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The importance and risks of migrating Public Folders



Public Folders in Microsoft Exchange enable email and documents to be shared between multiple people.

Organisations that are transforming their underlying email platform, by migrating from Exchange to Office 365 for example, need to migrate the contents of Public Folders (PF) to new targets including SharePoint. Each project has its unique technical challenges as PF usage varies by customer.  Business processes that may work well in PFs don’t necessarily translate easily to Shared Mailboxes, Office 365 Groups, or SharePoint.

If an organisation struggles to migrate PFs, it ends up needing to support the legacy Exchange environment, as well as the new Office 365 environment. The result is that a large volume of data can remain in this state for years.

Many customers assume that a PF migration is the same as a mailbox migration, yet it requires a high degree of skill, often including specialist tools or Microsoft PowerShell – a task automation and configuration management program. The results can be unpredictable and require significant downtime as progress of the migration is difficult to monitor. 

Preserving full chain-of-custody

Limited reporting and migration-tracking capabilities risk the preservation of full chain-of-custody for the migrated content. Many Public Folders contain active, business-critical information, especially where mail-enabled folders have become enmeshed in business processes. Using a fault-free PF migration service not only avoids upsetting users and impacting efficiency but reduces the risk of compromising future legal discovery situations.

Some organisations have more complicated environments if their IT departments had introduced email archiving for compliance or storage management reasons.

With a 3rd party Exchange archive platform, content from PFs may have been archived and the original email replaced with a shortened version.

Third party services help organisations migrate their Public Folders to Shared Mailboxes, Office 365 Groups, or SharePoint Online.

Public Folders in Enterprise Vault

Enterprise Vault is a market leading on-premise Exchange archive solution and includes a feature to archive the contents of Public Folders to alleviate storage space, replacing the original items with shortcuts.

Prior to the migration, if a Public Folder has been archived by Enterprise Vault, the archived items need to be ‘rehydrated’ back to the original items.  Once fully rehydrated, the folders’ contents can be migrated to the target platform.

A Customer Scenario: migrating MS Exchange Public Folders into SharePoint Online

The existing solution of Exchange 2013 with Enterprise Vault (EV) archives several email repositories, including Public Folders. Based on the customer’s recent statistics, there are 141,637 individual public folders. The 90-day archiving policy in EV to archive attachments in PFs leaves a link to enable easy user retrieval. The migration from Exchange to SharePoint initially requires the EV archived content to be rehydrated back to its full, original format.

 - Solving the content loss risks

Using a combination of expert professional services and specialist tools, TrueSwift delivers a fully managed service to restore all archived items across the Public Folders back to their original state and format.

If this step was not performed, archived content would be migrated ‘as is’ and the data could become inaccessible or even lost in the target platform, causing a major problem for users unable to access the original email item.

Instead, the migration project can be kept on track and cause minimal disruption to the business as users can access critical email content. Importantly, full auditing procedures and chain of custody for the restored items in Public Folders is preserved throughout.

 - Solution Benefits

Post migration of the Public Folders to SharePoint, users and the business can retain the ability to access all critical email content. Full auditing and chain of custody is preserved for the restored items.

Legal & General Investment Management – a technical challenge

653GB of data needed to be migrated in the form of 10,400,000 messages.

The migration source was multiple Exchange Public Folders that had been archived by Enterprise Vault. The migration target was the original on-premises Exchange Server.

A technical challenge that our team had to overcome was the ‘auto-reply’ folder rule customisations on the PF mailboxes that could be triggered on mailbox changes with adverse effects. This was solved and the migration completed successfully.

Read the case study

Written by : trueswift

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