Public Folder Migration: What You Need to Know

Public folders are likely important to your business and they require particular attention.

The problem is that migrating public folders to Office 365 is a real challenge. How will you migrate with low risk and without having to become an expert on the subject?

If you are like most IT professionals, you explored the standard script-based approach to public folder migration. It seems complex, and it is! A Microsoft MVP recently documented the script method as a 52-step process that has plenty of opportunities for error (just read the comments section to see what we mean).

The Dark Side of the Public Folder Migration Market

Exchange Admins all around the world are struggling to migrate their public folders to Office 365.

In most cases, people try the scripts and face such difficulties that they abandon the process.

Others have tried using a vendor’s public folder migration software, and it is not working for them. Unfortunately, most public folder migration products are just a user interface on top of the Microsoft public folder migration scripts (thus, they are subject to the same limitations and complexities as the scripts).

Problems with the Standard Migration Scripts

Regardless of the size of your public folders, the script-based method is a long and arduous migration process.

Here are some of the critical issues and limitations with the migration scripts:

  1. Manual partitioning – Do you want to become intimately familiar with Office 365 size limits so that you can manually define a mapping of your current public folder hierarchy to mailboxes in O365? Probably not.
  2. Mailbox locking – If you do a poor job of folder-hierarchy-to-mailbox mapping, then you are likely to bump into Office 365 size limits in your migration. Hitting limits in O365 is a frustrating thing because it will lock the destination mailbox for days or weeks that your migration process is trying to use.
  3. Folder size limits – You likely have folders that exceed the item count and size limits of O365 mailbox folders. How will you detect this? If you have the problem, how will you resolve it? Working around folder size limits can be a manual task nightmare that the script-based method leaves to you.
  4. Problem characters – Before running the scripts, you must make sure to cleanse your public folders of problem characters in folder names and the SMTP aliases of mail-enabled folders. This task can unravel to become another adventure for you to figure out with the script-based method.
  5. Cryptic errors – If you hit any size limits or have problem characters in your data, the errors you get from the script method will not be indicative of the root problem at hand. You’ll be chasing your tail to figure out what went wrong.
  6. User downtime requirement at specific steps – The folder hierarchy must be locked down during later stages of the standard migration.
  7. No support for calendar permissions – The scripts do not provide a full-fidelity migration.
  8. No support for folder templates, special forms, and other settings – Just more examples of how the scripts do not provide a full-fidelity migration.
  9. No multi-organization merge – Good luck if you have public folders in multiple Exchange Organizations that need to merge into a single O365 tenant. The script-based method does not support merge scenarios for multi-organization public folder environments.
  10. Migration is not multi-threaded – The scripts are the slow way to go.
  11. No validation of settings – The script method does not validate your organizational and mail-enabled settings before you perform the finalize/cutover step. Fingers crossed!
  12. Destructive cutover – A hard cutover of your mail-enabled settings means that if something goes wrong, you have a severe fire drill on your hands because the script method wipes out the organizational and mail-enabled settings in your source public folders. Keep those fingers crossed!
  13. No rollback – Before committing to a process, it is always comforting to know that you can rollback if necessary. Unfortunately, the standard migration has no rollback mechanism when you make the final cutover.

Mission Critical Features to Migrate Public Folders to Office 365

Let us take a step back for a moment. When you are thinking of your public folder migration to Office 365, what are the top requirements that come to your mind?

You need something that is convenient, fast, and above all reliable. We want to get the job done with as little fuss and risk as possible, right?

You also need the least possible impact on your users.

Moreover, the integrity of your data is paramount to success.

If this summarizes your concerns, then the script-based method is not going to cut it. It fails on every front. Moreover, the truth is that many of the products in the market are based on these same problematic migration scripts.


How to Successfully Migrate Public Folders

Fortunately, there is a better, faster, and lower-risk approach to moving your public folders.

At ExchangeSavvy, we have broken the entire process down to four simple steps that are finalized with our unique cutover that supports full rollback.

Step 1: Crawl & Analysis

Your successful migration process starts with in-place traversal and analysis of your source public folder hierarchy.

Starting with an analysis of your starting situation provides several advantages, as follows:

  • Decision support — First, you will gain insight that can help you decide what to migrate, what to archive, and what to exclude.
  • Best practices — Secondly, ExchangeSavvy leverages this data map to automatically detect things that will give you problems during the migration and help you to prepare your public folder data for a smooth transition.
  • Automation — Finally, understanding your current folders delivers statistics that ExchangeSavvy uses to streamline other steps in the process.

exchange 2016 public folders

public folder migration

Step 2: Optimal Partitioning & Sizing

From the insights gathered in ‘Crawl & Analysis’, ExchangeSavvy algorithms produce an optimal public folder mailbox sizing and mapping for your scenario.

ExchangeSavvy will automatically detect folders that exceed known destination limits and offer to split them for you, saving you valuable time and avoiding errors and complexity in the migration process.

Step 3: Mailbox Creation

With the click of a button, using the optimal layout automatically generated for you, ExchangeSavvy programmatically creates the public folder mailboxes for you in Office 365.

public folder mailboxes

public folder migration solutions

Step 4: Migrate Public Folders

Now it is time to migrate public folders to their new home. ExchangeSavvy performs the migration asynchronously with enterprise-grade features such as:

  • Job monitoring
  • Event logging
  • Error isolation
  • Reporting

With ExchangeSavvy, the migration process is multithreaded, providing you with unparalleled speed and performance.

End users will continue to use public folders throughout the ExchangeSavvy migration process. Incremental migration jobs will capture any change in your source public folders, such as new content, deleted content, or changes to permissions.

Another advantage with ExchangeSavvy’s incremental migration is that you can validate the migrated public folders in the destination environment while your users continue working in the source folders. You can merge changes from source to destination as many times as you need.


No-risk Finalization

Finalize is when you cut over from your source public folder environment to your Office 365 destination. Evenings or weekends are the best time to flip the switch.

The cutover is the most stressful part, right? Well, not with ExchangeSavvy.

Instead of you dealing with the complexities involved in this process, ExchangeSavvy makes it simple and safe.

Unlike the migration script method, the ExchangeSavvy method of finalizing the migration is non-destructive to your source environment. This means that ExchangeSavvy preserves your source settings such as mail-enabled folder configuration so that you can reverse the cutover at any time with just a click of a button. No other migration on the market gives you the comfort of rolling back completely in case something goes awry in finalizing.

And instead of working in PowerShell, you simply click a button to have ExchangeSavvy discover your source settings and automatically generate the scripts you need to convert the organizational and mail-enabled settings. You can review these scripts before executing them.

With the click of a button, you can execute the finalize scripts. ExchangeSavvy also provides you with the option to selectively cut over a single mail-enabled folder or a group of them at a time versus cutting over all of them at once.

After you flip the switch, run one more incremental migration job to capture any remaining content in the source public folders to complete your migration. Yes, it’s that easy!


Multi-organization Migrations

Does your business have a history of mergers and acquisitions? If so, it is likely that your migration scenario involves multiple Exchange Organizations that have public folders, and you want to migrate all of this content into a single organization or tenant.

ExchangeSavvy is the only public folder migration software that supports multi-organization scenarios.

If you have this scenario, not to worry. We handle it with ease.

De-risking Migrations

At no point does ExchangeSavvy to exclusive control or ownership of your data.

ExchangeSavvy does not convert your data during the migration process. It is a completely lossless transfer.

You can inspect source public folders before migrating. Moreover, you can inspect the migrated public folders before finalizing.

The non-destructive approach to changing the configuration in the finalize step is critical along with the ability to rollback the cutover as a failsafe protection.

End-user Experience

Your end users are expected to continue working with the source public folders during the migration process.

In the cutover process, users will need to restart Outlook for the new settings to take effect. After starting Outlook with the new configuration, it may take a minute or two for the public folders to reload in the navigation display.

Users will see the same public folder hierarchy as before with the exception of any folder splitting that was performed to accommodate folder size limits.

Compatibility and Supported Migration Scenarios

ExchangeSavvy Public Folder Migrator can migrate public folders from Exchange Server 2010 SP1, Exchange Server 2013, and Exchange Server 2016.

From any of the supported versions of Exchange, ExchangeSavvy supports migration of public folders into Office 365.

ExchangeSavvy also supports migration of public folders from Office 365 to Exchange 2016.

Competitive Differentiators

If you search the market, you will find several vendors offering public folder migration software.

It is always good practice to explore alternatives.

Here are some of the reasons to choose ExchangeSavvy:

  • End-to-end GUI-driven migration process — The ExchangeSavvy Public Folder Migrator software is designed with the goal of facilitating the entire migration process through a powerful, easy-to-use interface. Many of the other vendors will have you performing various steps to run scripts outside of their software.
  • Most comprehensive migration — ExchangeSavvy provides the most holistic migration of public folders, capturing templates, rules, permissions, mail-enabled settings, etc. Other vendors have gaps.
  • Lowest-risk approach — ExchangeSavvy goes to great lengths to de-risk the migration process for you. We are the only vendor to support non-destructive cutover and rollback.
  • Fastest performance — ExchangeSavvy can scale up throughput to rates of 600 GB per day into Office 365.
  • Most convenient experience — Other vendors work on a break-fix support basis, and they require large professional services engagements. At ExchangeSavvy, we work with you at every step to ensure your migration is a success.