Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Migrating from Google Apps to Google Apps - moving accounts

A common question Google Apps Administrators ask is, "How can I move my old Google Apps data to a new Google Apps account or across domains?"

There are multiple ways of handling this when using Google Apps. Let's take a brief look at a few of them.

Google Apps Migration for Microsoft Exchange (GAMME)

You can migrate email, contacts, calendar, and public folder data from on-premises and some hosted Microsoft Exchange servers. GAMME also allows you to migrate data from a series of PST files and email data from some IMAP servers. You can find more details on how to migrate data from Exchange using GAMME here. However, if you're using GAMME to migrate from one Google Apps account to another, you'll only be able to use it for mail data. [Free]

Migrator by Backupify

Migrator for Google Apps allows you to transfer the complete contents of any single Google Apps account from one domain to another, or to merge all the data in one account with another account on the same Google Apps domain. This migrates Gmail, contacts, calendars, and Drive data. You can also use Migrator to move data between a free gmail.com account and a paid Google Apps account, so if you used a consumer account to "test drive" the Google Apps system but don't want to lose your data, Migrator is your best bet. [$15 per migration - first migration is free]

Google's Data Migration Service

This method is simple and allows you to migrate without having to install any client software. Simply enter some basic information about the environment from which you're migrating, specify what to include in the migration, and select the users whose email you want to migrate. You can even monitor the status of the migration for each user's account in the admin console. Details here. [Free]

You can also move contacts, calendar, and Drive data manually (though Drive data can only be moved within the same Google Apps install automatically; to move it to another domain, use Migrator). It is a bit more time consuming but you can easily see what has and hasn't been moved. Here are the ways to move your data manually: Exporting ContactsImporting ContactsExporting CalendarImporting CalendarTransferring Drive Contents.

What about Google Vault? We recommend exporting the contents in MBOX format and keeping a backup either locally or on a service like Google Drive. This will help you reference the information as needed by opening the mailbox in a client like Thunderbird. In most cases, all important data will remain in the user's account and get transferred into the Vault of the destination user when migrating the inbox. Here is how a Vault export works.

Hopefully this has helped you retain your valuable data. InterlockIT has led many migrations and our team of experts are available anytime to assist.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Microsoft Cloud touches down in Canada!

Last week, Microsoft made a game-changing announcement: Microsoft will be opening two Canadian data centres that will offer Office 365, Azure, and Dynamics CRM services.

Our team here at Interlock IT has been leading Office 365 implementations since 2010 and has noticed a dramatic increase in interest from our clients in moving infrastructure to the Microsoft Cloud.

There are some compelling reasons to switch your email or Exchange Server to the cloud; whether you want the latest and greatest updates, Microsoft's subscription-based licensing models, or are trying to reduce costly infrastructure overhead. There is also the incentive of exclusive services and capabilities only available through the cloud, like Yammer, an enterprise social networking service, Delve. machine learning and artificial intelligence which helps you discover what's most relevant and important to you, and Office 365 Video, an intranet-style website portal to post and view videos in your organization. It is a mobile-first, cloud-first age in which Microsoft's cloud-centric roadmap for its flagship products will pave the way for you to stay ahead of the competition. This is the platform you want to be on.

However before this great announcement, the fact that infrastructure and data would be based outside of Canada and potentially subject to foreign laws and regulations such as the PATRIOT Act would sometimes dismiss consideration of the cloud for many of our clients. To have data located outside of Canadian borders is violation of some company's policies and therefore a sticking point. This has been a cloud deterrent for many, until now.

Some key points to note:
  • General availability of Azure is anticipated in early 2016, followed by Office 365 and Dynamics CRM Online in late 2016.
  • The data centers are to be located in the Greater Toronto Area and Quebec City (specific locations have not been announced for security reasons.)
  • Microsoft will address data residency considerations (you can specify that your data will only reside in Canada.)
Can existing Office 365 tenants be transferred into the Canadian data centers? Will the pricing model be proportionate? Will performance be as robust? Will updates be released on the same schedule? All these questions come to mind and we anticipate answers in the coming months. Microsoft is finally ready to plant its flag on Canada's growing cloud industry as it hopes businesses will invest more in its ideas than its hardware and we begin to see a new dawn of cloud computing within our borders.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Collaboration at its finest! Office 365 Groups and how it compares to Shared Mailboxes, Distribution Lists, and Site Mailboxes

It's often been said that being social is, as a species, our most defining characteristic. We work and play in groups so we can talk, listen, collaborate, interact, and ultimately accomplish something.

These days, collaborating with colleagues can be a real challenge. You have various conversations happening all the time, a multitude of files stored in various places, and countless meetings to co-ordinate and keep track of. People need to be able to get together quickly in order to organize into a team and get stuff done. Members of a group know and trust each other, converse, and share reports and files.

The new groups in Office 365 can make this all a breeze. Groups not only allow you to collaborate but also extensively increase productivity and efficiency. So what is a group? A group is a shared work space for email conversations, files, calendar events, and more where group members can conveniently collaborate and find the important stuff in a sea of noise. Groups enable your company to work like a regular old offline network by simplifying the collaboration process and by connecting you to the people, information, and tools you need.

Creating a group or joining one that already exists is very easy, but keep in mind that groups are public by default, so while you can connect right away without waiting for permission, anybody else in your organization can as well. (You can also set up private groups, but this is a one-time only option; once you've selected a group's visibility, it can't be changed.) Each group features an inbox to keep everyone in the loop on all the latest discussions, as well as a dedicated calendar and document repository. Once you've subscribed to a group you can take part in any of its discussions from your own Office 365 inbox.

When there is a need to meet, group calendars make it a seamless process. Any group member can create or update events to keep the team involved, even if a group manager isn't available. To track group events, just add them to your personal calendar or display the group calendar next to your own.

Because collaboration usually involves working on content, file sharing is essential. One click is all it takes to upload files to OneDrive for Business and grant group members permissions to use them. You can edit or co-author from Outlook web app using Office online. As you work, the side-by-side conversation lets you discuss the changes without leaving the context of your inbox or document. When you're finished, groups automatically makes the latest version available to every member. You can even take your team with you on the road since groups are mobile- and touch-friendly so you can stay on top of conversations, events, and content from any device.

Microsoft offers a range of email collaboration tools including distribution lists, site mailboxes, and shared mailboxes. Each of these options has a different purpose, user experience, and feature set. It can be a little overwhelming to decide which tool is right for you, so here is a brief outline to help you decide which is appropriate for your business.
  • Group: A shared workspace that works across all applications in Office 365. This includes a shared inbox, calendar, and OneDrive for Business site for storing files. Users can create, find, and join Groups right from their email or calendar. New and existing users with an Exchange Online or Office 365 subscription can use Groups.
  • Shared mailbox: A mailbox for select users to read and send email messages and share a common calendar. Shared mailboxes can serve as a generic email address (such as info@companyname.com or sales@companyname.com) that customers can use to inquire about your company. When the 'Send As' permission is enabled on the shared mailbox, email sent from the mailbox will use the generic address (sales@companyname.com).
  • Distribution list: A distribution list is used distribute email messages to two or more people at the same time. Distribution lists are also known as mail-enabled distribution groups. A variant of the distribution group, called the dynamic distribution group, is a mail-enabled Active Directory group object used to send email to a large and evolving group of recipients. The exact recipients are determined by filters and conditions that you specify, such as all members of a particular region or full-time employees.
  • Site mailbox: A site mailbox includes SharePoint Online site membership (owners and members) and shared storage through an Exchange mailbox for email messages. A site mailbox brings Exchange email and SharePoint documents together. It serves as a central filing cabinet for the project, providing a place to file project email and documents that can be accessed and edited only by site members. In addition, site mailboxes can have a specified lifecycle and are optimized to be used for projects that have set start and end dates.
These tools are designed to help teams collaborate effortlessly, however groups can be used to replace shared mailboxes or SharePoint sites in some instances. Site mailboxes have project documents that are stored on a SharePoint Online site and team members send and receive project related email via the site mailbox. Shared mailboxes are used by users who delegate working on behalf of a virtual identity (e.g. support@companyname.com) and respond to email as that shared mailbox identity. Finally, Groups are generally used by users who want a collaboration workspace for their group messages, files, and calendar that is integrated with the Office 365 services that they already use. 

Office 365 groups is part of the first phase of Microsoft's plan to integrate Enterprise social features across platforms, including Yammer, Lync (Skype for Business), SharePoint, and Exchange Online. Office 365 Groups is the tool to use if your organization does not need a full-fledged social network experience. Groups makes more sense because it's a great alternative to public folders and distribution groups which are normally the go-to tools used for collaboration and collective productivity.