Moving a Legacy Exchange Environment to Office 365

April 20, 2020

Although most large IT organization have resisted deploying the system since its release in 2011, it’s safe to say the jury is in and the verdict is unanimous; if you run a Microsoft shop, it is time to move the organization’s wealth of data to Office 365.

Given that most IT shops have plenty of unstructured data (along with all the risk and governance baggage that comes along with it), Office 365 has a multitude of useful components to choose from. Like its on-prem predecessor, each component has its individual challenges proving to auditors that a regular security and compliance posture is being managed and the permissions and access to those critical IT assets are being maintained. Think: OneDrive, SharePoint or Exchange. Similar to moving a large family from one house to another, it pays to spend time in the attic and the garage sorting through the family’s collective belongings, understanding who it all belongs to and whether it is still needed, before physically moving everything to a new residence.

Moving a large corporation to O365 is no different. Unless legally bound or mandated, there is no logical reason for any IT organization to store or archive large amounts of corporate data in a new cloud environment beyond its usefulness or required retention period.

To ensure that different types of storage are being managed and their varying costs are being utilized properly, having a clear understanding of stale data versus what data is active is critical to any corporate retentions policy and migration path as you move relevant corporate data to the cloud.

Individual vs. Shared vs. VIP Mailboxes. Microsoft does make an honest effort to simplify their licensing model. The storage quotas for corporate e-mail are more than adequate yet there are some licensing gotchas folks need to consider when it comes to distinguishing between an individual mailbox that has a cost and a shared mailbox that does not. Knowing the difference up-front will not necessarily make a Microsoft Rep happy but, at large companies, it will defray unnecessary up-front licensing costs. Additionally, It is also important for organizations to understand VIP mailbox access and delegation rights to ensure that proper operational and administrative security is being practiced in the new cloud environment.

Public Folders and PSTs. Other areas of the legacy Exchange environment that need attention before user-data is moved into Office 365 are public folders and PSTs, both of which can become problematic should bad actors gain access to the content in them. Most organizations limit the creation of PSTs as a matter of policy but, somehow, they still end-up finding their way onto a server or some storage area where they should not exist. Public Folders, on the other hand, have become a dumping ground of data over the years both personal and business. Figuring out who owns the public folder, its content, and who effectively has access to them is almost impossible, unless organizations have the resources to reach out to hundreds, maybe thousands of users via e-mail or phone, and then track their answers…..if they answer. It is both logical and cost effective to employ some form of AI (Artificial Intelligence) or software platform that has the automated ability to contact, track and remediate based on user responses; all from a single interface.

These are just a few areas of the messaging environment where a clear, up-front understanding of the risks and nuances associated to the Office 365 migration process will help resourced challenged IT organizations be more cost-effective. If you’re preparing to move your corporate data from on prem environment to a cloud-based one, it’s the perfect time to take stock of you data and translate roles and functions for migration and external sharing.

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