First I must explain that this is not an “end of the world is nigh, you must repent” type of piece about Office 365.
One of the more common objections I hear from prospective customers and IT consultants is their fear of “cloud lock-in”. Some people are afraid that it will be difficult or impossible to remove their data from Office 365 if they need to stop using it for whatever reason.
It’s not that they are already planning their exit but more so they want to know that an exit strategy exists.
The same options and tools that are used to get in to Office 365 can also be used to get out. Let’s have a look at the methods used for importing and exporting each type of content in Office 365.
This is the simplest as most users will be using Outlook. If you only have a small amount of users then the Personal Folder (PST file) method would be the simplest. Just as you can import existing mailboxes and PST files into Exchange Online, you can also use this same feature to get your mailbox out of the Office 365 cloud and into a local file.
By default the Exchange Online mailbox is 25GB, however PST files can grow up to 50GB with Outlook 2010 so there are no problems there.
If there are multiple mailboxes then using PST files is not the most practical and third-party solutions may be better. The most popular is a cloud mailbox migration service known as Transend which supports most mail platforms, provided they are accessible by the web.
So if for some reason your organisation wanted to move from Office 365 to Google Apps (and lose a lot of functionality in the process) then either the PST or Transend method will do the job well.
The level of customisation applied to your SharePoint Online environment will greatly impact how you get out your data. If your SharePoint Online environment has not really been customised and is used largely for file storage and perhaps a bit of list usage then you will be able to use a combination of Windows Explorer and Excel to get your data out.
If however there have been workflows and forms built then chances are you are either moving away from Office 365 to a different SharePoint environment – in which case tools such as those from Metalogix can assist in this journey.
There is no real data stored within the Lync Online environment and therefore nothing to take except for your contact list. If you do want to keep your Lync contact list, I have created a tool (sold by my company Xstran) which allows it to be exported to a spreadsheet.
So there’s a few methods to get in and out of Office 365. If the latter is something you’re thinking about doing, I’d love to know why.
Loryan Strant is a Microsoft Office 365 MVP (Most Valuable Professional). Follow him on Twitter @TheCloudMouth.