Did you know more than 500,000 companies have adopted Office 365 in the US alone?

Companies today have realized that migrating their on-premise mailboxes, data, communications, and email management solutions to a cloud-based platform like Office 365 is highly beneficial as well as user-friendly. Studies reveal that around 78% of enterprises have moved a portion of their IT and data (hybrid deployment) to the cloud platforms, and most of the cloud users are currently on-board Office 365.

As a CIO or CEO, concerns regarding office 365 security and reliability before migration are natural to arise when you’re considering moving your business entirely or partly to the cloud. You may even wonder if you should be migrating to office 365 at all. Rest assured, Office 365 is the standout amongst the most secure platforms in the world. Microsoft also offers several tools to help you avoid cyber threats & data breaches. Read more about Office 365 Security Best Practices.

But, before we move on to learn about the Office 365 migration step-by-step there is one pre-requisite to complete and that is to prepare an ‘Office 365 pre-migration checklist‘. Whether it’s an office 365 minimal hybrid migration or migration of large mailboxes it is important to consider key things before even planning out the transition:

Communicate the transition – The internal and external stakeholders need to be prepared in advance before starting out the migration. Communicate the migration plan, time frame, and the day of the cutover
Prepare details of migration – This includes the preparation of on-premises exchange inventory. No. of mailboxes, storage locations, DNS etc.
Current infrastructure assessment – Read our Office 365 readiness assessment guide.
Ensure the data to be migrated is ready
Office 365 Pilot Guide: Quick Guide to M365 Deployment

Simple 6-Step Microsoft Exchange to Office 365 Migration
Day-to-day performance issues, user access issues, error messages, and longer access time to mailboxes – or worst, database corruptions – are the most common sources of trouble due to which businesses decide to migrate from Exchange 2007, 2010, 2013 or later versions to office 365. And running exchange in the age of the cloud is not quite a good idea.

Below are the steps to migrate Exchange to Office 365:

Choose the Right Migration Method
The first step involved in the transition is choosing the right Office 365 migration method. There are several methods involved in migration, and we need to choose the most appropriate migration method that best suits your requirements.

Let’s look at the different methods for Office 365 migration before we begin to migrate Exchange to Office 365 step by step:

Cutover Migration method:
A cutover migration is an easy method designed for small businesses with less than 1000 users’ data/mailboxes. This method can only be used for Exchange Server. Under this method, the migration is rapid & is done all at once, hence known as ‘cutover’. Sometimes, this method may not work out properly even for small businesses if the users involved have excessively large mailboxes and this may consume more time than required to complete the migration.

Staged Migration:
A staged migration is suitable for mid-sized companies. This migration method is used to move users and mailboxes from on-prem Exchange 2003, 2007 to Exchange Online. This method moves the mailboxes to Office 365 over a period of time. Once the migration is complete, the mailboxes are then hosted on Office 365.

IMAP Migration:
This migration method is used when a non-Exchange mail system is involved. IMAP migrations are capable of moving e-mail messages only, however, contacts, calendars, and tasks are lost during the migration process. This method is sometimes used as a shortcut to migrate from the older versions of Exchange Server (Exchange 2000 & newer supported).

Hybrid Migration:
This is the most flexible migration method and also a complicated one. This method is most commonly used by large organizations. Under this method, the Exchange admin creates a hybrid Exchange Server deployment by constructing a coexistence between the local Exchange Server and Office 365. With this method, you can integrate Office 365 with your Exchange Servers and also the existing Active Directory.

When deciding a migration method there are a few factors to consider:

The number of objects to be migrated
Amount of data to be moved
The existing email system
The current version of your Exchange Server
Duration of the migration project
And the costs
It’s important to analyze your current mailbox environment to make sure that the environment is healthy and error-free. Therefore, the very first precaution we can take before the migration is correcting the underlying issues (if any) of your existing Exchange environment in order to avoid failures during the move.

Considering your business requirement, any one of the above methods is advised by your Office 365 migration consultant. Once decided we can move ahead with the next step.

Office 365 Readiness Assessment
Before you can even begin and start to plan your migration of exchange mailboxes, it is important you perform a cloud readiness assessment. This phase is crucial to determine if the existing infrastructure is ready to handle the great capabilities/features of Office 365. Before you embrace the cloud, Star Knowledge renders best practice advice around the state and issues in your current environment which potentially impacts the Office 365 adoption. This phase involves:

Choosing the right license
Determining readiness of the clients
Directory Services
Identity Management
Establish health & capacity of your network
Application compatibility
Related post: Migrating PST files to Office 365

Planning the Migration
This is a crucial step where you and your Microsoft Office 365 consulting service provider map out the migration process and estimate the amount of time required for the migration. Your Office 365 migration consultant gives you a detailed strategy for server upgrades, backups, and downtime before migration can be performed. Additionally, this step involves choosing the right migration tools for a successful cloud transition. Considering the Exchange version, the number of users, etc. your migration consultant will suggest the use of the most appropriate migration tools.

In the case of a hybrid migration, the move to Office 365 is made in different batches. We do not want to create migration batches that are too large because they consume an unreasonable amount of time to complete the entire migration.

Pilot Migration
When migrating from local Exchange Servers, it’s recommended we go with a pilot migration program. A Pilot Migration is a test migration in which few test mailboxes are created and loaded with messages, calendars, contacts, and tasks to test the migration plan and its result. You can replicate the test mailboxes with the kind and amount of data the original mailboxes have for measuring accurate results. The pilot migration program gives an opportunity to discover post-migration issues.

The Migration and its Types
This step involves the actual migration of mailboxes to Office 365. There are 3 types of Microsoft Exchange to Office 365 migration:

Minimal Hybrid Migration:
This type of migration is suitable for small and mid-sized businesses. Under this type of migration, contents of user mailboxes are migrated to Office 365 in a course of a couple of weeks or less. It is also known as Express Migration. There are several pre-requisites to be followed when performing the Express migration.

Full Hybrid Migration:
Unlike Minimal Hybrid Migration, Full Hybrid Migration is a longer-term migration that includes support for extra features, archiving, e-discovery, free/busy scheduling, multimedia, and also SharePoint integrations.

No-Hybrid Migration:
When a non-exchange migration to Office 365 is performed, this type of hybrid migration is used. It is typically used when there’s no compatibility between the existing environment and Office 365. In this case, manual import and export processes are carried out.

As the migration takes place in different batches, each batch is carefully migrated to Office 365. After the crucial step of syncing the mailboxes is performed, the rerouting takes place to make sure every aspect of your interface moves via Office 365. During the Office 365 migration process, the email messages are first landed into the Exchange server and then moved on to the Office 365 platform. After the completion of migration, the rerouting ensures all the traffic moves to the Office 365 platform directly. This phase involves the DNS rerouting of Skype for Business, Outlook, and other Office 365 apps.

Office 365 Maintenance and Support
Every client is recommended to opt for a maintenance and support program which includes user management, security, troubleshooting and assigning privilege permissions. This is advised to ensure the management of your new cloud environment is easier.

Woo.. migration successful! Now that we have successfully followed our the exchange to office 365 migration guide. It is crucial to look at the ‘Office 365 post-mogration checklist‘:

Redirect user mailboxes to Office 365
Assign appropriate licenses
Configure auto-discover DNS records
Decommission the Exchange environment
Microsoft Teams – Add contacts to the communication and collaboration tool
Ensure SharePoint (if previously used with Exchange) content is replicated and visible accurately

It is highly beneficial for businesses today to move to Microsoft’s cloud-based service. Business projects, workflows and communication networks are easier to manage even without professional IT skills or knowledge. So, when are you making your move to Office 365 with Star Knowledge as your perfect migration partner?

Author's Bio: 

Software, cloud enthusiasts