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

Although an archive might be something the IT department would prefer to put on a tape and forget about, most email archives need to be ‘kept alive and kicking’ over period that could extend well beyond our retirement – or our next job move!

At the extreme end of the scale, Child Services related records – including those in email form – must be retained by UK Government bodies until the person’s 75th birthday. Imagine that!

Even if you don’t have a legislative reason to retain and discover emails, there’s usually a whole bunch of business and productivity reasons you need to ensure archives are reliably maintained and readily accessible for staff – and for a longer time than you bargained for.

So it’s no surprise that an enterprise will need to tackle at least one archive migration – possibly several – before the emails in question reach the end of the road (that’s if someone wants to take responsibility for pressing the delete button).

In fact Essential has already migrated more than a handful of customers twice – we even have several ‘three timers’ – within a span of 7 years. More recently this includes law firm Ashfords.

The drivers behind multiple jumps can be down to whole range of scenarios, including:

  1. CHANGING CIRCUMSTANCES – For example, customers have found themselves needing to move on from technically sound solutions that have unfortunately ‘fallen by the wayside’ following vendor acquisitions or lack of vendor focus.
  2. OVER-OPTIMISM – Some customers have been tempted to take advantage of increased storage capacity in newer versions of Exchange. Where this can be successful, the lack of single instancing and ‘re-hydration’ effect as emails get moved ‘back to where they came from’ can lead to a bout of archive indigestion (triggering a return to a dedicated archive).
  3. STORAGE RE-FRESH – Extricating archives from high-end specialist storage devices and end-of-life storage devices (EMC Centera fits both categories) is a common request and very justifiable in the face of spiralling storage costs. Being able to physically retrieve from the storage you may have purchased a decade ago is also important – we even had one customer whose disks had started to rust.
  4. FINANCIAL ATTRACTION – Even a recent re-vamp of an on-premises archive can be ousted in favour of a pay-as-you-go cloud model if that is what the FD desires.The good news is that from an accounting perspective, most assets – including software – are depreciated of period of 3 or 5 years, so relatively frequent switching to a new long term email storage platform is not the end of the world. Similarly, newer archive systems and storage platforms tend to have lower overheads.

What needs to be accounted for, however, is the cost and complexity of switching to the replacement (i.e. migration).

I recall the time we moved house just a few doors down the street. To save costs we decided to move ourselves – it was such a short distance for Pete’s sake.

The reality was that my partner lost 2 stones in the process of our DIY move. I guess you could say that, in that respect, our strategy to cut costs paid off. But never again.

When you’re planning a move you need to plan in removal costs from a reputable firm that will ensure everything makes it successfully to the new destination, quickly, intact and fully accounted for.

This is all part of good information governance that should be adhered to throughout the lifecycle of your corporate records.

PS – If you’ve moved your archives into Office 365, it’s highly likely that this won’t be the ‘final destination’ for your email records.  Anything can (and often, will) happen that could mean a re-location of your data.  The good news is that extracting your data out of Office 365 should be a lot easier….

This is a very frequently asked question for anyone wanting to switch to Microsoft’s cloud.

The short answer is:  If you’ve chosen the right software for your migration project, your migration ‘engine’ will never be your bottleneck.

These are the top 3 things that will have an impact on the time it takes to move your legacy archives to Microsoft 365:

1 – Your data source

  • If your archive (e.g. Enterprise Vault) sits on sluggish hardware this might be your bottleneck as you’ll need to be careful not to compromise the performance of your archive service if it’s still in use.  Some initial migration tests during the daytime will help you understand what can be tolerated.   If your migration solution can access your archive stores directly rather than going via the archive database (API), you can usually get faster results, but this may not always be possible.
  • If you use compliant storage devices like EMC Centera you’ll be limited by the access nodes available for your migration activity. It’s worth checking whether your migration software is smart enough to migrate from both your primary storage and any replicated devices to double your throughput.
  • If you have a distributed archive where data needs to come over a slow WAN from multiple sites you could consider bringing a copy of the archive stores locally to your migration hub.  This demands the ability to access the archive store directly (as you would typically not want to replicate your archive application servers).

 2 – The target (& chosen migration approach)

Microsoft 365 has inbuilt throttling, so your archive migration solution should provide the optimal regimes for uploading.

The fastest migrations will use a combination of multiple processing tasks, threads, batches and other techniques to optimise migration into Office 365.

For example, our projects from EV to Microsoft 365 have seen and range of between 10 and 25 messages per second per migration task, and we can have any number of these.  You should expect that the migration can automatically tick over for 16+ hours per day and that you can really ramp up activity out of hours.

In some instances, your migration will be limited by your physical network connection to Microsoft’s cloud.  We have seen different results in different parts of the world.

To eliminate this as a bottleneck you may consider a ‘double hop migration’ whereby the raw archived data is shipped to the cloud first (e.g. Microsoft Azure) and the data can then be migrated to Office 365 from there.

You might also use the Microsoft Drive Shipping service, but that would require you exporting content from your archives into PST files and onto a hard drive and then shipping it to Microsoft (who will then upload the contents to interim cloud storage prior to upload into Microsoft 365.

Apart from the extraction process taking a long time and creating and tracking PSTs an administrative nightmare (for example, you will need to indicate which PSTs are destined for the primary mailbox vs the archive mailbox on a per user basis), you will have an undetermined ‘wait time’ or lag before the data is uploaded by Microsoft.  

Either way, if you’re using a ‘staged’ rather than a direct ‘end-to-end’ migration you’ll need to ensure your archive is static before you start, so no more archiving.

Also, you will need to pay close attention to the process of handling shortcuts (making sure they are only removed once you know the corresponding item has been ‘rehydrated’ into Microsoft 365).

Finally, if you use a multiple hop approach to migrating your data, you need to make sure that your compliance team are happy with the handling of data because your chain of custody will be compromised.

 3 – Your project plan

Having worked with over 250 clients to migrate their archives, the biggest risk to timescales slipping is your ‘preparation phase’, especially if you’ve got a lot of hoops to jump through internally before getting your project off the ground.

First, your overall Microsoft 365 migration strategy will come into play.  For example, unless you are planning a big-bang or ‘cut-over’ migration, it is likely you will move users across in batches over a period of time.

Also, if you are not planning to migrate using a Hybrid approach, you will need to migrate the users’ primary Exchange mailboxes first and then schedule the migration of their archived data to run directly after this.

There will be many ‘political’ and legal issues to consider around how you will ensure any journal (compliance) archives are treated (a subject of a future post) and whether you will take the opportunity to limit the amount of user data you move (e.g. just the last 5 years’).  This does not address what you plan to do with leaver’s archives (another subject we plan to cover).

Getting agreement around these matters with the various stakeholders in your organisation can take a long time.

The migration procedure itself tends to be the easy bit and the quickest to get ‘in-flight’!

Contact us today for our quick start guide to getting your migration project moving!

We’re currently involved in a number of different archive migration projects, helping customers to move legacy email information from one system to another. These are often challenging projects to manage, with a lot of variables to consider.

One scenario which has come up a couple of times in recent months, is where a customer has made the decision to move an archive with several Terabytes of data from one third party solution to another.

Understandably at the point of deciding to do this, one cost they decided they could live without was the support contract for the solution they are leaving behind- why support a solution they are actively moving away from?

Well fast forward to 8 months later, and due to numerous environmental, technical and people changes, the migration is still ongoing.  This in turn impacts their migration to Exchange 2010 which cannot be completed as the old source archive is not compatible.

To get compatible clients, and upgrade the old archive will incur cost and time penalties that the customer has not accounted for on top of an already delayed project. The customer is faced with the unpleasant prospect of some unexpected costs if they want to carry on with their Exchange migration before the archive element is completed.

Our advice?  If your business is looking to make a change of archive platform, consider the implications should the migration take longer than expected.  And perhaps stay supported for the existing solution-  just in case..