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Finding the best tool to migrate Exchange public folders to SharePoint

Migrating Exchange public folders to Microsoft SharePoint requires a third-party tool. Here are five questions to ask when choosing the best migration tool.

Because Microsoft doesn't currently have a streamlined migration path in place to move Exchange public folders to SharePoint Server, you'll need the help of a third-party tool. While there's no pressing need to move Exchange public folders to SharePoint -- public folders are a fully supported feature in Exchange Server 2007 -- there are some issues to consider.

Many third-party Exchange public folder migration utilities are available. How can you find the best tool to meet the needs of your organization? Here are five important questions to consider when comparing third-party Exchange public folder migration tools.

1. Which versions of Microsoft Exchange and SharePoint are supported?

The first thing you need to verify is which versions of Exchange Server and SharePoint does the migration tool support. More importantly, check to see if the utility imposes any limitations for the versions of Exchange and SharePoint that you're using. For example, some third-party tools will not migrate public folder permissions for Exchange Server 5.5.

2. Does the migration tool support your Exchange public folder data?

Most migration utilities claim to work properly if your Exchange public folders contain document files. Typically, the Exchange public folder store is converted into a SharePoint document library. However, sometimes a migration tool doesn't work well with certain types of data in the public folder store or with the Exchange public folder structure itself.

In some cases, public folder migration utilities work when the public folder structure contains only documents; if Exchange public folders contain email messages, then those messages are converted to .MSG files.

Likewise, some utilities have trouble migrating large or complex public folder structures. In fact, you might be required to restructure your Exchange public folder hierarchy. This is usually due to limitations in SharePoint. Microsoft SharePoint doesn't recognize certain characters in filenames. SharePoint also has limits on the filename length and the size of the folder structure. If your Exchange public folder store violates any of these limitations, be prepared to make some changes to the public folder structure.

Ideally, you should look for a migration tool that assesses the migration before actually transferring any data. That way, there won't be any surprises once you begin the migration.

3. Does the tool have a lossless migration feature?

Migrating public folder data from Exchange Server to SharePoint isn't an exact science. Therefore, it's important to have the option of leaving all public folder data on the public folder store until you can confirm that the migration was successful (i.e., all of your Exchange public folder data is accessible on the SharePoint site). This feature is called lossless migration. Some migration tools remove data from the public folder server as each folder is migrated; this method has a greater potential for data loss.

4. Do you need public folder replication?

Many Exchange organizations have multiple public folder stores, each of which contains replicas of public folder data. This helps provide redundancy for the sake of performance and fault tolerance. Unfortunately, SharePoint does not currently support the creation of document library replicas. This is an important limitation to consider if you rely on replicas.

5. Does the utility provide automatic content redirection?

Once the migration process is complete, leave your public folder stores in tact until you're sure that there are no unexpected side effects to the replication process. Because you don't want users to continue accessing the Exchange public folder store, you'll need a migration tool that redirects users to the migrated content on the SharePoint site automatically.

About the author: Brien M. Posey, MCSE, has previously received Microsoft's MVP award for Exchange Server, Windows Server and Internet Information Server (IIS). Brien has served as CIO for a nationwide chain of hospitals and was once responsible for the Department of Information Management at Fort Knox. As a freelance technical writer, Brien has written for Microsoft, TechTarget, CNET, ZDNet, MSD2D, Relevant Technologies and other technology companies. You can visit Brien's personal website at www.brienposey.com.

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How about sharing some Best Practice when migrating Exchange 2010 Public Folders to SharePoint Online? How would you go about doing it?