There are many ways to migrate from Exchange On Premises to Exchange Online, so, which one is right for you? Should you be using a third party tool or not? The answer will depend on a number of factors. However, my personal preference is always use the native tools built in with Exchange On Premises and Exchange Online. regardless of flavour of Exchange you are running On Premises the native tools will work for you, there is usually very little reason to use a third party tool for any Exchange migration to Exchange Online.
I am not saying you should not use third party tools at all as they do have their place but at an extra cost to your Office 365 migration project that you would need to justify the purchase for and in many scenarios I cannot see a valid justification for them. Especially the more expensive ones.
Lets looks at the different types of migration from Exchange On Premises in to Exchange Online:
- Cutover – Native
- Cutover – Third Party Tools
- Simple Coexistence – Native
- Rich Coexistence – Native
- PST Export/Import – Native
- PST Export/Import – Third Party Tools
- Staged – Third Party Tools
- Staged – Native (Exchange 2003 and 2007 Only)
So what do you need in place for the native migrations? If its a cutover all you need in place in the source environment is PRC over HTTP for Exchange 2003 or Outlook Anywhere for Exchange 2007 and up, a valid publicly verified SSL certificate on Exchange and a configured tenant. the only account on the tenant needed is the Administrator account and that’s it, if the accounts exist for the users then the cutover will fail.
Although PST Export/Import migrations are available I would always recommend against them all you need is a tenant created with all the users populated (by AD Connect or CSV list) and the PST Files exported from Exchange.
The Key thing to remember third party migration tools do not require Azure AD Connect in place, sure they will work when it is in place and I’d always recommend putting Azure AD Connect in place as it keeps your your users in Azure AD in sync with your AD but the third party tools do not create the integration off Office 365 with your Active Directory. However, Azure AD Connect is an integral part for the native migration tools.
Third party cutover migration tools will copy and paste the contents of your users mailboxes in to Exchange Online and will also create the users if they do not exist in the cloud. Tools such as MigrationWiz, CloudMigrator365, SkyKick, Simply Migrate, Code Two, all of which I have used in one way or another. I’ve had better experience with some than others. My preferred third party tools are:
- MigrationWiz – I use this for any tenant to tenant migrations and other hosted email migrations
- CloudMigrator365 – I use this for any migrations from the likes of Lotus Notes and GroupWise that do not require any coexistence
- Simply Migrate – I sue for any archive migrations. The guys here rock and go above and beyond with their customer service!
Where possible I will always use Simply Migrate, sure the tool needs a server to run on but its the service you get from the guys at Simply Migrate, you will not find service like theirs for any migration product, plus their tool set is awesome.
The other tools in my opinion just not not cut it mainly from a support perspective but also a sales perspective.
There are so many benefits that you get using the native tools when migrating. The Hybrid migration is support from 2003 up to 2016, however for Exchange 2003 an Exchange 2010 server needs to be configured and for Exchange 2007 an Exchange 2010 or 2013 Hybrid server needs to be configured, this is why Microsoft provide you with an Exchange server license FoC for the Hybrid use.
With a Hybrid migration the interruption to the end users is seamless (depending on your authentication strategy), when performing a Hybrid migration you build up a trust with your Exchange Organization and Exchange Online which means you have secure mail flow between the two platforms but also cross premises free/busy lookups. it also migrates the users permission across, you do not get this level of seamlessness with third party tools. A lot of these tools say they will make the migration easier for you but you will be missing out on some key features (that are provided for free)
The Hybrid migration comes in two flavours Simple and Rich. Simple just enables the Exchange Organization for a quick move to the cloud using the MRS Proxy where as the Rich coexistence will allow a prolonged period for migrating all your users.
The minimum requirements for a Hybrid migration are Azure AD Connect and at the lowest Exchange 2010 front end. Whilst third party tools can work with 2003 and up and do not require Azure AD Connect the experience to the end user is not anywhere near as seamless. Sure, these tools now offer someway to re-configure outlook for the users but the key thing here is that each user who is migrated will need to re-cache their outlook OST where as native migrations they will not.
My view is always go for the native tools over any third party tool. If you are considering a move to the cloud from Exchange On Premises and have been told to use a third party tool I would be asking the why question! as there really should be no need to add the extra cost. Without speaking negatively if a partner is recommending you use a third party tool it will be either be they do not have the skill set to use the native tools or in some cases they may benefit from the third party tool by means of a kick back.