Easy Migration: An Added Benefit of Cloud-based Archiving

Mimecast has been getting a lot of awards and recognition lately, and while I don’t usually blog about such things, our latest award, for our Exchange Migration program, is worthy of some discussion. Migrating Geese

I’m often asked why we’ve put so much emphasis on assisting companies in their migration to Exchange 2010; it seems like at best a sideline to our core business of providing unified email services via the cloud. But there’s a method to our madness: we focus on migration because our basic architecture allows us to be particularly good at it — it’s a major advantage of our cloud-based architecture.

A Mimecast customer delegates nearly all of the “secondary” aspects of running a mail system to us. Via the cloud, we provide a number of services, most important (for this discussion) a cloud-based archive. Having such an archive vastly simplifies a customer’s migration to a new primary mail service such as Exchange 2010. Since everything is already archived to the cloud, you hardly need to move anything, since most of the data is stored in the cloud.

Given that architecture, it’s no surprise that we’ve focused some energy on migration services, nor that we’re winning awards for it. It’s a great illustration of the power of the cloud model. And given that most of our customers are Exchange users, and that most Exchange users haven’t migrated to Exchange 2010 yet, it makes a lot of sense for us to focus on Exchange 2010 migration in particular. Our service turns what might have been a very painful upgrade into an almost trivial one.

But that’s just a special case, determined by the predominant technologies of the current market and our customer base. The power of the model goes much further. Two more scenarios will illustrate how this architecture can free customers from the burden of lock-in to an old mail system version or product.

Consider the case of a company that has decided to change its mail system infrastructure, perhaps from an old Novell GroupWise system to a Lotus Notes/Domino system, or from a POP/IMAP infrastructure to Exchange 2010. These are painful transitions, as any mail administrator will attest. But they can be much easier if you take them in two steps: First, supplement your old system with a cloud-based archive. Second, migrate a small amount of live data with no risk of losing anything. That’s all there is to it — for any system that we’ve integrated with, we’ve already done the hardest work and made it part of our service.

Even more compelling, consider the case of a merger: Company A, with an Exchange 2003 infrastructure, acquires Company B, with a Lotus Notes infrastructure. The traditional approach would be to decide which system you’re keeping, and then painfully transition the other company’s email to the preferred platform. In this example, you might transition Company B to Exchange 2003, or both to Exchange 2010. But with Mimecast, you have other options. If you integrate both of the older systems with our cloud archive, you can then “swap out” one for the other remarkably painlessly.

But even more intriguingly, you can decide not to! We’re used to a world in which a company must have a single corporate email system to avoid utter chaos. But what if you have two (or more) systems, all archived to a single cloud service? The traditional needs for discovery, compliance, disaster recovery, and such, which previously were powerful motivators for a single corporate email system, are now handled entirely in the cloud. It is suddenly reasonable to consider letting some of your employees use Notes/Domino while others use Exchange, or any other system that integrates with the cloud archive. The merger example is solved simply by making sure both email systems are archived to Mimecast! (Ironically, a similar dynamic sometimes applies to Mimecast customers who find that, once they’re using Mimecast’s back end, the transition from, for example, Exchange 2003 to Exchange 2010, suddenly seems less urgent.)

We’re used to thinking of mail systems as having client/server front and back ends. Outlook and Notes are front ends, while Exchange and Domino are back ends. But the supplemental cloud services Mimecast provides serve as a third level, a “way back end.” When the traditional back ends are archived to this new component, they become easier to administer, and easier to mix into a heterogeneous environment.

So it’s no accident that we’re winning awards for facilitating Exchange migration. The whole essence of our model is that we add another level, architecturally, that vastly simplifies the administration of traditional mail servers, and in the process opens up unprecedented flexibility for companies to consider more heterogeneous environments and make smoother migrations. Simplifying Exchange migration is just a special case, but it’s one that nicely illustrates why we believe that unified email management in the cloud is the future of business email.

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