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Migrate Outlook PST Files to Office 365 with VPN Split Tunneling

Oct 20, 2020 by Milan Tomovcik

The continuing COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a mass shift to remote work, prompting many organizations to finally migrate Outlook PST files to Office 365.  

Having cloud connectivity for critical data is essential for business continuity, but the current landscape has presented multiple challenges for PST migration projects.

I caught up with Mike Weaver, our Product Owner for PST Flight Deckto discuss VPN split tunneling for Office 365 – the strategy Microsoft recommends to remediate the PST issuefaced by many enterprises. You can learn more in this short video: 

Migrating Outlook PST Files to O365 

Traditional corporate networks are often designed to work securely for a pre-cloud world where the most important data, services, and applications are hosted on-premises and are directly connected to the internal corporate network, as are most users.

In this model, all traffic from remote users traverses the corporate network and is routed to the cloud service through a common access point. 

Previously, workers would be connecting to a corporate network (or cloud infrastructure) from their workstations; with many offices now closed and users connecting remotely, this has proved challenging in terms of migrating – or even accessing – PST files. With many users needing to access Office 365 from their own homes, they will be requiring access to PST files on remote computers. These large files – centralized in their place of work – must be downloadedThat’s a lot of data.  

In order to access company networks on home desktops or laptops, multiple users are needing to use VPN (Virtual Private Network)Unfortunately, many organizations were not set up to handle this volume of users working remotely. 

While there are plenty of businesses that have adopted and supported flexible and remote working options, what we have seen in the wake of the pandemic is businesses struggling with capacity issues – and this capacity is being tested further by the requirements of downloading PST data, which strangles VPN bandwidth.

What goes down, must go up in the work of PST migrations.  This means uploading this data from remote workstations is a major challenge when VPN resources are limited.   

This can be further compounded by organizations still in the process of adopting Office 365, with increased usage likely to further saturate the VPN. This presents a big challenge for us and the customers were working with on migration projects.  

What is Split Tunneling? 

The nature of this approach is to provide a simple method for enterprises to mitigate the risk of VPN infrastructure saturation and dramatically improve Office 365 performance in the shortest amount of time possible. In this case, this also includes PST imports into Office 365. 

Using split tunneling, there are certain approved services that can be accessed directly without going through the VPN or company network. The split tunneling divides internal and external connections, allowing users to access Office 365 directly from their home internet connection 

For organizations that were not designed to have 100% of users working remotely, this has had a big impact – split tunneling allows enterprises to adapt more quickly to the new normal. Many organizations have adopted this strategy already, however, the pandemic is forcing many to re-think their topology.

How VPN Split Tunneling works for Office 365. This is the best practice for migrating Outlook PST files to Office 365.

With regards to PST projects and companies looking to centralize PSTs, we are also seeing businesses leveraging split tunneling as a means of continuing this project through the COVID-19 crisis and lockdown.  

Instead of postponing these projects, split tunneling provides a different option – a means of continuing without forcing that data through a VPN. Conceptually, this means that end-users can download their files once they have migrated inside their OST or access Office 365 outside of the VPN. 

PST Migration Made Easier 

PST Flight Deck, our PST to Office 365 migration tool, allows the PST file to be hosted in Azure. This allows it to have two different IPs – an internal and an external IP. Split tunneling can then be utilized for users to access PST files either through a VPN or via an external network (such as a local internet connection).  

This means that whether users are on a company network or an external network, they can still access the core server and proceed with either migration or centralization of PST files. This allows us to migrate the PSTs that are locked away inside a network and then migrate those that are remote without that data going through a VPN and pushing it past its capacity.  

This is a tool that was initially designed with global organizations in mind – companies that had large amounts of data spread out across the world, in different locations and time zones. What we are now seeing as that this has become a popular option for businesses of all sizes, scopeand location. The demand for this technology is shifting, and so the utilization is shifting as well, and as an organization we’re adapting very quickly to this demand. 

At Quadrotech, were seeing this shift in projects from our customers. There is a lot of interest from companies on the pre-sale side who are recognizing that this represents a dynamic and less painful option – particularly for PST files that are locked away or centralized.  

From an implementation standpoint, this has also become very popular, with enterprises realizing that there are many situations where this represents a faster option. We believe that even in a post-COVID world, this will remain the case – particularly for larger customers.  

The Future Outlook 

Remote working is here to stay; even when things return to normal, we would expect to see users working from home or remotely with greater frequency.  

Utilizing Office 365 VPN split tunneling with our Azure hosting option means that we can help all levels of organization, no matter their size, setup, or the spread of their workforce.

If you need to migrate Outlook PST files to Office 365 and would like to learn more about what we can do to simplify and accelerate your migration, please contact our specialist team today.