How to Get Help With Your Office 365 Migration

Now that you’ve chosen to move your organization to Microsoft’s Office 365 environment, you and your users are about to experience the wide-ranging benefits of the cloud. In addition to accessing your applications and data anywhere, your users will see increased performance and regular access to new features.

Planning the migration to Office 365 from your legacy environment – no matter if it’s from a local installation of Office Suite, Google docs, Lotus Notes or something else – will be a complex process. Without a properly planned transition period around the migration, you could experience extended downtime, temporary loss of access or loss of data.

The easiest way to eliminate – or at least plan around – some of the issues facing a tough migration is to get help from a trusted partner. Finding a technical services company that can plan, execute and service the migration will take a lot of the guesswork and potential headaches out of the process.

Sizing Up Your Potential Partner

Your goal in picking a migration partner is to find a company with the resources and experience needed to complete your migration without risk to your productivity, ability to collaborate, or your data security stance.

Look for firms with a proven track record of multiple successful migrations for customers similar in size and scope to your infrastructure. Then ask them to provide references and sample migration plans to assure that they understand what you need from them.

Your partner’s focus should be not just on the nuts and bolts of moving your data and user accounts from one system to another. The partner company should also have a good understanding of how your users conduct business and what functions and services are mission-critical to you.

When you engage a partner, they should be able to analyze your needs and create a cost-benefit analysis. This should provide real numbers on which to base your scope of work (SOW). The key here is for the partner to understand your current IT costs and the functionality you want to derive from Office 365. Taking these real numbers and the estimated cost of Office 365 once it goes live, should provide insight into how your costs will change once Office 365 is a reality.

Remember that a lot of people like to throw around numbers about how much you can save by moving to the cloud. But only a partner that has talked with you and done its due diligence with your real business costs can actually estimate your savings.

Planning & Design deliverables

The Planning & Design stage is the most important service an experienced partner can provide. In fact, some companies choose to outsource this stage and then follow the provided migration plan on their own.
Certain variables are obvious considerations. These include number of users, the apps they need, and other mailbox and data storage solutions.

But the other difference-maker in your migration will be the current state of your existing systems. For example, it would be important to determine if your Exchange server is stable. An older edition of Exchange that’s been operating for a while might have difficulty fully integrating and migrating with an intact archive. The overall health of services like ActiveDirectory are also key. Unstable installations in these areas take more time to migrate and require additional planning and implementation.

The next issue is how to handle the transition stage. Some services may need stop-gap solutions to keep them up and running during the migration. Other services that are less critical can be shut down during the transition. Do you have any SLAs that will be affected by system downtime? How will your normal business be affected while moving between systems?

This is also the part of the process where you plan licensing. An experienced partner can help you navigate the different configurations of licensing and user rights within the Office 365 environment. How many users will be able to access the system from mobile devices? What considerations do those devices need to operate within your business rules? Additionally, you will need to plan for group mailboxes, printers and scanners and storage space inside SharePoint for non-user accounts. Your partner for the migration should be able to explain both the new options available and the limitations inherent in Office 365.

The last task is to fully envision how your Office 365 system will function. What other SaaS services will need to integrate with your Microsoft accounts? What security concerns affect your cloud services? Do you need to consider a hybrid system where protected data (like a customer’s medical history or personally identifiable information) is kept?

These are the kinds of questions that need to be asked and answered during planning, not right before or during the migration.

Implementing the Design

By the end of your Planning Stage, you are ready to implement the migration. The planning deliverable should include the following:

  • A complete SOW with costs and contingencies
  • A proposed solution to address all mission-critical business needs and SLAs
  • User lists mapped from current accounts to new cloud-based accounts
  • A complete description of your:
    • Current state
    • Transition state
    • Operation state
  • A complete schedule for the migration

The design should be fully customized based on your starting point. Companies migrating from Google docs will have much different needs than those coming from Lotus Notes. It might seem obvious, but sometimes one piece that’s overlooked is the experience needed to smoothly transition from different systems. Be sure your partner is experienced with each of your legacy systems.

Your specific technical, business and regulatory requirements also dictate certain protocols that you must follow during the migration. This includes specific policies such as HIPAA for healthcare, encryption of user data and storage of archives.

Your schedule should include a complete list of the employees affected, when they will move to the new system, when they will lose access to the old system and how long, if at all, they will lose access to email and stored data.

Larger companies may need to schedule a pilot program to transition a few employees. Successful completion of a pilot program shows your proof of concept for the wider migration.

You also might need to address mission-critical solutions or specific SLAs by offering simultaneous access to the old system while users get up to speed on the new system. This sort of connection can be complicated, so it’s another area to be sure your partner has the right experience.

As the new system becomes a reality for your employees, you need to offer them the support and information they need to start using Office 365 to its full potential. Most migration partners also offer support personnel for the go-live period as well as training. The full scope of your training program depends on your specific userbase and business needs, but help should be available from partners there as well.

Migration & Validation

With the complete plan underway, your partner should monitor the migration and the health of existing and new systems. As you move through the schedule, they should provide testing and complete reporting on the performance and state of the system compared to the design. They should also conduct capacity and load testing under both normal use and expected peak periods.

Finally, your partner must help you ensue that all users have access to their email, data and applications. Usually this goes smoothly, but this type of issue should be considered part of the migration, not an additional cost for the support phase.

Post-Migration

When you are up and running with Office 365 and have turned down the old system, your partner should assist in documenting the entire environment. You should have a full description of what was done and who was responsible within both your organization and the migration partner.

This is especially important if key personnel leave. One of the pitfalls some companies find with Office 365 is that the Admin roles can become closely associated with specific employees who helped with the initial migration and installation. For this reason, you should have documentation that can be passed on to the next Admin.

Finding Help

An Office 365 migration requires not just someone to do the heavy lifting, but a partner throughout the entire process. Anyone can sign up Office 365 and start assigning licenses, but an experienced migration professional can create a smart, responsive plan that will deliver customized, measurable results based on your real needs.

Enterprise Integration specializes in this kind of partnership. With a full understanding of both your needs and their capabilities, EI is ready to assist you with your specific migration. Contact them today to learn more.

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