Microsoft has announced a public preview of Office 365 Import Service, a new offering that allows organizations to quickly import their Personal Storage Table (PST) files into Exchange Online, the company's cloud-based hosted email platform. PST is a file format used by Microsoft to store email messages, tasks, calendar events and other items.
Two years ago, Microsoft released a PST Capture Tool that allows organizations to collect, consolidate and ultimately upload their PST data directly into corresponding Exchange Online mailboxes. However, customers with years' worth of email archives faced a long wait for their data to arrive on the cloud, according to Danny Popper, program manager for the Office 365 Information Protection Team.
"We have consistently been approached by customers and partners asking for help with migrations that could easily take multiple years to complete, because of the time required to move data across the wire," Popper wrote in a blog post.
To remedy this, Office 365 Import Service offers two new options.
"For smaller sets of data, we are enabling network uploads of PST files to Microsoft servers, which we then import into Exchange Online mailboxes," said Popper. The second option in based on the company's Azure Import/Export service, a sneakernet cloud-seeding solution for companies looking to move large amounts of data.
"For larger datasets, you can copy PST archive files onto hard drives and mail them directly to Microsoft datacenters," Popper announced. "Once we receive the drives, we copy the PST files to internal servers and then import the mail into Exchange Online mailboxes."
Either alternative beats importing PST files over the Internet. "Both of these options use our internal datacenter network, with significantly faster throughput and lower latency," he added.
According to a related online support document, a good rule of thumb is to ship a drive when there is more than 10TB of data to transfer. The service supports only 3.5-inch SATA II and III drives, 4TB and under. Shipped drives must also be formatted with NTFS and protected by BitLocker encryption.
"We are also working on an additional layer of Azure RMS-based encryption on each file," which the company hopes to enable during the preview period, Popper said. Azure Rights Management (RMS), which protects emails and files from unauthorized access, was recently upgraded with new a departmental template policy creation feature, a migration toolkit and onboarding controls.
Office 365 Import Service currently only works with PST files, but Microsoft expects to support more data types in the future. The preview is open to Office 365 Commercial and multitenant Government customers in the regions covered by the company's Azure data centers in North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific. Microsoft plans to switch on the capability in Brazil, Japan, Australia and China "as soon as possible," said Popper.
The company also hopes to make the service available to Office 365 Dedicated and Government Community Cloud (GCC) customers, as well as organizations with hybrid Exchange deployments where the archive mailboxes reside in the cloud but primary mailboxes are stored locally, he said.