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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..

 

Even though Microsoft offers free tools to import your PST files into Microsoft 365, does anyone really relish the thought of migrating ALL of their PST files into Exchange?

Probably not, because:

  1. You end up moving old rubbish
  2. It will pound your network
  3. Users might not like it

Having worked with hundreds of customers to roll-out email archives, PST migration is always the painful final phase that often gets brushed under the carpet for the aforementioned reasons.

The over-arching requirements for anywhere, any device data accessibility and centralised data governance, however, may be the final nudge to get your PST migration project management backing.

So is it acceptable to filter out the rubbish before you siphon it into your shiny new Exchange environment?

At the very least it’s surely prudent to get a policy agreed that will define your PST migration including whether to migrate:

  • Content that outdates your email retention policy
  • Folders marked ‘Personal’
  • Content that pre-dates your switch on of Journal capture
  • Duplicate PSTs

A PST migration project means bracing yourself for decisions about what to migrate and no-one likes decisions! But we like the advice from Craig Ball, a Texan trial attorney and certified computer forensic examiner:

‘To Preserve broadly is safe, but expensive. To Preserve carefully is safe and cost-effective”.

The truth is, any enterprise-level PST migration exercise – even if you gather up everything – is not easy and you may struggle with free Microsoft tools.

Check out the top 6 PST Migration Challenges.

Mindful of the fact that sending an email to a colleague can sometimes be a poor substitute for a telephone conversation or a face-to-face meeting, RCT Homes has introduced the concept of an email-free day.

Rhondda Cynon Taff Homes (RCT Homes) is Wales’ largest social landlord, owning and managing nearly 11,000 homes on more than 60 housing estates and in 27 sheltered housing schemes.

In delivering its services RCT Homes strives to maintain good lines of communications – both with its customers and between staff working within the organisation.

Mindful of the fact that sending an email to a colleague can sometimes be a poor substitute for a telephone conversation or a face-to-face meeting, RCT Homes has introduced the concept of an email-free day.

According to Paul Tuckwood, ICT PC Support Engineer at RCT homes,

“With our Friday, ’email aware’ day, our goal is to get staff to think carefully about what they are emailing and why. We feel this will improve how we use email across the board, and generally enhance the sense of community within the workspace, which can easily be lost with email interaction.

We needed solution to identify the amount of email being generated within the company to see if this was the most efficient way to communicate. To do this we used Mailscape. It was simple to install and easy to monitor email activity.

We monitored out email traffic before, during and after our email aware days to determine whether staff were taking advantage of the initiative and modifying their email habits. Without the software we couldn’t have done this so it is a great asset.”