Hybrid vs Cutover – Which Microsoft 365 Migration is Right for you?

Hybrid vs cutover migrations

You want your move to Microsoft 365 to be as flawless as possible. Any downtime or lost data could result in some seriously negative ramifications. You need to know your options, the benefits of those options, and then make a decision based on what will work best for your organization.

Let’s start by doing an overview of the two main types of Microsoft 365 migration options available – hybrid vs cutover. There are other migration choices out there such as Staged, Hybrid Lite, etc., but most often we see our clients choose a cutover migration or hybrid migration. Let’s look at the differences.

Cutover migration (or the git ‘r done approach)

One of the fastest ways to get your organization into Microsoft 365 is a cutover migration. This consists of migrating from your current email platform into Microsoft 365 with the “transaction” occurring at a single point in time, which is why it’s called a cutover. With a cutover migration there would be a definitive point when your entire organization moves from their current email platform into the Microsoft 365 platform.

The proverbial “flipping of the switch”, the cutover task itself can take under an hour to perform if a fair amount of staging and prep work happens on the front end. By staging and prepping, I’m referring to tasks such as moving your data into Microsoft 365 (email, calendars, contacts, etc.) or setting up other components as needed, such as AAD Connect and an Encrypted SMTP Relay. The overall process could take anywhere from 4-8 weeks to complete depending on the size of your organization, but in the end, everyone would move over together.

Hybrid migration (or let me ease into it approach)

If you are not a fan of making the switch for the entire organization all at once, then a Microsoft 365 hybrid migration might be a better fit. In a hybrid migration, you can move a chosen number of users or departments at a time into Microsoft 365, allowing your company to move over at a gradual pace. There are additional requirements though that need to be considered when choosing this option.

To begin with, you will need to set up a server that will function as the Hybrid Server to host the connection between your on-premise Exchange Server and Microsoft 365. You’ll also need to utilize directory synchronization (such as AAD Connect) since hybrid configurations rely on them.

How to choose between a hybrid vs cutover Microsoft 365 migration

Here are some questions to help guide you on your way to making an informed decision:

  1. How many mailboxes, distribution groups, public folders, etc. will you be moving into Microsoft 365?
    We normally see larger organizations (250 users and above) more prone to choosing the hybrid migration path to better support their user base during the migration to Microsoft 365, especially if they have multiple locations. Smaller organizations can be more agile in their preparation for the move and an Microsoft 365 cutover migration is often a simpler approach, although mailbox size could be a consideration for them as well.
  2. What is your current email platform?
    We see clients moving from all types of email platforms into Microsoft 365. In a hybrid migration, an Exchange platform is required, so if you are running anything other than Exchange or anything older than Exchange 2010, hybrid is not an option.
  3. Are you currently utilizing Microsoft Teams, or SharePoint On-Premise?
    If the answer is yes, either a cutover or hybrid Microsoft 365 migration would work, however, there are a fair number of caveats – or “gotchas” as we like to call them – that need to be addressed.
  4. Do you have additional complexity with your environment?
    This could include things like multiple Active Directory environments from past mergers/acquisitions or the need to move to a new domain and having that occur simultaneously. In cases like these, we see most clients choose the hybrid option to allow for additional testing and a slower phased approach for deployment.

Now that you know what to choose between a hybrid vs cutover Microsoft 365 migration, here are some vital tips to prepare for your transition and avoid common pitfalls.

If you have a unique situation or need more help working through which option is best, please feel free to reach out to us – we would be happy to talk with you about it. Every Microsoft 365 migration is different and feedback from an experienced professional at CCB can be helpful.

We can also help free up some valuable time by doing your migration for you. We have performed hundreds of Microsoft 365 migrations for clients over the years, helping to make the process more efficient and timely, and allowing them to get back to focusing on the achievement of their goals and missions. A consultation is completely free, so let’s explore together the advantages of moving to Microsoft 365.


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