Onboarding to Office 365

Office 365 Migration Types: Everything You Need to Know for a Successful Migration

Every successful business, either small, medium, or large enterprise, is always on the lookout for ways to make their ...


Every successful business, either small, medium, or large enterprise, is always on the lookout for ways to make their business more profitable and successful.  While some organizations still prefer the old norm when it comes to technology, when industry standards change, the organization realizes they must move on to up-to-date technology if they want to stay in business. It has been proven that the move to the cloud saves companies money based on the total cost of ownership, such as office 365 migration. In addition, you can quickly provision or scale services according to organizational needs with less impact. Migrating your email infrastructure to the cloud has also been shown to be an opportunity for better information governance.

Office 365 Migration Types Everything You Need to Know for a Successful MigrationThe above are just a few of the main arguments for migrating on-premises email infrastructure to the cloud. Now that we know the benefit of moving to the cloud, you may be asking what are the options for doing so?

Before looking at the Office 365 migration types, it is crucial we take a closer look at the on-premise environments for their dynamics. You need to review all the elements and determine the best route to success. These include:

  • the platform your email system runs on
  • the platform any on-premise archiving system is hosted on
  • the size of data to be moved
  • your available budget
  • the size of your organization
  • additional tasks that need to be completed during the cloud migration

In this article, we will focus on Exchange server-based platforms. There are four notable types of migration, each with pros and cons. By understanding each of them, you will be well-armed to make the right decision for your Office 365 migration project.

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1. Staged Migration

For legacy Exchange server versions (2003-2007), the only Microsoft-supported migration method to O365 is Staged Migration. With this Office 365 migration type, you can move your entire email infrastructure in batches. This method is beneficial for legacy Exchange servers if you have more than 2000 seats; however, for a successful migration, some critical factors need to be taken into consideration:

  • You must synchronize accounts between your on-premises Active Directory domain and Microsoft 365 or Office 365 by using Azure Active Directory sync for a staged migration to work.
  • The primary domain name used for your on-premises Exchange organization must be a domain verified to your Microsoft 365 or Office 365 organization.
  • You can migrate only user mailboxes and resource mailboxes. Other recipient types, such as distribution groups, contacts, and mail-enabled users, are migrated to Office 365 or Microsoft 365 through the process of directory synchronization.
  • Out of Office messages aren't migrated with user mailboxes. If a user turns on the Out of Office feature before the migration to Office 365, the feature will remain enabled on the migrated mailbox, but the Out of Office message is blank. As a result, people who send messages to the mailbox won't receive an Out of Office notification. To allow Out of Office notifications to be sent, the user needs to recreate the Out of Office message after the mailbox is migrated.
  • If you have previously limited the connections to your source email system, it's a good idea to increase them to improve migration performance. Typical connection limits include client/server total connections, per-user connections, and IP address connections on either the server or the firewall.

More details about staged migrations are available here.

2. Cutover / Express Migration

For organizations with less than 2000 users, the easiest, most convenient, and probably the most cost-effective method of migration to Office 365 is called Cutover/Express Migration.

As the name implies, cutover means you can cut over all your on-premise email infrastructure and user accounts in one go. This sort of Office 365 migration process can be used if the email infrastructure runs on Exchange versions from 2003 to 2013 (Note: It is not supported for recent versions).

As you can see from the number of supported users, this would be an ideal solution for small/medium scale organizations. Although you can cut over all your users at once for a successful and less trouble-prone migration experience, Microsoft advised migrating less than 150 user accounts at a time. So, for a user base of 2000, you will need to create 15-20 batches. For a successful migration to Office 365, you should keep the following in mind whilst planning:

  • You can move your entire email organization to Microsoft 365 or Office 365 over a few days and manage user accounts in Microsoft 365 or Office 365.
  • A maximum of 2,000 mailboxes can be migrated to Microsoft 365 or Office 365 using a cutover Exchange migration. However, it is recommended that you only migrate 150 mailboxes at a time.
  • The primary domain name used for your on-premises Exchange organization must be an accepted domain owned by you in your Microsoft 365 or Office 365 organization.
  • After the migration is complete, each user who has an on-premises Exchange mailbox also will be a new user in Microsoft 365 or Office 365. However, you must still assign licenses to users whose mailboxes are migrated.

More details about this sort of migration can be found here

3. Hybrid Deployment

The third method of migrating on-premises email infrastructure into Office 365 is via the Hybrid deployment method. This is the most complex and probably the most expensive type of Office 365 migration; however, with high setup complexity and increased cost comes a huge range of benefits compared to the other forms of migrations discussed so far. The advantages include:

  • Testing the waters: This migration method is perfect for you if you are not ready to fully commit to Office 365 and your email infrastructure is hosted on a minimum of Exchange Server version 2010. This method allows you to assess/review the impact of the move to the cloud on the user experience front. Likewise, you can determine the total cost of ownership (TCO) and see if it is genuinely worth the cost while still maintaining your on-premises infrastructure.
  • Free up space: This method also affords larger enterprises to free up space on the on-premises servers by moving old data (or archives) into the cloud. In addition, the free space can be used to improve the performance of the Exchange organization.
  • It is also worthwhile to note that this is the only form of Office 365 migration that allows you to move mail cross-premise (in both directions) without the help of a third-party tool.

4. Internet Message Access Protocol

The last type of Office 365 migration that we will look at is the Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP) migration. This migration method allows those businesses that do not have an Exchange-based mail system to move their mailboxes into Office 365. The downside of this method is it only allows you to migrate the content of the ‘inbox’ and any other email folders. It does not allow the migration of contacts and tasks, for example. In addition, for this sort of migration to Office 365, administrators will have to manually provision mailboxes for users as they are not automatically created.

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Other Factors

The above are the main ways to migrate email data to Office 365. However, knowing the different Office 365 migration types is just one step. To be successful, you need to be aware of certain factors that can affect Office 365 migration performance. Factors such as:

  • Network performance: This is probably one of the most important factors that need to be considered. One of the factors of how long the migration will take depends on network capacity. For this reason, a common first step before any migration process begins is to evaluate the stability of the network, upload speed, delays from the ISPs, etc. Another potential issue with migrations to Office 365 is the firewall between your organization and the internet. For a successful migration, teams need to assess multiple aspects of their network to ensure they are ready for an Office 365 migration.
  • Data Source: Another important factor to look a is the limitation of the data source. Are there any limits in place, e.g. how much data can be extracted over a certain period? What is the condition of the data being moved? For example, consider migrating PST data to Office 365 – are there any corrupt PSTs that need working on before starting the migration? What is the data density and types? For example, a 5GB mailbox with 500 different items containing 5MB files will migrate faster than a 5GB mailbox with 10000 comparatively smaller items.
  • Migration Engine: The tool used to extract data from on-premises to the cloud platform might have its own limitations and functions. Enterprise organizations need to analyze which Office 365 migration tool should be used based on the requirements of the project. For example, our migration solutions run on top of our ReMAD platform, which offers the ability to scale up and scale down easily as project requirements and data increase or decrease.
  • Impact on Business: Before moving your email infrastructure to the cloud, you should ask what the impact will be on the business and the end-users. You also need to check for the license needs of all users. Finally, before you decide on any migration method, it’s advisable to speak with a specialist migration vendor, such as Cloudficient. Your recipe for success is dependent on how reputable and effective your migration vendor is. This is because it takes the right strategy and constant evaluation to have a smooth and successful Office 365 migration.

In this article, we have reviewed the major routes by which you can get your on-premises email infrastructure to Office 365 and have deliberated on the recipe for a successful migration experience. At Cloudficient, we believe no two Office 365 migrations are the same; however, with over 100 years of team experience, we believe we can approach any project and meet the requirements of any organization.

With unmatched next generation migration technology, Cloudficient is revolutionizing the way businesses retire legacy systems and transform their organization into the cloud. Our business constantly remains focused on client needs and creating product offerings that match them. We provide affordable services that are scalable, fast, and seamless.

If you would like to learn more about how to bring Cloudficiency to your migration project, visit our website, or contact us.

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