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3 min read

Choosing the Right Type of Office 365 Migration

Paul Hager
Written by Paul Hager

The Differences Between Hybrid and Cutover Migrations – In Plain English

Your company has ok’d the migration of the data on your Microsoft Exchange email server to the cloud via Office 365. Sweet! Before you move forward, though, the first question you need to consider is what kind of migration format to use: hybrid or cutover.

What Is a Hybrid Migration?

It’s the Microsoft way of attaching your on-premise MS Exchange server to O365. In a hybrid migration, you’re bolting the on-premise Exchange to the cloud Exchange that’s in O365. In doing so, your business creates a bridgehead or “hybrid” system. With this configuration, you can see all the cloud mailboxes on-premise and vice versa with on-premise to the cloud.

Why Choose a Hybrid Migration?

It has several clear advantages. First off, Microsoft specifically developed the technology so that the software can migrate more easily – especially when you’re working with the currently supported version of MS Exchange. It’s so simple that you’re able to move an on-premise user to the cloud with one click. Once Elevity does the initial set-up, oftentimes our customers can take over and execute major pieces of the migration themselves.

On top of the familiar tools and methodology you’ll experience, hybrid migrations are cost effective for businesses with lots of desktops, computers, mobile devices, and other endpoints. This type of migration doesn’t require you to touch every end user device, saving enterprise organizations significant amounts of manpower and time.

Finally, hybrid migrations have a negligible impact on employees. Imagine you’re an end user sitting at your desk. You see a little message pop up that says something like, “Your network administrator has made a change to your mail, please reboot Outlook.” So you close and reopen Outlook, and voila, your migration is complete! All contacts, data, and emails were “re-homed” from the on-premise server to the cloud while you as the end user were none the wiser.

But Sadly, There’s a Drawback

You’d think that migrating to the cloud means no more on-premise storage. But in the hybrid approach, you have to leave an MS Exchange server onsite, in theory, forever. This virtual or physical machine no longer needs the power or storage capabilities that Exchange did, but it doesn’t just disappear either.

Why? The onsite server remains as a management console when you’re done moving all of the data over. It gives you access to the various emails, data, alternate names, and other information in your network.

One perk of this situation is that if this server goes down, email will still flow as usual without affecting your end users. Another bright spot is you won’t need to buy licensing for that server anymore. The O365 licenses will cover your right to run that management Exchange.

What Is a Cutover Migration?

This type of migration can be used with any number of email servers – Gmail, POP mail, legacy systems, and of course MS Exchange. It takes all of the data in your old system and drops it all into O365. With a cutover migration you no longer need any on-premise email servers. Think of it as a fresh, clean start for your organization.

It uses a third-party tool to pull all the email data out of your existing server and spool it up in a cloud service. Your data is then stored in the cloud, ready for cutover day.

When cutover day arrives, Elevity changes over the mail records to point to O365 and confirms the new email is going to O365. Then the third-party tool syncs your existing cloud service with your email server to ensure all data goes into the cloud accurately. Once that’s done, all your data is in the cloud – no more on-premise email server needed. You have a cloud-native email system you can manage from the O365 portal.

Here’s the Downside

You have to manually tell every workstation (mobile or physical) that email is now in the cloud. That means touching every device, re-setting it up with the user’s O365 username and password, and creating a new profile. Obviously, this can be cumbersome if you have a large number of devices. But it’s not a big deal if you have only a small number of devices.

The good news is, we can mitigate this drawback. We use a special tool that pushes a small application into every device before the cutover. When the cutover occurs, that little agent kicks off a process to move that user’s Outlook profile so you have a hybrid-like end-user experience. And yes, it really does work. Using this method, we’ve made cutover migrations a seamless experience for companies in foreign countries and all over the United States.

So Which One Is Right For You?

It can depend on a variety of factors. First, consider the number of end users. In our experience, companies with 50-100+ users tend to use hybrid migrations because the transition is guaranteed to be easy for their users. On the other hand, business with under 20 users often do cutover migrations because they don’t have many devices, they don’t have to rely on any on-premise infrastructure, and starting clean in the cloud is just easier.

Second, think about how you’re currently archiving email. Does the archiving service you use require an on-premise presence? Third, find out if you’re going to need an internal email server to relay for copiers and scanners.

Whichever migration format you choose, Elevity can get it done for you.

  • We have proven templates for both paths.
  • We’re a Gold Certified Microsoft Partner in O365 productivity validated by Microsoft with a number of customer references.
  • Microsoft and many of the largest tech distributors in the world send their clients to us for O365 migrations.

In short, we’re an O365 moving machine you can depend on to get your productivity tools moved to the cloud. Learn more about how we can help you out on our Cloud Services page.

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