This is Arvind Suthar, Director of Service for Microsoft Online. We are ramping up our community efforts and our team is excited to engage with you now that our service is live. We have a series of postings planned to introduce our team, dig into a series of technical topics, and trigger discussion around how we can make Microsoft Online more valuable for you. Please feel free to share your thoughts and suggestions through our feedback form or in the comments below.
We work closely with customers in our Beta and Technology Adoption programs during their migration to Microsoft Online. During this process, we have identified some frequently asked questions around migration. Erik Ashby is a Senior Program Manager on the Microsoft Online team focused on simplifying migration to Microsoft Online. I asked Erik to take some time to answer some of these frequently asked questions in a post. - Arvind
Customers running Microsoft Exchange who are interested in moving to Exchange Online often ask me questions about how to do ‘Exchange to Online.’ Exchange Online supports several migration models and offers a set of tools that make the move easy. Here I recap some frequently asked questions around migrating to Exchange Online from an on-premise Microsoft Exchange environment. Detailed instructions on the process referred to below are fully documented in our Migrate to Microsoft Online Services whitepaper.
How do I get started?
Purchase a subscription or sign up for a free 30 day Microsoft Online trial here. We will create a fully functional sample domain for you to test drive the service. You will be able to send and receive email and perform all the migration steps at this sample domain. Your domain will be named something like “yourdomain1.microsoftonline.com” or you can verify ownership of a permanent domain name like "yourdomain1.com" and begin using that.
Is migrating my Exchange environment to Microsoft Online complicated?
Not really. There are three basic steps that you will need to go through and the Microsoft Online Admin Console will walk you through each step with tools that will do most of the heavy lifting. The three steps to move to Microsoft Online are:
1. Configure Exchange to send mail to Microsoft Online: To get your mail traffic flowing to Microsoft Online, you will configure Transport Layer Security (TLS) and create an SMTP connector to start forwarding email from selected accounts on your Exchange server to your Microsoft Online account. Later, when all of your users have mailboxes on Microsoft Online, you can redirect all your email traffic directly to Microsoft Online by setting your MX records to point to:
2. Install and run the Microsoft Online Directory Sync tool: This is a tool that will run in your on-premise topology and provide regular one-way synchronization of user accounts, e-mail–enabled contacts, and e-mail-enabled groups from your local Active Directory to Microsoft Online. This will allow Exchange On-Premise and Exchange Online users to see each other in GAL lookups. Also, once the GAL accounts have been copied to Microsoft Online you can activate the accounts within Microsoft Online.
3. Install and run the Microsoft Online Migration Tool: This is a tool that will bulk migrate Exchange mailbox content to Microsoft Online and establish mail forwarding so that all new mail will now be delivered to Microsoft Online.
Can I migrate to Microsoft Online incrementally?
One of the first questions customers face is how long they want to take to migrate to Microsoft Online. Broadly, there are two approaches:
1. perform a single large migration of all mailboxes at once (aka ‘Big-Bang’ migration), or
2. stage the migration over a period of time
Tools provided by Microsoft Online support both methods. For big-bang migrations the Microsoft Online Migration tool provides an easy-to-use migration wizard that can bulk migrate Exchange mailboxes and it can be fully automated with PowerShell. For migrations that are staged over a period of time, one-way synchronization directory synchronization from your local Active Directory to Microsoft online will allow users to share a synchronized GAL and unified messaging experience whether they have been migrated to Microsoft Online or are still using on-premise Exchange. We call this email coexistence.
Note that during coexistence, free/busy lookup and delegate access between a mailbox that is on-premise and a mailbox in Microsoft Online is not possible. Also, during coexistence, if a user has both an on-premise Exchange mailbox and a mailbox in Microsoft Online, these mailboxes can get out-of-sync after a migration. The migration will copy the content of a mailbox to Microsoft Online and establish a mail forward so that new mail will be directed to Microsoft Online, but any changes that are made to either mailbox after the migration will not be reflected in the other mailbox. Typically this is not a problem since most people will use only one of the mailboxes or will remove the on-premise mailbox after a migration.
Although we have had a fair mix of customers doing both big-bang and staged migrations, at this point most customers are going with quick ‘Big-Bang’ migrations and we have seen several companies with over 1000 users successfully execute a ‘Big-Bang’ migration.
Can I use email coexistence during a trial?
Yes, even if you are planning on a ‘Big-Bang’ migration, using the coexistence tools is a good way for you to have a few users ‘Try’ the Microsoft Online services. These tools allow several people to exist with mailboxes in Microsoft Online but still share the same GAL and messaging experience with others still on Exchange On- Premise. The same limitations for free/busy lookup and delegate access exist. Also, because mailboxes will get out of synch as mentioned above, you would need to copy any mail in the Microsoft Online accounts off to a local PST if you ultimately chose not to migrate.
To address synchronization issue between the Exchange and Microsoft Online mailboxes , Cemaphore, a Microsoft partner, offers a free 15 day trial of a full two way mailbox synchronization tool between your on-premise Exchange environment and Microsoft Online. MailShadow® for Exchange Online will continuously synchronize mailboxes from an on-premise Exchange server to Microsoft Online. This makes trialing Microsoft Online even easier.
Can I just export my mail messages to a PST and import into Microsoft Online?
Although Outlook is an option for migrating content, I would not recommend using it for migrating Exchange mailboxes. PST files store local email recipients and email senders using references to Active Directory. When your Active Directory server changes these references may no longer be valid. The Microsoft Online Migration tool performs the necessary translation when moving messages to Microsoft Online. Outlook is great as a generic tool to get content from non-standard sources like files, databases, and other sources into Microsoft Online, but for migrating Exchange mailboxes stick with the migration tools.
The bottom line is organizations are already moving from Exchange to Microsoft Online through different models and are using the Microsoft Online coexistence and migration tools to make their move simple and painless.
Sr. Program Manger
Is there a way to tie into IMAP? I have a user who already has one exchange account setup in outlook and I would rather not setup a new profile.