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If Only Doc Brown & Marty McFly Knew About TransVault’s Compliance TimeMachine

How poignant that just this week the world celebrated that day in October, over two decades ago when Marty McFly, was shown what the future held.  Similar to Marty and his DeLorean bound trip to the future, TransVault offers its customers and partners a way to prepare for the future…well, their email archive future at any rate.

So what is TransVault Compliance TimeMachine, and why this particular naming convention? Sit back and imagine you’re in the DeLorean while I explain how TransVault can help you migrate decades’ worth of email journals into your technology future. However, before I unveil the why of it, let me share with you what it does.

What does the TimeMachine actually do?

The problem… Journals are from Mars, Office 365 is from Venus

It’s no surprise that one of the barriers preventing some enterprise customers moving their legacy archives to Office 365 is their legacy journal mailbox. As I’m sure you’re aware, a journal keeps a central store of all messages sent to or from an organisation in a special compliance format. This special format retains things like any Bcc recipients, the recipients of any distribution list at the time of sending, etc. that would not necessarily be included on the copy of a message that a user sees.These extra pieces of metadata are very important to your legal department when they do eDiscovery on your messages. They really, really want to know for sure who got a message if it’s involved in a legal case.

When it comes to Office 365 however, there is a pretty large elephant in the room – Office 365 does not have an equivalent central journal mailbox, and does not natively recognise the compliance format of legacy journal messages. Although Office 365 now allows you to achieve the same effect for your new emails – from an eDiscovery point of view, by putting user mailboxes under In-Place (Litigation) Hold – there’s a fundamental disconnect between your new email compliance and your historical email compliance. It’s a classic problem of trying to compare apples with bananas.

To date, there has been no silver bullet to solve this problem if you have a legacy journal. Companies either have to keep their legacy journals on-prem (costly – have to retain infrastructure and expertise) or use a third party provider to migrate the journal to (additional cost on top of Office 365, harder to do consistent eDiscovery across multiple data sources). Both of these dilute the business case for moving to Office 365 in the first place.

So what can you do to bring your legacy journal into Office 365 in a consistent format?

The solution…. explode your Journal!

We think the best way around this problem is to change your legacy journal data so that it looks like the emails that Office 365 will retain on an ongoing basis under In-Place Hold. If your historical email compliance is the same as your future email compliance in Office 365, we’re all good, right? All downstream eDiscovery processes will work consistently with both future & historical datasets – in fact, they won’t actually realize that there is any difference between them.

The question is, how do you make them look the same, and what does that actually mean in practice?

This is where the TimeMachine comes in. It will take your legacy journal and explode it. Exploding something might sound a little extreme, but what it means is:

  • Individual journal messages will be analyzed to retrieve the relevant compliance information
  • All valid recipients (I’ll talk more about this in a moment….) will be identified
  • Each valid recipient will then receive the relevant copy of that journal message in their Office 365 inbox in a format that Office 365 recognises – with all the relevant compliance information retained.

So “exploding” a journal message is really about taking a single instance message from a journal mailbox and then creating multiple instances of it (i.e. copies) for all valid recipients of that message, finally ingesting those into Office 365 mailboxes. This is the key to making the data consistent with Office 365, because the service is only concerned with user mailboxes, and doesn’t have single instance stores.

Won’t I then end up with a shed load more data than I started with? And won’t my users complain about all this extra data appearing in their inboxes?

The simple answer to the first question is – yes. You’re going to lose the benefit of having a single store of compliance data to reduce its size.

The good news is, of course, that this is Microsoft’s problem, and not yours. These days, as we all know, storage is cheap, and (most) enterprise Office 365 plans have unlimited sizes on your In-Place archive mailbox, if not your primary mailbox. If you’re the sort of company who journals messages, you’re going to want the Litigation Hold & eDiscovery features that you only get with an enterprise Office 365 plan anyway. So the reality is, you don’t have to worry about the extra data you’re creating. Go crazy – Microsoft can afford it….

Oh, and TransVault won’t charge you extra for this expanded data being migrated either….

The simple answer to the second question is – no. The TimeMachine will ingest all legacy journal messages into an area of each user’s Office 365 In-Place Archive that is invisible to users but visible for eDiscovery searches. Which is perfect, as the only people interested in historical email compliance (the legal department) will still be the only people able to access that legacy journal data.

The TimeMachine makes this entire journal migration process invisible to the user.

How I do I sort out journal data that I need to keep from data that I don’t? And make sure I’m not paying for more Office 365 licenses than I need to?

So – this is where “valid recipients” come in!

Inside your legacy journal mailbox, you will find all sorts of messages with all sorts of recipients. They can broadly be split into three groups:

  • Senders or recipients who are external users – from outside the company in question, do not have an O365 mailbox under the company’s control, exclude from migration (all information on them as external recipients will be still retained on the copies to the internal recipients or sender)
  • Recipients who are active internal users – currently employed by the company, can expect that they’ll have a licensed mailbox ready to receive the exploded journal messages in O365
  • Recipients who are inactive internal users (leavers) – not currently employed by the company, but legal department still wants to be able to do eDiscovery on their emails. So they need to have any journal messages for which they are a recipient migrated into a mailbox allocated to them. However, it’s safe to assume that a company won’t want to pay for a license in Office 365 for this leaver just so a legacy journal message can be stored!

This is really where the TimeMachine adds value to your journal migration.

It enables you to distinguish in advance of starting your migration which users, and which messages, fall into each of these groups. This is particularly vital during a journal migration where it is critical that no messages get lost. It’s highly likely the legal department will demand to sign-off on exactly what is going to be migrated, and where it is going to, so that they can check afterwards that was in fact the case.

Not only that, but the TimeMachine can also enable you to solve the problem of needing Office 365 licenses for leavers. It gives you complete control over the order in which users are migrated, which is not true for a regular journal mailbox migration, because messages in a legacy journal mailbox are ordered by date, not recipient – the emails involving each given recipient are all jumbled up. By controlling the order of user migration, you have the flexibility in your project to choose to migrate your leavers first, and then reuse their licenses later for the active users. Microsoft have recently changed their rules to allow for Office 365 licenses to be repurposed between users on a more flexible basis. So no need to buy more Office 365 licenses than you need on an ongoing basis!

As you’d expect, the TimeMachine also allows you to migrate journal messages given their date, so only those messages that fall within a current retention policy will be migrated to Office 365.

The TimeMachine enables the entire journal migration process transparently, efficiently, flexibly and cost effectively.

What next for the TimeMachine?

Shouldn’t you already know that if we’ve given you a time machine….?

Seriously though – what we’ve released with Migrator so far is a version of the TimeMachine that works with journal mailboxes held in Symantec Enterprise Vault or HP/Autonomy EAS (now managed by Capax Global) source archives. From here, we will continue to build out its capabilities as you, our customers, demand.

And finally….

Why is it called the TimeMachine?

My daughter is an avid Dr Who fan, and got very excited when I told her that we were working on a time machine. The truth of course is that, despite having many smart people working here, finding a way around the rules of general relativity and quantum mechanics still eludes us, and I’m afraid to say that this is an analogy rather than a reality.

That said, the effects of doing a journal migration using the TransVault Compliance TimeMachine are like gunning the DeLorean to 88mph, because what results in Office 365 is something that looks like mailboxes that have always been under Litigation Hold from the date you started journaling – as if you’d jumped in a time machine, travelled back in time to the point you started journaling in Exchange, and instead, moved your infrastructure to Office 365 and put your mailboxes under Litigation Hold.

As mentioned before, the primary goal of the TimeMachine was to ensure that your legacy journal is migrated to Office 365 in a consistent format, with your ongoing email compliance taken care of.

So in the end, we continue to respond to the needs and demands of customers and partners, even if imposed by higher powers such as Microsoft. We continually look to keep our archive migration tools and services forward thinking and innovative, much like “Doc Brown” did, by anticipating what the future holds for us. I am proud to be part of the most tenured, proven and innovative Archive Migration business in the world!

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