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Making email archive migration easier with the Office 365 Import Service

Editor’s Note 4/28/2016:
This post has been updated to reflect that the Office 365 Import Service is now generally available.

Large migration projects are never simple and it has always been challenging to move email archive data to the cloud. Two years ago we released the PST Capture Tool, which makes this process easier by locating PST files scattered across your organization, collecting them into one place, and then uploading the contents directly into Exchange Online mailboxes. But no matter how you cut it, moving dozens or hundreds of terabytes across your existing Internet connection is going to be a costly and lengthy process. 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.

But no longer! We are thrilled to announce the new Office 365 Import Service, which provides two new options for speeding up the process of importing PST files into Exchange Online mailboxes.

  • Option 1: For smaller sets of data, we are enabling network uploads of PST files to Microsoft servers, which we then import into Exchange Online mailboxes.
  • Option 2: For larger datasets, you can copy PST archive files onto hard drives and mail them directly to Microsoft datacenters. Once we receive the drives, we copy the PST files to internal servers and then import the mail into Exchange Online mailboxes.

Both of these options use our internal datacenter network, with significantly faster throughput and lower latency.

Accessing the Import Service is easy. When you first log on to the Office 365 admin center there is a new IMPORT tab on the left-hand navigation bar. (If you don’t see this tab, make sure that you are assigned the mailbox import export RBAC role. For more info, see this article.) Once you’re on the IMPORT page, you can create a new drive shipping or network upload job.

Making email archive migration easier with the Office 365 Import Service 1

You can find all the details about the Office 365 Import Service in this TechNet article.

Frequently asked questions

Q. What happens to my data?

A. Behind the scenes, the Office 365 Import Service sits on top of the Azure Import Export service. When you upload your data or physically ship your hard drives, the data is temporarily staged within Microsoft Azure file storage until it is imported into Exchange Online mailboxes. All hard drives are encrypted with BitLocker protection, and the BitLocker key is sent separately from the drives. This protects them in the event they are lost or stolen in transit. We are also working on an additional layer of Azure RMS-based encryption on each file and will turn that on during the course of the preview. If you choose to physically ship hard drives to Microsoft datacenters, they will be returned to you once the data is copied into Azure. We are also working on an additional layer of Azure RMS-based encryption on each file and will turn that on in the coming months.

Q. How do I enable the O365 Import Service for my tenant?

A. You don’t! The service is already turned on and available for all eligible tenants (see next question).

Q. Who is eligible for the service?

A. The O365 Import Service is currently available for Office 365 Commercial, Office 365 Education and multi-tenant Government (Government Pricing) customers. At the present time, the service is not available for:

  • Office 365 Government Community Cloud (GCC) customers.
  • Mailboxes hosted in China datacenters. For current regional availability details, please see this page.

Q. How much will the service cost?

A. Network upload is free. Drive shipping is $2 USD per GB. Drive shipping capacity can be purchased through partners here.

Q. Where can I get more details?

A. Right here! This TechNet article has detailed, step-by-step instructions for hard drive shipping and network uploads, as well as a list of frequently asked questions.

Q. Will other types of data be added in the future?

A. Yes, over time we will be extending this service to support additional data types across Office 365.