Mar 102010

MSOL Hosted ExchangeSo, What is the process like, you ask?  It’s a lot to describe, feel free to ask for more details, I’m skipping over a lot to keep this post from becoming a novel. I also have a little amnesia from the night. Not everything went as smoothly as we’d hoped, and it was a little too crazy to take notes.

The first thing I want to make clear is that if Microsoft offers $500 to hire the firm that helps you migrate your data, take note: This is a coupon. (This was not made clear to us by Microsoft, which was no fault of our consultants’) The actual cost of the consultants that you hire to migrate your data varies greatly based on the level of involvement you require of them.  In our case, we have a pretty technically adept IT dept, and they still quoted us $2000, even after the $500 discount.  Not an unreasonable fee when you look at the services they were offering and the amount of time they were going to spend. But our proposal to our boss was written based on the quote that Microsoft gave us, that had us believing $500 was covering the complete cost of the migration. After a little negotiation, we were able to get the quote down to under a grand, and had it based on hours instead of a flat fee.

So, what did these people do?  The biggest part is they help you plan. We had a great plan from the start, but they make sure you cover all of your bases.

Here’s what the consultant you’ll hire will do for you:

  1. Help you configure your network so the all the required traffic is allowed.
    • There wasn’t much to do here. All of the traffic happens over ports 80 and 443 from your Exchange server. Also, the computer you install the Microsoft Online Services Migration Tool onto must be able to see your Exchange server.
  2. Help you decide if you are going to be in an email coexistance environment
    • Email coexistance means there will not be a hard cutoff date for your Exchange server, and you will require special setup so that your migrated email accounts can exist at the same time as your legacy accounts on the Exchange server.
  3. Teach you how to decommission your old exchange server
  4. Install and configure the Directory Synchronization Tool (if applicable)
  5. Install, configure, and train you in the Microsoft Online Services Migration Tool
    • The tool itself is simple as simple can be to install, though there was some pre-setup our consultant had to do. (I think our account was never actually active until he started installing this tool)
  6. Teach you how to use the MSOL Administration Panel
    • There’s not much to show. If you can handle Exchange, their admin panel will be easy as pie.  The hardest part was looking for non-existent features, and deciding when to make a service request to see if it exists.
  7. Begin migrating your accounts according to the plan you came up with at #1
    • Migration of accounts is pretty damn simple. The tool figures out what can be migrated based on comparing your existing AD accounts with the ones you have created online. This is where Directory Sync would have saved some hours.
  8. Help you diagnose errors that occur during #6
    • The tool is simple, but stuff happens. We had some accounts with strange rights preventing them from migrating, we had mailboxes with corrupted items that caused the transfer to fail. It IS Exchange after all.

They do much more I’m sure, but we saw the bare minimum of their services.  All in all, we set up our account, prepped the Exchange server, migrated one user, and troubleshot a host of various errors that slowed us down in 7 hours, and never had to have them back.

So how does this migration work? It’s pretty simple. The Migration Tool connects to the exchange server, uploads the entire contents of each mailbox you ask it to, and places the data in the online account you ask it to. And it does its job very well.  When you connect your Outlook client to the new online account, it will re-download its data (can be quite lengthy if you have a large mailbox).  I was able to find no difference in the re-downloaded mail, calendar or my other data from what was stored on our Exchange server. I also have not received any complaints from users claiming that the data was changed or misrepresented. We were impressed.

Next, I’ll describe my experiences with using Outlook 2003/2007 with the service. Then, in a day or two, I’ll wrap it up with a description of the Admin console, it’s features, and their customer support.


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