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How to Move to Exchange Online: The Five-Phased Approach

I’m not going to lie to you – moving to Exchange Online is a big task and is not to be taken lightly. It is certainly easier with a partner, but if you’re daring enough to take it on on your own, we recommend following our proven five-phased approach:

1. Always Know Where Your Towel Is

Before you even think about getting started, you must be prepared. Try running a Cloud readiness assessment on your current infrastructure and consider the following:
  • If you’re planning to use Outlook Web App (OWA), you need to have updated web browsers of at least current version, minus one
  • You’ll need to setup service accounts for AD Connect and the Exchange migration. For AD Connect, you may want to consider a secondary server (like Directory Synchronization) rather than a server that’s already running essential services
  • Depending on the migration tool you use, you may need a separate server to run the migration tool
  • Because they don’t synchronize with Office 365 out-of-the-box, you will need to come up with a plan ahead of time if you are using third party directories like Lotus Domino or SAMBA
  • Create a plan for migrating:
    • Any data not on your current email server
    • Any necessary compliance features, like archives, data loss prevention, rights management, etc.
    • Public folders – here you’ll need a special migration tool or you’ll have to export all of them to PST

2. Discovery

Right, so you now have a plan of attack, but where’s the meat? Prior to setting up your migration, you need to take full inventory of your current environment to understand everything that needs to be included in your migration plan. Make sure this is well-documented and takes into account all aspects of your email architecture and any applications connected to it. This will help determine resources and catch any additional costs you may not have originally planned for. Once done, you can begin setting up your migration.

3. Setup

The setup phase absolutely needs to be done right if you’re hoping for a smooth migration. There are a lot of moving parts and each is equally imperative to the success of the migration. Here’s what you need to setup:

Item for Setup

Note from the Experts

Office 365 tenant with all user accounts When licensing your users, take into account what services you want to activate from the start and what may be better to launch down the road in order to not overwhelm the workforce. Try creating a special adoption plan.
Shared mailboxes, rooms, distribution lists and delegation permissions Make sure there’s someone on the team who is proficient in PowerShell in order to script all of the new delegation permissions, especially if you have more than a few lists, rooms or shared mailboxes.
AD Connect to connect Active Directory AD Connect has a certain number of fields required to sync with Office 365. If you have thousands of users and you’re missing those fields, you’ll need someone who is proficient.
A migraiton account for mail to move to Office 365 If you’re planning a hybrid migration you’ll need to obtain an SSL certificate for your hybrid Exchange server.
Porting of whitelist, blacklist and SPM filtering rules Be sure to use the built-in auditing feature to verify your transport rules are working properly.
Configuration of email encryption services Setting up this service is as easy as turning it on, but encryption rules are based on triggers that, depending on your business needs, can be extremely complex. Make sure you plan for these ahead of time!

4. Migration Phase

You’re finally ready for the cut-over – sure it took a lot of planning to get here, but we promise it’s well worth it if you’re going to try this on your own. At this point, it’s as simple as running the migration to pull over mail, contacts and calendars, as well as changing your DNS records to point to Office 365 and verify a proper setup.

Pro Tip!

Prior to doing a full cut-over, consider running a pre-migration pilot group, that way you have the opportunity to run troubleshooting on any migration errors in a much smaller batch of users.

5. Post-Migration Phase

Just one more step and you’re done! Once the migration is complete, you’ll need to reconfigure end user phones and Outlook to point to Office 365 (make sure you plan ahead for this or you’ll have endless support tickets post-migration). From here you’ll need to work on integrations with any on-premise applications or services like Scan to Email or SMTP applications.

So it may not be a simple process, but if you’re meticulous about planning and take your time to consider how this migration will impact your business, end users and applications, you’ll be just fine. And if you don’t think this is something you could or should tackle on your own, consider working with a trusted partner instead.

Don’t forget: just because the migration is complete does not mean the job is done. With every great migration comes a great deal of responsibility – and by that we mean change management and training efforts for end users. Check out our adoption best practices.

Fill out the form below find out more about moving to Exchange Online. Or are you ready to get started with your Exchange Online Migration? Let’s go!

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