Migration of an email / groupware solution – thoughts on developing a migration strategy

December 8, 2023

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Categories: blog, Featured, Kopano Cloud, on-premises


We have launched our new product Kopano Cloud as a service during summer of this year. With the products launched by our OEM Partners TUXGUARD GmbH (groupios) and linudata GmbH (Kopanion), Kopano Cloud becomes available to a broader audience, esp. in the on-premises market.

Naturally a migration towards Kopano Cloud becomes of interest. The following lines shall illustrate on how to approach such a scenario from a general perspective. These may help to guide you in finding a way for your very own case.

If you have been a long term customer you might not have faced an actual migration yet. Especially users of the the predecessor Zarafa Collaboration Suite had the luxury to have an in-place upgrade path to Kopano Groupware available back in the day – thus avoiding an actual migration from one system to another. This was only possible, because Kopano Groupware and Zarafa Collaboration Suite shared a common code base.

Kopano Cloud is a new software stack. It’s inner workings are different now. Moving from Kopano Groupware (or any other email / groupware system) to Kopano Cloud is an actual migration – requiring data to be moved from one system to another. But a migration is far more than just the movement of data – more on that further down below.

This means that even Kopano Groupware customers are in the same boat like any other new customer migrating from a different solution. But this is nothing to be scared about…

Familiarize yourself with the situation

Starting a journey unprepared into uncharted terrain will most likely hold several (and likely unpleasant) surprises. The far better approach is to plan ahead, before action takes place.

Source and destination

At first, make yourself familiar with the system you currently have in place. Once an email infrastructure is set up it’s hardly going to break (if it was done right) – meaning you are not likely exposed to all aspects on a regular basis. So refreshing your knowledge about the system in use and how it interacts with other systems is always a good starting point.

Explore the capabilities of Kopano Cloud and make notes on things that are different or unexpected to you. Only if you have an understanding of a river, you will pick the right boat to ride it.

Know your surroundings

Most systems, incl. email / groupware systems, interact and/or rely on other systems in order to provide services. Be it in relation to underlying operating systems, networking, virtualization or the flow of data in between. Having resources is one thing – knowing how they interact and taking proper care is another.

Never stop asking yourself questions about the ‘big picture’. There are no stupid question – except those, which are not pursued.

Data cleanup

An upcoming migration might also be a good time to get rid of some obsolete data first – what is no longer required has not to be migrated. You’d be surprised how much redundant or outdated data can be found – be it already archived, re-used in another context or even in violation of retention periods required by law or internal policies.

Testing / Proof of Concept

Do yourself a favor and do a test migration first, before going all-in in a production environment. Preparing in theory is one thing – on the other side, practical doing will help you to identify topics you have not considered before and/or will show you, where your planing needs adjustment.

Playbook and breakpoints

Gather as much experience as you can get beforehand. Knowing the task at hand, performance of the systems involved and even the capabilities of the coworkers let you write a script what needs to be done by whom, when and how long it might take.

Based on this you can define breakpoints for your migration – if something unexpected comes along, you know you can distinguish real issues from minor irritations. Establishing rules you and your coworkers will follow if you hit a break point is also a god choice.

Always be able to revert to the starting point – having backups / snapshots is a must. Do not risk data loss or an undefined state of systems. As a human being, it is always possible something was forgotten or not done right – despite the best preparation. Hitting a breaking point is absolutely OK, if you have fail save measures in place. If you plan with the possibility of aborting, can will keep a calm head, when it’s needed most.

Low hanging fruits

Identify tasks, were less professional people could contribute to your project and get them on board. This might be a group of key users helping others to adjust to changes introduced during the migration, which would mitigate internal support requirement and/or lead to a speedup in the migration process.

These users could also be the first ones in a PoC to be exposed to new software, allowing them to understand and reflect on the changes, that are about to come – thus anticipating when and where additional attention might be required.

Never underestimate the value non-technical people can provide to get everyone else adjusted. Value is literally in this case – key users can be a very cost effective tool in the IT space in general.

Communication with stakeholders

Understand that almost everyone in your organization will be affected by a migration – directly or indirectly. Don’t let them in the dark about what is happening and what will change. Inform upfront about what and when steps of the migration are taking place – and also, when certain milestones have been reached. Keeping everyone on the same page can help to generate an understanding for the important task you are doing.

And finally…

Take your task seriously

Nobody is perfect – that’s something you can certainly rely on. Being prepared to deal with imperfection and the unexpected in stressful situations is what separates pros from the masses. It is as important to migration as the knowledge involved to performing it in the first place.

Rushing things and/or doing something that requires attention just as a side task won’t do you any good! Of course, time spend on certain tasks can and should be optimized, but you should also allow yourself some buffer / ‘head’-room to handle everything well.

Always keep your users in mind – providing them with the services and information they need is key. In the end most software and services are intended for them, not for yourself.

Closing thoughts

Migration is a frequent and necessary occurrence in the IT space. It means change and in most cases improvement. Migration also means effort – there is no easy way around it.

A calm mindset, good preparation and communication throughout the process will make all the difference during a transitional period.

Although many experienced readers will recognize a thing or two, we hope this could serve as a construct for some to find confidence in planing and executing a migration project.

Many succeeded before with tasks like this – and so will you!