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Quest Tools Aimed at Easing Exchange Online, Office 365 Migration Challenges

 Quest Software announced new migration solutions for organizations moving to Exchange Online and Office 365.

The company's OnDemand Migration for Email is a relatively new service designed to help organizations and managed service providers move e-mail systems to Exchange Online or Office 365. The service runs off Microsoft's Windows Azure cloud platform and costs $10 per migrated mailbox.

"It's primarily used to migrate customers from on-premise Exchange to Office 365 and Live@edu, but we've also seen a handful of our wins from companies that are switching from Google [Apps] to Office 365," said Michael Tweddle, senior director of product management at Quest, in a telephone interview. "It's been a tremendous solution for us and has been on the market for close to nine months now."

Quest also announced Coexistence Manager for GroupWise, a service that adds new support for maintaining coexistence with Novell GroupWise 7 and Office 365 or Exchange 2010 while migrating e-mail systems. The company also will be offering GroupWise Migrator for Exchange, which will be available later this quarter.

So far, Quest has helped move more than 90 million mailboxes over to the newer Microsoft cloud platforms, Tweddle said. The most popular workload to move to the cloud among Quest's customers has been e-mail, followed by migrations to SharePoint Online, he added.

While features aren't exactly the same between on-premises and online versions of Microsoft's products, Quest foresees a day when Microsoft will offer additional capabilities from its hosted offerings.

Migration Mistakes
In general, the company sees five common mistakes being made by organizations migrating to Microsoft's online services. Quest provides both migration support and also helps out when things go bad. Common errors include poor planning for the migration, not estimating the migration's effect on the organization's operations, having no e-mail coexistence strategy in place, and a lack of backup and recovery preparations should things go wrong. Also, organizations may not know how to optimize the management of the new system once it's in place.

Tweddle said that Quest's migration tools handle the transformation of the data during a migration, but IT pros still face a learning curve with the new system and have to plan out their migrations. For instance, they have to determine whether to move all of their mailboxes or just the ones that are most active. It's also important not to clutter up the new system with old data. He said that some Quest customers archive their GroupWise e-mail with e-discovery capabilities rather than put it into the online production system.

Another approach is to use a hybrid solution, in which some e-mail is supported by an on-premises Exchange installation and some by the cloud-based Office 365. That might be done by a company for compliance reasons, for example. Setting up such as hybrid configuration involves a little work.

"Microsoft is making it certainly easier, but there are challenges in the sense that customers have to do some prep work on their legacy environments in order to take advantage of it [a hybrid configuration]," Tweddle said. "For example, if someone is on Exchange 2003, you can't today support that unless you have installed and upgraded your environment to Exchange 2010. The term that's normally used is 'rich coexistence'."

Another consideration when moving to Office 365 concerns Active Directory. An Office 365 tenant can only synchronize with one AD forest. If companies have multiple forests, then they will have to consolidate them to one forest first in order to sync with Office 365 apps.

Organizations tapping Microsoft's cloud also have to consider throttling limitations. And while Microsoft promises "three nines" uptime, Office 365 has had a few outages for hours at a time. Quest found one of those outages to be notable as it happened during one of its migration operations for a customer.

Rolling Back
For those companies rolling into Microsoft's cloud and not happy with it, Quest has a service that it calls "offboarding."

"If they don't like what they've gotten themselves into, we have solutions here at Quest and can certainly help them," explained Tri Nguyen, manager of product management at Quest. "We can certainly help customers also migrate from Office 365 back to an on-premises Exchange environment. We also have another solution that helps search, compare and support that information that's in Office 365 back to a .PST or legacy Exchange system as well."

So far, Quest has supported a wide range of organizations in helping move them to the cloud.

"I would say that the majority of the SMB [small-to-medium business] space is probably the most common population," Tweddle said. "We've done migrations for universities, for example, that have taken advantage of Office 365 that can be pretty large in size. So, when you include faculty, staff and students, it can upwards of 100,000 mailboxes that are moving. Probably the most popular vertical has been state and local government and education. But from the company-size standpoint, in the commercial segment, it has been smaller companies, and I would say 'smaller' is a few thousand seats or less."

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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