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Choose the right Office 365 migration tool

Even the hardiest Exchange admin can be overwhelmed during an Office 365 migration, but having the right tools in your belt can help.

As organizations prepare for an Office 365 migration, they must decide how to handle certain parts of the process. These questions should cover domain names and Active Directory, group and user identification, as well as migration methods.

But other migration factors, how to handle the actual migration process and which tools to use, shouldn't be left out of the conversation.

Moving a local Exchange Server to Office 365 can involve up to 200 discrete steps -- from planning through cleanup and testing. And that can be a challenge for even the most skilled Exchange administrator.

Which Office 365 migration tools will you use?

IT professionals can take advantage of a number of Office 365 migration tools designed to guide the process and automate routine tasks. The first place to look is to Microsoft, which has many free tools.

Several checklists can jumpstart any conversation about requirements and readiness. They can also offer administrators a picture of the processes involved long before they make any migration commitment. Microsoft's Deployment planning checklist for Office 365, as well as a Post-deployment checklist for Office 365, are two places to start. Countless checklist variations are also available online.

Microsoft provides a selection of free Office 365 migration tools that can help assess readiness and manage deployments. The Exchange Server Deployment Assistant makes queries about deployment objectives and produces guidelines for approaching the migration. Microsoft's Directory Sync tool assists the migration process by synchronizing end users, groups and contact data from local Active Directory to Office 365. Even Office 365 provides the Exchange Admin Center to help with remote moves, cutovers, staged migrations and third-party email (IMAP) migrations.

There are other diverse third-party tools that can assist busy administrators with Exchange migrations. For example, CloudMigrator365 from Cloud Technology Solutions creates user accounts and moves email, contacts, appointments, tasks, folders, archives and some settings from Exchange to Office 365. Similar tools include CodeTwo Office 365 Migration, SkyKick's Migration Suite and Office 365 Suite from MetaVis Technologies.

While there are several migration tool options, selecting the appropriate one isn't easy. The sheer number of available tools and services can be daunting. This may be especially difficult when each organization has a unique mix of email requirements, business goals, pre-existing Exchange infrastructure, IT staff and technical expertise.

Look for tools that are freely available or provide a free demo period for testing and evaluation. Advance testing in conjunction with an Office 365 free trial or small-scale pilot program can help to identify the best tools or services for the business.

Next Steps

This is part four of a checklist to help organizations prepare for Office 365 migrations.
Part one covers Active Directory and company domains.
Part two covers options for establishing user accounts.
Part three covers Office 365 migration methods.
Stay tuned for part five, which covers online monitoring and reporting.

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Dear Stephen,

Thanks for the series of articles that you write regarding going to Office 365. But I do want to comment on this one. First of all your title says "Choose the right migration tool" but you do not provide your readers with information on how to decide which tool is right for you. Additionally you pick out a small selection of tools while you leave out very important tools like the Free Tools of Microsoft, Quest Tools or MigrationWiz, just to name a few.

Just the 2 cents of an Office 365 MVP
A solution that has not been mentioned is Priasoft ( Our company used their Migration Suite for Exchange when we had to migrate approx 2200 users from Ex2003 to Ex2010. The have a quite a few features that stuck out to us. Most importantly their dry-run (?) feature gave us a sandbox to be able to test our migration before running our production. 2200 mailboxes were migrated over a weekend including delegates, contacts, rules and public folders.

We are now migrating to O365 and I was came across this article when doing my research. More than likely we'll use them again, but figured they are worth a mention here.