Guest Post: BPOS to Office 365 Migration- Managing Without Mimecast (or not)

I’m in the process of moving from BPOS to Office 365, and you would think that this would be a pretty straightforward migration moving from one Microsoft Online Service to another.  Is it straight forward? No! As a Microsoft Gold Partner and one of Microsoft’s Cloud Partners we were an early adopter of Office 365 closed beta and I was getting to like it more and more the more I used it throughout the testing.  However, when it came to domain migration I started to like it less.

This is a Guest Post from a prolific blogger- Andy Kemp who has recently moved from a long standing customer of Mimecast and moved to a Microsoft Gold Partner UniTech, one that doesn’t have Mimecast in place but excited about what the toolset could do for them. One of the recent things he’s been tasked to do is their Migration from BPOS to Office365 both internally and for a number of serviced clients, and it’s interesting to see what life without Mimecast is like…

I have used Mimecast in the past for several reasons, email archiving, antivirus and malware protection, business continuity and compliance. These are all great reasons for using it but one other is for email migration. In the past when I have done system upgrades it has been pretty painless and stress free, moving from Exchange 2000 to Exchange 2003 for example.  However I think that now it is a completely different ball game as the Cloud is involved.  Moving to the Cloud is again relatively painless (just a different approach), at least from a technical point of view; politically it can be very stressful.  But moving from Cloud to Cloud for me at the moment is proving a bit of a headache.

The main issue for me migrating from BPOS to Office 365 is migrating your domains from one to the other. It can take anything up to 48hrs for the domain to be removed from BPOS and FOPE (Forefront Online Protection for Exchange) and only then can you add the domain in to Office 365. Then if something had gone amiss and you needed to remove the domain from Office 365 (like I had to) you would have to wait for anything up to 24hrs. It turned out my problem was that the domain had not been fully deleted from FOPE on the BPOS side.

All this time means that your email might well be unavailable (more than likely to be honest) and could have serious knock on affects to your business as email is now treated as one of the most common ways in which we communicate with our customers.

The main drive for using Mimecast in my previous place of employment was to ensure that email was accessible at all times, even when the in house exchange servers were unavailable. This could also mean when you are migrating from one service platform to another, and I would say that the same principle could be applied to a hosted email service.

Through using Mimecast you could very easily remove the headaches from your migration from one service to another as the continuity that Mimecast offers would provide you with email delivery during the process of the migration. You’ll effectively be using Mimecast as a pivot I guess for the transition.

My migration from BPOS to Office 365 has been in process for four days now.   Fortunately it is a non-critical domain I am testing with, but if this was a live email domain that I relied on for business my customers would be receiving NDRs for every email that is sent in to me.  This could well be avoided by having Mimecast in the equation as email would be delivered through Mimecast to your email service, regardless of it being on premise or hosted.

Moving email platforms is something that you do not want to do or need to do on a regular basis but if you do need to migrate your email then you will find that having something like Mimecast will make the migration even simpler and reduce your down time to a bare minimum if any.

Even if you are doing a simple email migration/upgrade you’re at risk.  Sure you will have a full backup of your server to revert back to if the migration/upgrade were to go pear-shaped -  if you did have to do a restore how long would that take you? An hour? A day? A week? I previously worked for a law firm and lawyers like to hold on to their emails; I had mail stores in the excess of 150GB, mailboxes of 15GB and over! The restoration of the email data would take about a full day (in the excess of 400GB Email data) but once the stores were restored I would then have to do an offline defrag on each mailstore db which could take anything up to 8 hrs per mail store meaning email would be down for a week. With Mimecast you could work on your exchange servers for that week and still be able to send and receive email, even by using outlook on the user’s desktop.

How long could your business survive with email down time? I guess in all honesty not very long.

I eventually got the domain working fully in Office 365 after a few calls to Microsoft and a few days of waiting! Email was being delivered to the right domain in the right service, finally!

It was a good learning curve (which is why we did it with a test domain) so when it comes to moving the live production email domain we know exactly what to do and what to expect. I am hoping that the production migration goes a bit more smoothly now! Mimecast will not take every risk out of email migration, but it will certainly give you a great level of continuity if you did face any problems when it comes to email migration.