow too large if you were archiving fairly aggressively beforehand.

What if we’ve stopped archiving on-premises already? That’s great, because your archive is static, but it might mean that you will have content in Exchange that you need to migrate too because you’ll have this gap of time between your archive stopping and Mimecast starting.  If possible, I’d recommend archiving everything into your on-premises archive so it can all be extracted from one place.

If that’s not an option, you’ll have to do an extraction from Exchange. We’ve helped a couple of customers with this recently because they needed to define a date range and exclude stubs from the extraction because stubs will obviously be useless once in Mimecast and users might get confused.

Talking of stubs, don’t forget to delete them from user’s mailboxes after you’ve completed the migration.

Any extra tips?  Migration to Mimecast might be a good opportunity to centralise any other email you’ve got in PST files. Mopping up rogue PST files isn’t that easy, but if you have concerns around PSTs now might be a good time to tackle them.

Can we migrate out of Mimecast?

Yes, but not without technical and/or financial pain.  I guess it’s no surprise that a SaaS vendor wants to keep your business.  As a result, open APIs and no-cost options that let you readily take your data (and your business) elsewhere are not common.

With Mimecast it’s possible to export all emails belonging to an individual user (in batches of 10GB and a maximum of 2GB per file).  We’ve also encountered approaches that involve automating eDiscovery searches and exporting the results (exports are currently limited to searches returning fewer than 50,000 messages).  Both of these approaches are a world of pain if you’re trying to navigate a timely and reliable exit strategy for your valuable email records.

The best route for larger enterprises is to pay Mimecast’s per GB extraction fee.  As I say – it’s painful either way.  The default format you’ll get your precious data in is a big, single-instanced bucket of emails.  You are then left with the challenge of how you’re going to move this into your new email/archive/journal platform of choice.

Click here and find out more about how Essential can help your migration to (or out of) Mimecast..

 

Migrate Your Email Archives to the Cloud

Find out more about how Essential can help your migration to (or out of) Mimecast.