The end of life for Exchange 2007 is rapidly approaching, and yet it seems far too many Exchange 2007 admins are still dragging their feet, unsure of what to do or how to do it. Perhaps they hope there will be a last minute reprieve (there won’t be) or they will win the lottery (they won’t) and this will be someone else’s problem, or perhaps even that Cthulhu will rise from the depths and remake the world in pain and suffering (HE won’t, but there will still be both pain and suffering if you don’t migrate from 2007 soon!)

One of the biggest blockers I am seeing with customers is what to do with their legacy Public Folders, so in this post, I want to present a couple of options for what you can do. If PFs are the reason you’re still sitting on 2007 with only weeks to go, perhaps this will help you get a jump on migrating.

Determine what you’re dealing with

Steve Halligan from Microsoft created a pretty handy script that can enumerate all the Public Folders in both Exchange 2007 and 2010, and create details including size, owners, and most importantly, the last accessed date. No matter what you choose to do with the Public Folders, your first step should be figuring out whether or not you even have to do something, and if so, what do you have to do. Find the script in the TechNet Gallery at: https://gallery.technet.microsoft.com/office/Snapshot-report-of-Public-21235573.

Consider the options

While Public Folders have been around for years and years, there are several limitations that are not an issue with their replacements, including administrative overhead, resource load, and client accessibility. In almost all cases I have seen working with customers, the only reason to keep using Public Folders is because they don’t want to take the time to modernize. Of course, many of them are still on XP, so there you go. Here’s a quick comparison of common uses for Exchange Public Folders and what the more ‘modern’ approach might be.

Legacy Public Folder

Modern equivalent

Team Calendar

Shared mailbox or SharePoint calendar

Mail-enabled public folder

Shared mailbox or SharePoint team site distribution list

Resource scheduling (room, projector, etc.)

Resource mailbox

Workflow

SharePoint, SharePoint Online, or other workflow
solution

Archives

Larger primary mailboxes, or archive mailboxes,
including online archives

File sharing

File shares, or document libraries in SharePoint

Once you have a feel for how much content you have, what portion of it is still being used, and what the alternatives are, you can consider your options.

Abandon them

Let’s face it, Public Folders are almost never the right choice today for what you want to do. Between SharePoint document libraries and workflows and shared mailboxes and resource mailboxes, any public folder you’re dealing with is there because it’s been there for years and no one thought to do anything about it. Yes, Microsoft did recant and decide to keep supporting Public Folders, even in Office 365, but that’s more an accommodation for customers than because Public Folders are ever the right choice these days. So you could use the impending end of life for Exchange 2007 as an excuse/compelling reason/big stick to force your company to finally modernize. Just let them go! This of course will likely face resistance from your manager, the business, and even your team, especially if you have to then do something with the data in the public folders, but it’s an option to consider. Use the script above to see if any of them have been accessed recently, and if only a few have, a simple manual cutover may be just the thing. If more are in use, you may have to do more.

Migrate them to the cloud

If you are looking at Office 365, you can migrate your public folders to the cloud. Office 365 uses the Modern Public Folders available in Exchange 2016 to handle PF content, and there are both free processes from Microsoft and third-party tools that you can purchase to migrate PF content to Office 365 as a part of your migration to the cloud. Note however that unless your organization is relatively small, any of these methods will be disruptive and require an outage for access to Public Folders, and there are some limits to accessing Public Folders from Mac clients which could impact them for even longer. Review the approaches, and consider reducing the volume as much as possible (by dropping anything that hasn’t been touched in six months or so) to speed the process along.

Check out https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dn874017(v=exchg.150).aspx for the process to use with Exchange Hybrid, or look at third-party tools including:

BitTitan https://community.bittitan.com/kb/Pages/Public%20Folder%20Migration%20Guide%20From%20Hosted%20Exchange%20To%20Office%20365%20more%20than%2050GB.aspx

CodeTwo
https://www.codetwo.com/admins-blog/migrating-on-premises-exchange-public-folders-to-office-365/

Metalogix http://www.metalogix.com/help/Content%20Matrix%20Console/Public%20Folder%20Edition/helpframeset.html

Migrate them to modern PFs on-prem

If you’re staying on-premises for now, and looking to upgrade to a mainstream version of Exchange, you can do this too. Upgrading your organization from Exchange 2007 to 2013 is supported, and you can simply migrate your PF content from 2007 to 2013 using a serial migration. Those steps are well documented at: https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/jj150486(v=exchg.150).aspx.

If you’re plan is to migrate to Exchange 2016, then of course you’re dealing with a two-step migration since there’s no direct path from Exchange 2007 (N-3) to Exchange 2016 (N.) I strongly suggest you upgrade from 2007 to 2010, then from 2010 to 2016, as the first step is easier than going from 2007 to 2013. The upgrade from 2010 or 2013 to 2016 is about the same, so I vote the easy button! To migrate PFs from 2007 to 201x, download the scripts from https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=38407 and then follow the guidance at: https://blogs.technet.microsoft.com/exchange/2016/10/10/migration-to-modern-public-folders-notes-from-the-field/

Summary

You cannot use Public Folders as a reason to stay on legacy. 2007 is going end of life, and 2010 is in extended support. You must do something and you need to do it now.

  1. Figure out if you can operate without the data. You can always archive it off to PST and store it on disk for a year “just in case.”
  2. Move/migrate/cutover to better options for those things that can be treated that way.
  3. Determine the cost/benefit of using free or third-party tools to move what has to stay in Public Folders, if any.
  4. Look at 2010 only as an intermediate step to 2016, otherwise you will be doing this again in a couple of years. Go to 2013, or 2016, or even to Office 365, as you see fit.

If you’re stuck on legacy due to Public Folders, leave a comment below and let us know both if the above is helpful, and what challenges you’re facing. Thanks!