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3 Tests Before You Migrate Enterprise Vault Archive to Office 365

May 13, 2020 by Jason Jacobo

Physical servers sitting atop a cloud, representing the migrate Enterprise Vault archive to Office 365 process.

If you are planning to migrate Enterprise Vault archive to Office 365, I will be the first to tell you it’s hard. I know this may be contrary to what you may have read and there are plenty who suggest otherwise. Still, I have seen enough email archive migration projects to need some convincing.

Taking unfathomable quantities of very important data from one system (that never wanted to let it go) to another, accountably, successfully, and quickly can in no way be summed up as ‘easy’ in my opinion.

In witnessing the transformation of this niche industry over the past decade, we have come a long way to make it seem and feel easy. This has paved a glorious yellow brick road for migrations, to the crystal palace of online targets for most customers. It is this very path that has supported organizations (who have Enterprise Information Archiving systems) to be part of the massive growth and adoption of solutions like Exchange Online in recent years.

The ‘Easy’ Illusion

The allure and benefits of moving to the cloud drew droves down this well-paved migration path to the promise of data center liberation in the shadow of cloud adoption. The ‘common’ migrations fly down this adoption super-highway barely noticing a hiccup… creating the illusion of ‘easy’ migrations.

As time progressed, however, the ratio of ‘common’ Enterprise Vault to Office 365 migrations began to tip, and the well-paved migration path of yesteryear was no longer clear for a growing number of projects. Those who had not yet migrated had a reason. Large migrations present their own set of challenges, with a huge volume of data and users, but even the small migrations were showing an increased level of complexity.

At the same time, the migration solution landscape grew. Organizations historically known for exclusively delivering third-party migration solutions began developing their own. As legacy Enterprise Information Archiving solutions began to fail to re-invent themselves to match the times, their developers and sales teams began to specialize in migrations away from the very solutions they helped to design, develop, or disperse.

Soon the ‘migration tool’ landscape was flooded with many solutions, designed to barely meet the minimum bar of a ‘common’ or ‘easy’ migration. Most of these solutions quickly found that they were not able to address the complexities of the current markets and seemed to fade out as quickly as they came to light.

If your organization is waiting to perform its Enterprise Vault to Exchange Online migration due to the complexities of your migration situation, it is crucial to conduct a detailed risk assessment early on to identify and address all issues, allowing you to better design your project in a way to remediate them.

Key Considerations Before You Migrate Enterprise Vault Archive to Office 365

Few of the remaining migration solutions can gracefully handle complex migration challenges, so if the following situations apply to you… ensure you find out how your vendor is proposing to resolve them.

1. Managing diverse migration needs

In some migrations, not all of the archives migrated are desired to be treated the same way. Executives may have different migration needs to temporary staff; active users vs those who have left the organization; finance vs marketing. All too often, migration solutions are designed to have a single configuration executed at a time. If temporary staff have special migration needs, a unique system is stood up to accommodate the configuration, or all users needing the same migration configuration are executed at the same time.

To properly accommodate diverse migration configuration needs for your diverse user population, a migration solution really must have the ability to create a custom configuration per source archive migrated. Without this ability, you are simply designing the migration to the solution, rather than the solution to the migration.

2. Maintaining retention

Enterprise Vault can assign complex retention to items stored within it. Users are permitted to select the retention of their choosing at the point of archiving: folders may be set up within a user’s mailbox that are associated with specific retention settings; retention can be automatically set as part of a data loss prevention solution; or it can be applied any number of other ways.

Many organizations have a legal requirement to preserve the data associated with the data’s retention and many others practice an aggressive policy of ‘defensible deletions’ of their archived data.  Often times, retention was poorly planed when implemented, and a migration is an ideal time to ‘fix’ it.

For a migration solution to properly support the management of complex retention, it must support more than a single retention and be applied to items written in the target. It must be able to read the retention from the source and apply an associated retention at the point of writing the item to the target.

Commonly, projects will attempt to address this as part of a ‘post-migration’ step, but if the archive is large and migration process slow, or problematic in any way, data in the target is at risk of being deleted prior to any ‘post-migration’ steps being executed. It must be appropriately retained in the target at the point of it being authored to it to ensure the retention is adhered to.

3. Journal archive migrations

Journal archives were never really designed for native use within Exchange. One mailbox in Exchange is just simply not designed to hold that much data. They served exclusively for a means to send Exchange data to a third-party solution, like Enterprise Vault, usually to adhere to compliance regulations or enable an organization to use the email workload for legal purposes (eDiscovery).

In a long (and not terribly thrilling) history, organizations with these needs had no native solution, but today that has changed as Exchange’s native Compliance and eDiscovery features have grown and matured. For many customers, keeping any form of this legacy format for compliance data assures third-party vendor lock-in.

To properly address Journal archive migrations, the chosen migration solution needs flexibility. Since there is no native Exchange Online equivalent to a Journal Archive in Enterprise Vault, options are required to accommodate the diverse needs of our customers to migrate Journal archives.

You should have the ability to move your journals to a third-party if needed or desired, as well as to transform them into Exchange’s native ‘In Place’ model for preservation and retention. Customers should be able to selectively migrate Journal data that is important to them and discard that which is not.

Quadrotech specializes in enterprise-level migrations, so if you need to migrate Enterprise Vault archive to Office 365 and the points raised in this article resonate with you, please contact us today and our team will be happy to discuss your project and answer any questions.