How to migrate email journals: journaling in Microsoft 365

Posted by Liam Neate on Feb 05, 2024 Last updated Feb 06, 2024

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In a world of litigation and regulatory compliance, organizations need to ensure that their email records remain intact, readily accessible and fully discoverable over their entire lifecycle. This is particularly true in any email archive migration to Microsoft 365.

We also saw that, with emails retained in journals even for staff who had long since left the business, these repositories would embody enormous volumes and value, and still need to move with the business as technology evolved. Transvault developed the technology that allows you to migrate decades’ worth of email journals into the cloud in a fully compliant way, retaining full and efficient eDiscovery.

What are email journals and why they matter

Journal keeps a central store of all messages sent to or from an organization 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 messages. It allows them to know exactly who received a message if it’s involved in a legal case.

It is likely that your organization is storing a journal mailbox on-prem or in the cloud for compliance reasons.

The problem of legacy journals and Microsoft 365

Due to per-user, rather than per-server, licensing in Microsoft 365, single-instance journals ceased to be the de facto methodology. Microsoft mandated that each user should retain their own copy of any given message they were involved in. This means that Microsoft 365 does not have a concept of a single instanced journal archive to store a copy of every email sent and received. It does not have an equivalent central journal mailbox and does not natively recognise the compliance format of legacy journal messages. This represents a significant problem when it comes to migrating all relevant data to Microsoft 365.

Email journaling in Office 365

New emails in Microsoft 365 are put in user mailboxes under In-Place Hold / indefinite litigation. It also allows you to indefinitely retain inactive mailboxes, preserve BCCd and distribution list members in message headers and hide this from users, but make it visible to eDiscovery. This provides the required functionality from an eDiscovery point of view, but it does mean that a fundamental disconnect will exist between your new email compliance and your historical email compliance.

But the problem remains, what do you do with organization’s legacy journal archive? This crucial data, often multiple terabytes in volume, underpins your regulatory compliance stretching back years.

Organizations wanting to move to Microsoft 365 need to make a decision about how to maintain their legacy email journal archives. The traditional options are to either migrate the journal to a third-party cloud service or keep your legacy journals on-premises (costly as you need to retain infrastructure and expertise). This also throws up issues around carrying out eDiscovery across disjointed repositories, spanning multiple data sources and interfaces.

With Compliance TimeMachine (CTM), Transvault enables you to store your emails and legacy journal records in one fully discoverable location. CTM is a feature of Transvault Migrator that eliminates the overheads associated with the two options outlined above as well as making performing eDiscovery significantly easier. By providing this reliable consolidation, Transvault mitigates some of the costs and risks associated with maintaining the accessibility of journal data and managing its lifecycle.

Beyond mere compliance, a properly migrated journal archive can safeguard a business from potential future litigation or governance issues that may arise from not taking legacy email data into account during the migration process.

Migrate your archive journals with Transvault

Discover our email journal migration service and the power of Compliance TimeMachine

Email journal migration

What is Transvault Compliance TimeMachine?

Let’s take a deeper dive into our Compliance TimeMachine, exploring how it works and why you need it. Ultimately, Compliance TimeMachine ensures legacy journal archives can be migrated to Microsoft 365 in a compliant manner and remain searchable by the right people. It provides you with the confidence that every user will end up with a fully compliant set of historic email messages in a format that is fully supported by Microsoft 365.

What does it actually do?

Compliance TimeMachine changes your legacy journal data so that it looks like the emails that Microsoft 365 retains under In-Place Hold. Essentially, we make your historical email compliance the same as your future email compliance. This ensures that all downstream eDiscovery processes will work consistently with both future and historical datasets. In fact, they won’t realise that there is any difference between them.

How do we make them look the same?

Compliance TimeMachine takes your legacy journal and explodes it:

  • Individual journal messages will be analysed to retrieve the relevant compliance information
  • All valid recipients will be identified
  • Each valid recipient will then receive the relevant copy of that journal message in their Microsoft 365 inbox in a format that M365 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 Microsoft 365 mailboxes. This is the key to making the data consistent with Mircosoft Office 365, because the service is only concerned with user mailboxes, and doesn’t have single instance stores.

This does create more data but (most) enterprise Microsoft 365 plans have unlimited sizes on your In-Place archive mailbox, if not your primary mailbox.

Transvault doesn’t charge you extra for this expanded data being migrated. It is part of our Microsoft 365 Migration service.

Compliance TimeMachine ingests 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. This means user experience isn’t impacted, but the legal department will be able to access that legacy journal data. Compliance TimeMachine makes this entire journal migration process invisible to the user.

Keeping only the required journal data

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 M365 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 M365
  • Recipients who are inactive internal users (leavers) – not currently employed by the company, but a legal department will still want 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 Compliance TimeMachine adds value to your email 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 are lost. Your legal department will almost certainly need to sign-off on exactly what is going to be migrated and to where, so that they can carry out checks post-migration.

Compliance TimeMachine also allows you to solve the problem of needing Microsoft 365 licenses for leavers. It gives you complete control over the order in which users are migrated. This is not true for a regular journal mailbox migration, because messages in a legacy journal mailbox are ordered by date, not recipient, meaning that 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 allows M365 licenses to be repurposed between users on a more flexible basis.

Compliance 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 Microsoft 365.

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

Migrate your archive journals with Transvault

Doing a journal migration using the Transvault Compliance TimeMachine ensures that your legacy journal is migrated to Microsoft 365 in a consistent format. Microsoft 365 will then serve as a complete proposition for compliant archiving, covering the whole life of your organization’s legacy data and storing it in such a way as to remain efficiently discoverable.

If you’re considering a move to Microsoft 365, or you have a journal archive in need of transformation, contact Transvault to get a holistic view of all the options.

Speak to our expert team today.