More and more organizations today are taking advantage of the many benefits of the Microsoft cloud. What’s your favorite benefit? The easy scalability? The improved business agility? The ability of users to work anywhere at any time? The simple licensing model and predicable costs? Or maybe it’s having someone else shoulder the burden of ensuring 24/7 platform availability and performance!
Of course, you’ve undoubtedly discovered that moving to the cloud doesn’t leave you with nothing to do. If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably facing a merger, acquisition or similar scenario that means you have to find a way to migrate users, Exchange mailboxes and OneDrive data from one tenant to another — and it’s up to you to do it quickly, safely, completely and with minimal impact on the business.
It might feel like a daunting task. After all, Microsoft has always made it a point to keep each customer’s tenant strictly separate in order to ensure security, and now you have to somehow scale those high walls and integrate two tenants into one.
Breathe. You’re not in this alone. Many organizations have already performed Office 365 tenant to tenant migrations, and you can learn a lot from them. In fact, at a high level, you should approach an Office 365 tenant migration much the same was any other migration project, such as an Office 365 migration. I’ve talked with lots of Quest customers as well as Quest’s own migration experts, and I’ve taken the liberty of boiling it down to these key 5 lessons learned:
1. Get a complete and accurate inventory of your source environment.
It might sound obvious, but you need to build a complete inventory of the accounts and data that you want to migrate. No problem, you might say; after all, it’s a fairly simple process to get a list of all accounts in Active Directory and Azure AD, for instance.
But pay attention to that little clause at the end: “that you want to migrate.” You don’t want to migrate absolutely everything from the source tenant to the target; migrating stuff you don’t need would slow your project, increase risk, and clutter up your target environment, making it hard to manage and secure. So remember that this task is not entirely technical; it must also involve conversations with your business counterparts. Not only will they help you eliminate unnecessary data from the migration, they might also help you discover thing, such as email archives or OneDrive data, that you didn’t know about but that you actually need to include in the project.
2. Have a good coexistence plan from the start.
Few migrations happen in one big bang; most take weeks or months. If you expect to simply put the business on hold for the duration, you’re in the wrong line of work. You need to ensure that users can remain productive throughout the entire migration — emailing colleagues, sharing data and scheduling meetings without having to worry about which accounts and data have been migrated and which have not. Behind the scenes, that means synchronizing email systems, data shares, calendars, free/busy data and more.
In fact, in most cases, it’s the end-user experience that management weighs most when assessing the success of the migration. (You might have experienced this firsthand when you were migrating to Office 365.) Therefore, be sure to make seamless coexistence a top priority from the very beginning of your project.
3. Communicate effectively before, during and after the migration.
Ensuring a good user experience requires more than just a strong coexistence plan, however. Good communication is also critical. It’s easier if you break it down into three areas: who & what, when, and how:
4. Be ready for the unexpected.
Although I don’t subscribe to Murphy's Law — the idea that anything that can go wrong will go wrong — I do think it’s smart to plan for the possibility that a few things will go wrong, especially in a project as complex as a migration. After all, something as simple as a misdirected email could result in users being migrated before they’re ready, or there might be corrupted data that you didn’t catch soon enough, or a brief connectivity issue that keep a migration job from completing correctly. So make sure you can roll back any migration job quickly. Again, your primary goal is to minimize the impact to users.
Also be sure that your backup and recovery solution provides a quick and easy way to identify changes and granularly restore objects if necessary. Remember that many solutions can’t handle cloud-only groups or business to business (B2B) or business to consumer (B2C) accounts. And, of course, ensure you have a broad, robust backup and recovery strategy in case a major issue arises.
5. Consider the ABC’s of security.
It’s critical to think about security both during and after the migration. Here are the ABCs to focus on:
Ready to learn more?
These five lessons learned are a great place to start preparing for any migration, but you really should take the time to go both broader and deeper. Check our new ebook, “Don’t just survive Office 365 tenant migration — master it!” for additional best practices for a tenant-to-tenant migration, as well as specific best practices for account migration, mailbox migration and OneDrive migration.
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