Most businesses today choose hosted email solutions over physical machines for several reasons. Most services prove to be simpler plus, they’re typically cost effective and require little – if any – maintenance. While Gmail tops the list, namely for personal use, business is often Microsoft-centric, so it’s no surprise to see not only new companies adopting Office 365, many existing businesses are making the shift.

The Office 365 productivity suite has a lot to offer – it’s simple to deploy, works from anywhere, and includes the whole family of familiar Microsoft applications. It also makes managing email a lot easier, which is ideal for businesses that don’t capitalize on the all the features provided by Exchange. However, there is often apprehension involved in making the switch.

Fortunately, it’s usually a simple process (depending on your current setup) and will ultimately prove to be more flexible and reliable, among other perks.

Preparing to Migrate

There are a few matters to consider before moving Office to 365. The two most pressing issues relate to your existing platform (e.g. an older version of Exchange or providers outside of Microsoft) and the number of users. When coming from an existing Exchange setup, the way you migrate email accounts into Office 365 will affect the experience as it may require some fine tuning after the migration has completed.

We’ll look at the most common methods used to migrate emails as well as touch on the expected outcome.

Overview of Migration Methods

In a couple instances, inboxes can no longer be stored on-premise, which is usually preferred anyway.  This occurs when performing the most common port method from an Exchange server, known as a Cutover migration. This process creates accounts in Office 365, so if you’re already using the platform, you’ll likely end up with duplicate accounts. If you haven’t configured Office 365 for use yet, you’ll simply need to associate licenses to the accounts which you can learn about here.

If you have more 2000 users and are using Exchange 2003 or 2007, your best bet is to use a Staged migration. This can accommodate large number users plus, you’ll have the ability to keep inboxes on-premise, if you choose. It takes longer to perform and requires directory synchronization, but it’s ideal when you have more than 150 email accounts to migrate.

The Hybrid migration option is available for Exchange versions 2010 and higher. With this option, it’s possible to fully sync both an Exchange server and Office 365, which is ideal for advanced configurations. You also have the option to eventually transition away from the on-premise server but it does require directory synchronization to migrate as well as function as a hybrid.

If running an extremely old version of Exchange, meaning 2000 and earlier, or a non-Exchange messaging system, you’ll need to do the transfer process via an IMAP migration. If this is your only option, keep in mind that you’ll only be able to transfer core email features, so tasks and calendars won’t transfer. This process is how most email service providers need to be transferred to Office 365, so you may need to consult with your service provider or Microsoft prior to transferring to learn more about the fine details of what to expect.

Moving to Office 365

For a good visual overview of the migration process to Office 365, check out the video below. This video describes the basis for each process described above.


If you’re planning on handling the process yourself, follow Microsoft’s guide for migrating to Office 365. The process is generally simple, especially when you have fewer that 150 mailboxes and a version of Exchange that isn’t severely outdated.

If you’re looking to move from a service provider that isn’t Microsoft, you have a couple options. For one, you can just add an account into Outlook, whether Gmail or some other email service provider. To complete a full migration, follow the IMAP instructions for migrating email into Office 365.

Final Thoughts

Migrating small businesses to Office 365 is usually a straightforward process however, there are times the process proves to be more complicated than expected. Call us at 1 (770) 936-8020 or send us an email at and we can assist you in moving your email accounts to Office 365.