Microsoft: Here's How Our Free Office 365 Email Migration, Onboarding Services Will Work

Microsoft is planning to offer free email migrations to Office 365 customers starting next month, and now more details have emerged about what kind of work it will be handling.

Starting Sept. 1, Microsoft will offer free email migrations to customers that buy 150 seats or more of Office 365. This is part of a promotional offer, aimed at boosting Office 365 deployments, that runs until March 31 of next year.

Some Microsoft partners feel this could cut into their email migration business. But a Microsoft document explaining the offer to partners, which was viewed by CRN, shows that it's actually limited in scope.

Related: Microsoft Says It'll Begin Offering Free Office 365 Email Migrations Next Month

Sponsored post

Microsoft will migrate mailboxes from Exchange 2003 and newer versions, as well as Lotus Domino 7.0.3+ and IMAP-accessible email, such as Gmail, according to the document.

The software giant will do the email migrations on a 24/5 basis with predefined migration time slots, with three migration time slots per migration day. Microsoft will use its own cloud-based tools, according to the document.

Customers will be responsible for the migration of client-side data -- including .pst files, local Outlook settings and local contacts -- and post-migration support, Microsoft said in the document. Many Microsoft partners offer these types of services.

For the various versions of on-premise Exchange, Microsoft will migrate emails, mailbox rules and contacts, tasks and calendars, among other things. But Microsoft won't migrate public folders, archive data or emails of 25 MB or larger, according to the document.

For Lotus Domino 7.0.3+, Microsoft will migrate only emails, mailbox contacts, calendars and tasks. And for IMAP, Microsoft will migrate only email, according to the document.

Rand Morimoto, president of Convergent Computing, a Walnut Creek, Calif.-based Microsoft partner that does Office 365 email migration work, told CRN he thinks the limited scope of what Microsoft is providing could confuse customers.

"Services are services -- if a customer needs it done, why is Microsoft setting limits? What's a customer to do when a limit is hit? Microsoft won't do it, so now the engagement is in limbo?" Morimoto said.

The fact that Microsoft is offering a bare-bones email migration offer could put to rest fears some partners have about the Redmond, Wash.-based vendor moving onto their turf.

Customers that have complex needs, or that need to migrate SharePoint data, will be directed to work with Microsoft partners. To offset the costs of these engagements, Microsoft will provide funding to customers under its Office 365 promotion.

This means Microsoft partners can get $15 per seat for up to 1,000 seats, and $5 per seat after that, with a limit of $60,000 per customer.

Geeman Yip, CEO of BitTitan, a Kirkland, Wash.-based Microsoft partner that specializes in migrating on-premise email and data to the cloud, told CRN Microsoft's email migration offer could be a good thing for the channel.

"If Microsoft says 'Look, we highly recommend that you work with a partner because we're a cookie-cutter offering,' and tells them partners can provide way more added benefits, that could drive more revenue to the channel," Yip said.

NEXT: Microsoft Also Sheds Light On Plan To Offer Free Onboarding Services

But Yip, who previously worked at Microsoft for close to nine years as a program manager, expects Microsoft to run into technical glitches while carrying out free email migrations.

"It's more complicated than they think," Yip said of email-to-cloud migration work.

Customers that try the free migration offer and are dissatisfied with what it entails may seek assistance from companies like BitTitan said Yip.

There's more to Microsoft's Office 365 plans than just free email migrations. The vendor also is making free "onboarding" services a feature of its Office 365 Fast Track program, which aims to speed sales and deployments of the cloud apps suite.

Partners have told CRN that Microsoft has been vague about what services fall into the onboarding category, but the document spells this out in detail.

Microsoft considers onboarding services to be "repeatable" tasks and will provide them to customers remotely. This includes handling user activations, providing configuration help for TCP/IP protocols and firewall, and DNS for eligible applications, according to the document.

For Exchange Online, Microsoft's onboarding services include configuration to route email between the source messaging system and Office 365 environments, and ensuring that Autodiscover and sender policy framework records in Domain Name System (DNS) are up-to-date, according to the document.

Convergent Computing's Morimoto, for his part, is unimpressed with the Microsoft onboarding services. Not only are they limited in nature, the services also could upset customers, he said.

"This is a very sad offering, and will only confuse customers into thinking they're getting free migration assistance," Morimoto told CRN.