7 things nobody tells you about Office 365 migration

PHIL REED

Office 365 promises the best of both worlds; the power and agility of cloud computing with the familiar user experience of Microsoft’s suite of productivity and collaboration tools. And that’s not all. Businesses that switch to Office 365 can expect the latest features without having to manually install them, more flexibility to get stuff done anytime and anywhere, faster and easier scalability to add and change users, and all for a predictable ongoing cost without big upfront charges.

At Comtec, we advocate Office 365 and have helped countless organisations get there . But we know it has some hidden dimensions that don’t make it into the marketing materials. Here we highlight some of the things that you don’t get told about migrating to Office 365.

There are thin margins between horror show and happily ever after

With every dream you are sold by a big technology vendor, you soon wake up to reality. Done correctly, Office 365 has many positive transformative benefits. Do it wrong and you can lapse into a nightmare.

Planning is everything

An easy, seamless transition to Office 365 is no stroll in the park. Migrating your critical information and communications processes to cloud takes intelligent planning . This should involve:

– Cleared defined scope and objectives
– A roadmap of actions
– How you’ll execute them
– How to engage administrators and users

Be sure to document all aspects of your planning and the decision making that drives it. This will prove invaluable should your circumstances change, different internal colleagues become involved, and when you engage third party expertise.

This isn’t just ‘something for IT to worry about’

Dropping an Office 365 migration onto the IT department and walking away is a mistake. All users need to comprehend the purpose of the migration, the key steps and how it will impact their work over the short and long term. It is imperative to communicate important milestone dates and invite questions and concerns. If users don’t engage, then your software investment could take significantly longer to reap returns.

Knowing where you’ve come from as just as important as where you’re going

Assessing your current infrastructure is an essential part of developing a detailed migration plan. On Comtec migration projects, for instance, we routinely identify any outdated infrastructure components and incompatible software to avoid surprises later on down the line. This also includes comprehensive reporting to provide status on OS, software and browser versions for each user, as well as details of admin credentials and mailbox counts.

Forget Microsoft’s cloud infrastructure – your own network needs to be up to scratch too

It’s easy to get carried away by the massive, global web-scale cloud infrastructures that your business is able to tap into. What a lot of people don’t understand is that cloud adoption often requires improvements to your own IT environment – switches, firewalls, DNS, load balancers, broadband connectivity – in order to unlock the full benefits.

That’s why we will always look carefully at an organisational level at current and projected bandwidth bottlenecks, and check that networking infrastructure is capable of achieving the necessary quality of service (QoS) to support Office 365 alongside other key cloud applications. We will also recommend any necessary changes to security infrastructure and data backup/business continuity provisions to ensure maximum uptime and protection for accidental and malicious threats.

Automate as much migration activity as possible or it will kill your budget

Even with the best planning in the world, the job of migrating data and users into the new Office 365 environment – without disrupting business processes – can be painstaking and resource intensive. It is therefore vital to automate as many of these migration tasks as possible in order to avoid costly consultant and engineer fees.

Microsoft provides good migration tools but you have to source migration expertise yourself

For Office 365 migrations, Microsoft’s online resources centre offers a range of helpful tools such as Microsoft Exchange Deployment Assistant and Microsoft Remote Connectivity Analyser, and there are lots of online courses at the Microsoft Virtual Academy. But that’s no substitute for actually knowing what you are doing on a large project , while minimising disruption and not taking current systems offline.

So get a qualified expert involved early on. Some of the other thorny issues they can take responsibility for are:

– Data compliance
– Migrating testing
– Archiving and backup
– Synchronisation and integration with non-Microsoft tools such as Google Apps, Lotus Notes, GroupWise and others
– A post-migration plan for continual improvement and troubleshooting

Office 365 is a great opportunity for organisations, and it really does deliver on its promises. But beneath the marketing messages are some uncomfortable truths about the time and effort needed to get ready for a significant business change.

Please don’t hesitate to talk to us about your Office 365 aspirations so we can help you avoid the pitfalls and benefit from this valuable technology along with backup options.