Microsoft 365 is enjoying growing popularity largely due to the trend toward remote or hybrid work. Users can conveniently access documents from any device, edit files with colleagues in real time, and take advantage of other features offered by cloud technologies.

If you're planning to migrate your systems to Microsoft 365, there are several migration options. The optimal one depends on your requirements. In this article, we will focus on Exchange server-based platforms. There are four known types of migration, each with its own pros and cons. By understanding each of them, you'll be well-equipped to make the right decision for your MS 365 migration project.

Factors to consider when choosing your Microsoft 365 migration type

  1. When choosing the type of migration, you need to ask yourself a few questions, such as:
  2. How long does it take you to migrate?
  3. How big is your migration budget?
  4. How much data do you need to transfer?
  5. What existing email system are you using?
  6. What version of Exchange Server are you using?

 Next, you should conduct an in-depth study of the current situation:

Analyze the source environment

This audit will help assess the current infrastructure, determine the main stages of the project and its scope. Determine the components and content types to migrate. After this, you will have a clear idea of the actual timing of the migration process.

Make a list of available tools and resources

Such a study will help determine whether the migration will result in an infrastructure that fully meets the company's needs.

Develop an understanding of the main and accompanying goals of migration

What goals do you want to achieve with migration? Focus on the main points and steps of the migration process.

Collect the opinions of system users

It is important that end users of the IT infrastructure can benefit from innovation and are prepared for it. To do this, it is necessary to take into account the wishes of users, listen to their experience and keep them informed about the implementation of the new system.

Think ahead about communication with end users

A successful transition to a new IT infrastructure largely depends on receiving timely feedback from users. The main thing is to talk about the benefits and new available functionality. You should also report all migration processes that affect the user experience, especially as you move into the final stages of migration.

Develop a master plan and backup strategy

It's good to have a migration strategy in place for critical business functions and customers. Check your browser's compatibility, take a thorough inventory of your software, and get rid of any clutter as you make the switch.

4 types of migration

There are four types of Microsoft 365 migrations you should consider.

Staged migration

In a phased Microsoft 365 migration, all information is moved in batches. All your mailboxes, Teams information, and existing users are migrated from Exchange 2003 or 2007 to Exchange Online.

This is a great method for mid-sized companies (especially those with more than 2,000 mailboxes) that are currently using an on-premises version of Microsoft Exchange 2003 or 2007. Unfortunately, it is not available for organizations using Exchange 2010 or 2013.

Requires the use of a directory synchronization tool that replicates your accounts from the local Active Directory database. By the end of the process, all mailboxes will be hosted in MS 365.

During migration, users will still be able to send and receive emails from users who have not yet migrated. The only resources that employees will not be able to access are calendars.

How to perform a staged migration to Microsoft 365

  • Sync existing users with Microsoft 365 with AD sync
  • Create a list of all accounts that need to be transferred in CSV format
  • Create a package to move email, contacts, and calendar items to Microsoft 365 and convert existing accounts to Microsoft 365 mailboxes
  • Repeat last two steps for each batch

Benefits of a phased migration to Microsoft 365

  • Maximum flexibility in account transfers
  • You can complete the migration process in a short time
  • Reduces disruption to core business services for end users
  • Packet sizes can be controlled for optimal performance

Disadvantages of staged migration to Microsoft 365

  • Careful planning is required due to the complexity of the process
  • A dedicated administrator must be actively involved throughout the entire process.

Direct migration

A forward migration is an immediate move from on-premises Exchange to MS 365. All of your resources are migrated at once, including mailboxes, contacts, and distribution groups. With this migration, you cannot select specific items to migrate, and once the migration is complete, everyone will have an MS 365 account.

This migration method is best if you are currently using Exchange 2003, 2007, 2010, or 2013 and have fewer than 2,000 mailboxes. In fact, Microsoft recommends direct migration for companies with fewer than 150 users due to the time required to migrate that many accounts.

One thing to note is that each user's Outlook profile will need to be reconfigured to connect to Microsoft 365.

How to perform a direct migration to Microsoft 365

  • Create a security group in Microsoft 365 for new mailboxes
  • Connect your existing system's servers to Microsoft 365
  • Move mailbox items to Microsoft 365
  • Redirect incoming messages by changing DNS records
  • Confirm the transfer is complete

Benefits of migrating directly to Microsoft 365

  • One of the simplest migration types available
  • Can be done in a few days
  • Compatible with legacy Exchange servers starting with Exchange 2003
  • No need for password synchronization
  • Distribution groups, contacts and other items are also transferred

Disadvantages of direct migration to Microsoft 365

  • Less flexibility in terms of selective movement of objects and mailboxes
  • No Azure Active Directory synchronization between on-premises servers and Microsoft 365

Hybrid migration

Hybrid migration allows you to integrate Microsoft 365 with on-premises Exchange servers and existing directory services. As a result, you can sync and manage user accounts for both environments.

With hybrid migration, you can move mailboxes in and out of Exchange Online. You can even choose which mailboxes to keep on-premises and which to move to Microsoft 365. Plus, you can sync passwords and implement single sign-on for your team to make it easier to sign in to both environments.

If you want to use hybrid migration, you will need more than 2,000 mailboxes. You must also have Exchange 2010 or later. Otherwise, you must install at least one on-premises Exchange 2013 or Exchange 2010 SP3 server to enable hybrid deployment connectivity.

How do I perform a hybrid migration to Microsoft 365?

Hybrid migration is a multi-layered, complex process and is best outsourced to experts. There are several prerequisites for a hybrid deployment, the most important of which is that the Exchange server versions are compatible. Your Microsoft 365 subscription must include Azure Active Directory synchronization to support hybrid deployments. The appropriate permissions should then be available for deployment. Common steps for a hybrid migration may include:

  • Creating Remote Migration Endpoints
  • Enabling the MRSProxy service for local exchange servers
  • Use the remote move migration type for on-premises mailboxes in Exchange Online and run migration batches
  • Enable offline access for Outlook

Benefits of hybrid migration to Microsoft 365

  • Secure connection between on-premises and Microsoft 365 accounts
  • Shared domain name, calendar, username and password for both accounts
  • Integrated controls for on-premises and Microsoft 365 accounts
  • Message tracking, mail prompts and search functions across multiple mailboxes for both accounts
  • Microsoft 365 archiving functionality expands to on-premises Exchange mailboxes
  • Exchange of employment information is possible in both directions

Disadvantages of hybrid migration to Microsoft 365

  • Creates avoidable complications due to simultaneous mailboxes
  • Need to use Azure Active Directory and Microsoft 365 password synchronization
  • Forcing legacy Exchange servers to remain active for longer periods of time
  • Relative inflexibility when moving to an all-cloud deployment

IMAP migration

While the previous three types of Microsoft 365 migration rely solely on Exchange, IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) migration allows you to migrate users from Gmail or any other email system that supports IMAP migration.

IMAP migration extracts information from your source mailboxes and transfers it to Microsoft 365. However, IMAP migration does not migrate anything other than email. Calendar items, tasks, and contacts remain in the original mailbox and must be manually transferred by the user.

You'll also have to create a mailbox for each user before you begin the email transfer—other types of transfers automatically create an account for you.

Disadvantages of Migration IMAP in Microsoft 365

IMAP migration has a limit of 50,000 mailboxes and 5,000,000 items. And once the migration is complete, any new mail sent to the original mailbox will not be delivered.

Staged, direct, hybrid or IMAP migration - what to choose?

This brings us to the end of our comparison of different migration options to Microsoft 365. While direct migration is best suited for small organizations with a few users, staged migration is optimal for large enterprises, and hybrid deployments are suitable in circumstances where organizations must maintain their existing email servers even when migrating to Microsoft 365.

Migration is a complex process that requires the participation of Microsoft certified experts. It is for this reason that we recommend that organizations outsource the email migration process. We at Fanetech at 100% are focused on the Microsoft stack and are their gold partner in Kazakhstan. Our specialists provide 24/7 phone and email support throughout the entire process. For detailed information, just contact us.

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