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64% companies to deploy Office 365 by 2017 will require migration of email archives

As someone who is charged with staying ahead of current trends and happenings within our market, I was extremely interested reading a recent white paper by Osterman Research, one of the research firms that has continued to highlight messaging best practices, entitled “Migration to Exchange Online and Office 365: A Step-by-Step Guide”. Not only is the white paper a useful tool for anyone considering migration to Office 365, it delivers handy scenarios and an extremely useful framework that any enterprise customer can utilize when migrating their content and email data to the Microsoft Cloud.

The research conducted by Michael Osterman and his team of gurus suggests that 64% of the companies that will deploy Office 365 by 2017 will require, “the migration of content from existing email archives”.  While that figure is not surprising at all to a company like us that sees the migration to and from these costly sources day in and day out, what it does not reflect is the sheer degree of variation and magnitude of data considerations faced by the 64% – such as varied sources of data, mixed ways in which each organisation uses and stores emails, and most importantly, the many ways in which each organisation needs to be able to use the data they retain in the future. Some will genuinely seek to use it as a source of business intelligence. However, in most cases, it’s retained almost exclusively as a means by which to adhere to regulatory compliance and “…avoid negative legal repercussions”.

The white paper briefly touches on Journal Data within email archives, stating that they require “important considerations to manage journal data within the context of new Microsoft rules and remain in compliance with regulations for record keeping”. This is something of an understatement in my opinion, as an email journal, when properly maintained, is the company’s immutable record of all email traffic into, out of and sent within its domain – it is critical for regulatory compliance and for providing evidence contained in emails for litigation purposes. Typically an email Journal archive will store a single-instance of every email, listing all senders and recipients in one place – that way, when you search the journal, absolutely all information relating to a given email is returned. This is somewhat different to searching a user’s individual archive, where only what the user received will be returned (there might have been Bcc recipients, for example).

What the white paper hints at, but does not fully explain, is just how these “new Microsoft rules” concerning Journaling play out for a company that needs to maintain seamless compliance and eDiscovery following a migration to Office 365. Microsoft has re-written the rulebook when it comes to Journal archives, decreeing that they will not support company-wide single-instance Journals and prefer to see each user with their own copy of each of their messages stored within their own mailbox or archive. This presents a potentially arduous migration issue for an enterprise looking to take full advantage of Microsoft Office 365 – as stated in our white paper a few months ago;Making Office 365 One-Stop-Shop for Email Records Compliance, please go to: http://bit.ly/1Zh2Zje.

The conversion, from single-instance store back into multiple instances of each message, is a highly specialist task. Not only does it involve the analysis of every individual message in the central journal, and the identification of each valid recipient, it also involves the creation of as many instances of the message as necessary, and the meticulous and practiced placement of the new messages into the recoverable items folder of an individual users’ In-Place archives.

So, now you know why I found this research so interesting – when in the business of migrating and being part of the organisation that conducted the first archive migrations – painstaking migration issues such as these become our problem to solve. It’s our business to not only understand the problems plaguing companies looking to move swiftly, but also to try to solve other issues our partners will face when moving their clients, such as how to handle data from staff who have already left the company, particularly if those staff have emails on legal hold.

No matter the issues or directive, the most important consideration is that, with the right migration solution, there is no problem unsolvable or unachievable.

Not every vendor that claims to be able to undertake a comprehensive email archive migration to Office 365 will be able to perform this task – although their claims and chatter may lead you to assume differently. Some have even looked to circumvent Microsoft’s new system and contravene their customer’s license agreement by simply dumping the huge Journal archive into what should be a user’s mailbox. Yikes! Now this approach is likely to cause endless headaches down the line and is not something that Microsoft will be able to support.

Compliance through Journal archiving, and the need to be able to maintain this before, during and after migration between disparate proprietary systems is a hugely important topic then, one that requires further research. TransVault’s latest release of its flagship product, Migrator 8.0, contains a Universal Compliance connector for Journal archives that is specifically designed to handle single-instance Journal conversion to Office 365 from the widest array of source archives available. Didn’t I tell you we make your migration problems our business!

Additionally, we saw such a possible handicap for enterprise customers who depend on their Journal Data and want to take full advantage of their shift to the Microsoft Cloud, that we took it upon ourselves to work together with Osterman on a follow-up white paper. The new research will dive deeper into this and other issues and will help pave the way to Office 365 for any organisation being held back by their legacy Journal archive.

Osterman Research’s recent findings suggest, “Every organization operating under compliance requirements, or who hold current email archives that need to be migrated without breaching archiving integrity, should definitely get expert assistance from third-party migration vendors. The risk of being out of compliance, or breaking chain of custody in email archives is too high to do otherwise.”

Journal archives are the most important aspect within this, and some expert assistance on the matter is better than others. Our research simply states – enlist the help of a “Migration Master” with a proven service record and badge that only those truly proficient in the practice of migrating can attain.

Barney Haye

Posted by: Barney Haye

Founder of TransVault, Barney has championed the business opportunities created by vendor lock-in in the email archiving marketplace.

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