In this article, we'll walk you through the basics of planning your Office 365 email migration. The steps listed focus on identifying and mitigating risks.

Why is email so important?

First invented in the 1960s, email is a critical element of business communications today. It is often the primary mode of communication between colleagues, clients and suppliers. Mail is used as a two-factor login method for web applications and password resets, and is also involved in any registration and verification processes. 

And don't forget that your email archive is an extremely important source of a wide variety of information. It's good practice to keep an email archive for at least 12 months, but you'll probably want to consider archiving for at least six years. Email histories can also be used in court as evidence. 

Is Office 365 email migration easy?

Email migration comes with its own risks, and since email is considered a critical asset for most SMBs, you simply can't afford to make a mistake and lose data. The migration process needs to be carefully considered and planned.

How to Plan an Office 365 Email Migration

We break our planning down into three main steps: designating what's being migrated, planning the migration, and executing the migration. 


Step 1: Label the data to be transferred

All successful projects begin with planning. When migrating mail, understanding what needs to be moved or reconfigured is the first step. Consider the following checklist and you will see that this is quite a difficult task.

  • User mailbox data typically includes emails, contacts, calendars, and tasks. These are the highest risk elements because users will immediately notice information disappearing. You must plan your migration so that employees continue to receive incoming emails even during the migration process.
  • If email is used to send messages from an email marketing platform, CRM, ERP, MRP, mobile apps, web apps, or e-commerce platform, the migration will also affect the use of the listed services. They are often overlooked by those new to migration.
  • General mailboxes. It is likely that the company has mailboxes such as info@, or sales@. They often serve general requests, so it's important to ensure they run smoothly.
  • Mailing lists are used to send email to predefined lists and save a lot of time. Such lists must also be saved.
  • DNS records will need to be reconfigured so that your email is routed to Office 365 rather than your old system.
  • User devices will also need to be reconfigured to connect to the new mailboxes in Office 365. This includes not only desktops and laptops, but also tablets and phones.

Step 2: Make a plan and share it

The email migration should complete without downtime or data loss and with minimal impact to users. The process requires planning and good communication. For example, employees may be located in different locations and even time zones, and they will use a variety of devices and email clients. Also, one company can have several email domains hosted by different providers. Thus, the plan must include all of the following sub-items:

  • Licensing plan.
    As part of the planning process, you need to map old emails to the new Office 365 "tenant" and confirm what you want to do with each account.
  • Individual plan. Email migration provides an ideal opportunity to get your email in order. Regular users will predominantly migrate with the same username and password, but former employees' mailboxes can be migrated to shared mailboxes, which do not require a separate license and can be accessed by the immediate supervisor. If you have employees with multiple email addresses, you can combine them.
  • From a security point of view, order in mailboxes is important. Remember, the more email addresses a company has, the more opportunities there are for others to try to breach security and cause harm.
  • Spam and malware filtering plan. Necessary to reduce the flow of spam. Office 365 has three separate layers of spam and malware filtering built into it, so most customers are moving away from their current email filtering service, reducing both cost and complexity.
  • Plan for current devices and email clients. A wide range of different devices are suitable for working with Office 365, so users can continue to use any gadgets. And the Outlook Office 365 email client works well on all Windows, macOS, Android and iOS devices. (Remember that Exchange Online works with Outlook 2010 and later, so if you already have it, you can continue to use it).
  • Team resource plan. After you have created a migration plan between services, you need to decide who will do it. Whether your current setup is complex or not, a Microsoft CSP partner can help you with your move. The level of specialists required during migration may be too high and it is often impossible to migrate using internal staff.
  • Active Directory Plan. Finally, if you have an on-premises Active Directory domain, you can synchronize it with Azure Active Directory, which manages authentication for the Office 365 tenant so that users can continue to use their network login as their sole source of authentication.

Now you know what you are going to transfer and who will do it, it’s time to share the plan with the team and management, collect feedback and agree on deadlines. 

Step 3: Performing the migration
The migration process should be invisible to the average employee and not interfere with his work. Simply put, employees should be able to use email as they always have. Then, at the point of transition, they start using Office 365 instead of the old email. All email, calendar and contacts are copied and updated.

There will of course be a lot of action going on in the background, including: creating an Office 365 tenant, adding domains, adding selected Office 365 licenses, creating users, and assigning a source mailbox to Office 365.

The conversion process changes DNS registrations to make Office 365 the live email service for migrating domains. This will automatically connect Outlook on your Windows PC to its own Office 365 account and perform another data sync. An hourly scan for the next 72 hours after the switch will catch all emails that were delivered to old mailboxes and copy them to the new Office 365 mailboxes.

To learn more

A good Microsoft licensing structure is an important part of every migration or installation we at Fanetech perform.

If you'd like to learn more or talk to us about how Microsoft Office 365 can help your company, contact us today.

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