How to Decide Best Migration Path from Exchange to Office 365?

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Due to recent attacks and multiple ‘proxy’ (authentication bypass) vulnerabilities found in on-premises Exchange servers, it has become a headache for organizations to keep updating their servers and strengthen their security to avoid the risk of getting compromised. Although updates are critical to patch vulnerabilities, they require resources and may take longer to install, leading to downtime and productivity loss.

However, Office 365 offers automatic and seamless security updates against new threats with built-in protection against data loss. This has boosted the trend of migrating from an on-premises Exchange Server to a cloud-based Office 365 or Exchange Online.

However, when it comes to migrating on-premises Exchange Server to Office 365, it’s not an easy task. It requires adequate planning and preparation based on the Exchange Server version and the number of mailboxes you need to migrate to ensure a smooth migration.

In this article, we will discuss various options to migrate from Exchange Server to Office 365. We’ll also discuss the best migration path that can help move the organization from an on-premises Exchange Server to Office 365 with minimal interruption.

Migration Options to Migrate On-Premises Exchange to Office 365

Microsoft provides three options to migrate emails and mailboxes from an on-premises Exchange Server to Office 365.

  • Cutover or express migration allows you to migrate your mailboxes from Exchange Server 2003, 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016 or 2019 to Office 365. You can use this migration option when you need to move up to 2000 mailboxes from your on-premises Exchange Server to Office 365.
  • In staged migration, you can move mailboxes and mail items from an on-premises Exchange Server to Office 365 in two or more stages or batches. Although it allows you to move more than 2000 mailboxes, it only works for Exchange 2003 and 2007 versions. This option does not work if you need to migrate mailboxes and contents from Exchange 2010 or later versions to Office 365.
  • Hybrid migration allows you to gradually move mailboxes from on-premises Exchange Server to Exchange Online using the integrated option available in the Exchange Admin Center. In this, mailboxes on both on-premises and online are maintained unless all mailboxes are moved successfully. This migration option can be used to migrate 150-2000 mailboxes from Exchange 2010, 2013, 2016 or 2019 to Office 365.

Based on the Exchange Server version, you can choose a migration option to move user mailboxes and their contents to Office 365. However, moving mailboxes and data is a part of the migration and you need to perform additional steps. For instance, use Azure AD Connect to synchronize your local Active Directory to Office 365, which creates a copy of local accounts on the Azure Active Directory, updates DNS and TXT records and install or update Outlook clients to support Office 365.

Which is the Best Path to Migrate Exchange to Office 365?

Cutover and hybrid migrations are the most preferred options or paths to migrate on-premises Exchange to Office 365. Use Cutover Migration if you need to migrate from Exchange 2003, 2007 or 2010 to Office 365 and fewer than 2000 mailboxes.

Use hybrid migration to migrate up to 2000 user mailboxes and their data from on-premises Exchange 2013, 2016 or 2019 to Office 365.

Hybrid migration is also referred to as hybrid deployment as you extend the existing on-premises Exchange to Exchange Online or Office 365. You can go with minimal or full hybrid mode and maintain a relationship between the Exchange online and on-premises. It also provides a seamless user experience and serves as a step to completely move an organization from on-premises to Office 365. To learn more, refer to this guide.

To Wrap Up

Although you can migrate Exchange to Office 365 using the migration options discussed here, you must know that these migration methods utilize server resources, which can degrade the performance and may take from a few hours to several days or maybe weeks based on the number of mailboxes or data you need to migrate. Thus, you may also consider using a third-party tool, such as Stellar Converter for EDB, to quickly migrate mailboxes and mail items from Exchange 5.5, 2000, 2003, 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016 or 2019 database to PST, Office 365 or another live Exchange Server without any limit. The software can extract unlimited mailboxes from the offline Exchange database and export them directly to Office 365 tenant. Furthermore, it utilizes a parallel processing technique to export up to 4 mailboxes from on-premises Exchange (source) to Office 365 (destination) to ensure minimal downtime.

Unlike the migration options discussed earlier, the software does not affect the server performance and exports all user mailboxes and their contents with complete integrity.

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