Migrating email archives can be one of the more complicated parts of a cloud migration, and there are plenty of horror stories about the results of poorly managed attempts. With the right preparation and tools, however, archive migration doesn’t have to be a time-consuming and risky process.

“Much of the complexity of archive migration can be mitigated by working through a basic, four-step preparatory process,” says George Amoils, Founder and Director of Soarsoft International. “This sets the stage for a smoother, cleaner – and therefore simpler – archive migration.”

Here are the basics:

Step 1: Assess your current infrastructure

The method and tools you’ll need to migrate your email archives to the cloud depend heavily on how those archives are currently set up. Are you using a 3rd-party archive system with unique requirements and compatibility levels, an on-premise installation of Microsoft Exchange with in-place-hold, or simple PST files stored on various local computers or backup drives? Each of these has its own quirks, which makes it vital to know, in advance, what you’re going to be dealing with in order to plan the best possible migration path.

Step 2: Choose your cloud archiving solution

Choosing which cloud email archiving solution to use is, in most cases, a no-brainer. Office 365 has excellent archiving and data governance capabilities that meet all but the most stringent requirements for 99% of organisations, and, since they come as a standard part of the enterprise packages, there’s simply no reason to pay extra for anything else. If, however, your organisation is one of the few edge cases in which a 3rd-party solution is preferable, it’s important to make this call early on, as it will significantly impact the direction of your migration plan.

Step 3: Plan your retention and data governance policies

Migrating your unstructured data to the cloud opens up a world of potential when it comes to secure, compliant and discoverable archives. Data retention is no longer challenged by onsite storage demands and cloud integrated features like Data Leak Prevention and Rights Management can be facilitated on the historic data. However, the key to really maximising the value you get from migrating archives to the cloud comes from reassessing the retention and information management policies you have in place, and identifying ways in which they can be improved upon to better meet your organisation’s needs. The new policies will apply to the historic and future data. This information can then be used to map a comprehensive data governance policy for life in the cloud– something that must be configured before you move any users or data to the cloud.

Step 3: Get rid of dead weight

Bloated archives are a reality faced by almost all organisations, and can seriously impact the ease and speed of an archive migration if not addressed in advance. Before you even think of migrating your archives, you’ll want to get rid of those ancient emails that have outlived any retention requirements. Anything that falls outside of the policies you’ve reaffirmed in Step 3 should be stripped away. A leaner migration is a cleaner migration, after all.

Step 4: Pick your migration tools

Having defined and configured your ideal cloud archiving system in the first three steps of this process, it’s time to choose which tool to use to move your data to its new home. The best option (or combination of options) will depend on the size of your archives, their current format and location and the chain of custody requirements for maintain the integrity if the migrated information. Microsoft offers its own Import Service for large batches of PST files, but there are also several third-party migration software providers with excellent products for fast and secure archive extraction, conversion and transfer.”

“A good migration partner will walk you through all of these steps as part of the migration process,” says Amoils. “It’s our job to advise you of any opportunities or challenges that may occur, and help you select the optimal tools for your unique migration path.”

Pre-migration readiness is standard component of Soarsoft International’s archive migration service.

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