Top Considerations when Choosing a Public Folder Migration Solution

Choosing a public folder migration solution can be a difficult task. This is especially the case when your destination is Office 365. Many assumptions can be made that, if not researched, can lead you down a long and painful path. Picking the solution that you will use to accomplish this task is critical as no two solutions are alike. Knowing how to choose a solution that best fits your needs and understanding the hidden costs upfront will lead to success.

Here are the top things we think you should consider when choosing a public folder migration solution:

Level of Analysis

Can you look before you leap?

Analytics of your current public folder situation is an important piece of any migration. If you don’t have visibility into what you are migrating, then it becomes very difficult to manage any problems along the way. Identifying content that is stale can save you time during the migration. There could also be content that should not be in there, such as personal music libraries for example. You can miss out on speed gains by not having proper insight and analysis.

You will also need strong knowledge of your Public Folder Hierarchy in order to make decisions as to where you migrate each folder. Most third-party Public Folder migration solutions, including the Microsoft script-based approach, leave this process to the administrator. If you calculate this incorrectly, you will end up in an auto-split status, stopping you from creating more public folders. Microsoft states that an auto-split can take up to two weeks to complete. This is why you need the destination Public Folders planned for and created in advance. Just creating one mailbox and relying on Microsoft to handle the auto-split can be disastrous.

Also consider that much of the content in public folders can be stale data that is highly sensitive to your business but not relevant to current projects or employees. In larger migration projects, in the analysis stage, we recommend identifying data that should be excluded from the migration and instead moved into a cloud archive.

Know your Scripts

Do you need to become an expert in the process?

Unlike migrating mailboxes, Microsoft does not provide a user interface for managing a Public Folder Migration. This means that you will be living in PowerShell running a wide array of scripts with minimal visibility into what they are doing. In addition to this, you will need to know well beforehand what your Public Folders consist of in order to properly plan your migration. Do you have email-enabled Public Folders? Are templates being used? Are other folders such as Contacts and Calendars in use? Is your Public Folder Hierarchy and data volume compatible with Office 365? Can your end users handle long down-time during a migration? Is it OK to proceed without being able to roll-back?

Migration API

What interface is being used, and what are its implications?

The Microsoft Migration API is a method for executing the Public Folder migration. Many third-party solutions take advantage of this API to do their migrations. The benefit to third-party providers is that it’s a lot less work to build a solution. However, the drawbacks are many. Migration’s are not multi-threaded and your Public Folder source will need to be locked-down during the migration. If you encounter a problem migrating a message, there’s no easy way of identifying that message. If you are currently using legacy Public Folders (Exchange 2010 for example), you can find yourself doing multiple migrations. One to Exchange 2013/2016 and then another to Office 365.

No Source Lock-Down

Is there disruption to your users?

Microsoft Scripts and many third-party solutions require locking down your source during a migration. This is a huge inconvenience to your end users that may rely on retrieving and adding content. It also makes it incredibly difficult to plan your migration around multiple lock-downs. Expect that you will have more than one migration pass, meaning more outages. A strong solution will not require source lock-down.

Public Folder Destination Provisioning

Where are you migrating the data in Office 365 and what are the implications?

Provisioning your destination relies on strong analysis. If your solution does not provide analysis, then it certainly will not provide provisioning. A solution that accounts for provisioning your destination environment is not only crucial, but a huge time saver. A properly provisioned destination should have the following:

  • Adequate number of Public Folder Mailboxes
  • Allow for post-migration growth
  • Configurable limits for the administrator in conjunction with Microsoft-imposed limits
  • Avoid tripping a Public Folder Mailbox auto-split during a migration
  • Insight into the provisioned distribution of your Public Folder Hierarchy

Roll Back Capabilities

Is the migration and cutover process destructive, or can you easily roll back if needed?

Most companies that use Public Folders use them as the backbone of their business processes. Using the Microsoft scripts or most third-party solutions will leave you having to make many decisions without validation testing. For something so critical, it’s a lot to ask for. Having the ability in your solution to completely roll-back if something isn’t working should be an expected feature.

Handling Office 365 Sizing Limitations

Does the migration software have intelligence to keep you from bumping into O365 size limits?

If you are using the Microsoft scripts for a manual migration, you will need to account for these limitations yourself. Many third-party solutions do not handle this and defer to the customer. Be leery of this because you may never be able to make it to the migration stage if you can’t figure out the analysis piece. Companies can end up in a prolonged hybrid deployment state because of this.

Mail-Enabled Public Folders

How are mail-enabled public folder settings handled?

If you have mail-enabled Public Folders, then be cautious of using using the Microsoft scripts. Most solutions rely on these scripts and they are destructive. When you run them, they will destroy these folders at the source. These scripts also do not bring over all properties or customization’s of those folders. If you have any problems after running these scripts, there’s no way to roll back. Many third-party solutions rely on the same process, so be careful.

Special Folders and Templates

How are special folders, folder rules, and templates handled?

In addition to regular and mail-enabled Public Folders, there are other folder types as well. Some are Calendars and Contacts. Customized templates can also be a part of a Public Folder hierarchy, such as an auto-reply template. A solution should be able to migrate these over with no problems.

Folder Exclusion

Can you pick and choose what is migrated or what to exclude?

If you need to leave folders out of the migration process, then most solutions can handle this. If you are doing this manually with Microsoft scripts, then this is left up to the administrator. For most third-party solutions, there’s some level of folder exclusion available, so it all depends on how easy it is to manage and report on.

Professional Services

Do you need an army of experts to get you through the process?

Not all solutions, including the Microsoft script approach, is an apples-to-apples comparison. Some solutions can be complex and require a lot of training, or worse, certification. Others will require a healthy amount of professional services on top of the solution purchase. Any issues encountered along the way can incur more cost. A properly designed solution should not require a senior level engineer to operate.

Moving Forward

Whether you have identified a third-party solution or using professional services for Microsoft scripts, request a pilot. Many solutions will show their true colors quickly as to whether they can or cannot accomplish the migration. It may expand your project doing evaluations, but it will be a big time and money saver for you and your organization.

Please contact us to discuss your Public Folder migration situation today!

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