Best Practices for Migrating to Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite - Page 2

Keith Ridings

A Few Other Details About Exchange Migrations

Directory Synchronization-With the Microsoft Online Services Directory Synchronization Tool, users from an on-premises Active Directory (AD) can be synchronized with the hosted Active Directory either before or after the content migration process starts. A good approach is to manually create a handful of pilot mailboxes in MOAC to begin testing the content migration processes while the time-consuming AD cleanup tasks are completed.

To ensure a successful first-time Directory Synchronization pass, verify that the mail field in all current AD objects (user accounts, groups and contacts) is uniquely configured so there are no conflicts between objects. Perform a CSVDE or LDIFDE export of the entire AD forest for just the mail attribute (and any other descriptive fields) to reconcile the data. Only user accounts that are to be activated within Exchange Online should have any values, and they should all include addresses only in online, validated domains. Wipe the mail attribute from all other user accounts so they will not be given SMTP addresses in the custom company domain.

Content Migration - All on-premises migrations require a decision on the scope of data that will be moved between mail systems, and this is especially critical when migrating to Exchange Online, since all data must be copied over the Internet. This typically takes longer than moving mail between servers in the same data center or LAN/WAN backbone.

Mailboxes - Reduce the scope of mail data to a manageable amount and take time to perform archival processes. By migrating only recent data instead of entire mailboxes, thousand of mailboxes can be migrated over a single weekend instead of several weeks.

Resources - Besides the standard one-to-one person mailboxes, there may be additional mailboxes used for booking resources, sharing an e-mail address, and other business-related tasks. If these objects do not currently reside in Active Directory, they should be added prior to initializing directory synchronization.

Contacts/Address Books - Because contact items are always important and rarely take up much space, they are almost always entirely migrated. Personal distribution lists also are included in the scope, and moved.

Calendars - Typically, calendar data also is moved in bulk, but it's possible to move just a year's worth of past appointments along with all future items to reduce overall processing time. If a recurring meeting's creation or modification date falls outside of the migration scope, the entire series of appointments would not be migrated. If a third party product is used to establish sustained coexistence, however, these recurring meetings can be maintained with full fidelity.

Archives - Local archive files can be migrated to PST files so users can use Outlook to access them directly on their own workstations for historical purposes, reducing the need to access the legacy mail system.

Intranet Portal: SharePoint Online

SharePoint Online, the BPOS solution for intranet collaboration, offers customers the same benefits as Microsoft Office SharePoint 2007 (MOSS), without the added overhead of managing an externally facing SharePoint farm. Growing concern over Internet security and reducing the cost of solution ownership have created a recent upswing in SharePoint Online implementation.

Organizations facing time constraints or tight deadlines for implementing SharePoint will benefit from SharePoint Online, which can be up and running in minutes, rather than the days or weeks it takes to implement a SharePoint farm onsite. It also works best for those who want to keep maintenance costs down and have little need for customizations to the SharePoint sites.

SharePoint Online is available in both Standard and Dedicated versions. SharePoint Online Standard is a multi-tenancy system, in which multiple customers access one architecture. Site content is safe from other organizations since the SharePoint Security Model does not allow cross-site collection permissions. The standard version, typically for deployments of under 5,000 or less, gives users full access to their own SharePoint site collection. Site collection administrators have access to everything in that site as well as in sites below it. Aside from site collection administration, access to central administration and the shared service provider are not available to SharePoint Online Standard customers, which allows IT staff to focus on SharePoint Online's usability rather than its maintenance and administration.

SharePoint Online Dedicated offers dedicated architecture for an organization's SharePoint farm. Typically, these organizations are larger or need more features for the site. SharePoint Online Dedicated users can access all services of the Shared Service Provider, including personalization services, advanced search, Excel Web Services and the Business Data Catalog.

Challenges of Migrating to SharePoint Online

Migrating to SharePoint Online, regardless of the source from which the migration is made, presents a number of challenges related to three main areas: security, user interface and functionality. Some of the significant challenges potentially presented by a SharePoint Online migration include:

Security challenges - It can be difficult to successfully apply current permissions and rights metadata to migrated content, especially if the source and target repositories don't share common sets of permissions and rights. For example, the base permissions and rights in a non-Windows environment will not map one-for-one to the permissions and rights in a Windows environment. As a result, a migration from a non-Windows system to SharePoint Online will require a default mapping, and perhaps some custom mapping, as well.

User interface (UI) challenges - Ignoring "look and feel" is a common mistake in many migrations, not just those to SharePoint Online. If the source is an application such as Lotus Notes, then forms created in the target environment-SharePoint Online-will often need to look and behave like the forms that existed in the source. An important related challenge to address in the planning stage is determining which forms and behaviors are required in the target environment.

The organization, navigation, linking between files and general browsing provided by SharePoint Online all can create UI-related challenges, so plan how to use SharePoint Online's features and capabilities to strengthen the source environment's navigation and links. It's also important to modify the structure or organization of source content, even in the process of conducting the migration, to leverage additional and new capabilities. Another potential UI challenge is mapping the views of source data to views in SharePoint Online.

Functionality challenges - Because you may have multiple source applications, and SharePoint Online is the sole target application, functionality challenges may be the most difficult trials you will encounter in a SharePoint Online migration. These challenges may include the association of workflows with types of documents or forms; the ability to carry forward data-types and their metadata; calculated fields; multi-value fields; and rich text fields. Mapping the functions of these applications is very difficult.

All of these challenges aside, however, there is no doubt that cloud computing can be less expensive and more efficient for organizations of all sizes. Like any migration, a move to the cloud takes careful planning and time, and Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Suite provides a complete set of solutions to run IT operations from the cloud, once you get there. Good third-party migration solutions will speed and simplify the process, and are definitely worth reviewing as you plan your move.

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