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Seven concerns about migrating users to Office 365

Switching to Office 365 can be a difficult process. Even the easiest migration takes a lot of planning and hard work to configure your system correctly and communicate changes in workflow and access. Once your system is up and running, you will know you’ve made the right choice as your users experience the benefits that come with cloud computing and you deal with a cost structure that helps you stay on budget.

Here are seven important considerations when migrating your users to Office 365.

1. Account Configuration

When you are part of a large organization, creating user accounts in Office 365 becomes a major project. While smaller companies can manually create user accounts, once you get about 200 or so employees, the labor that takes might not be worth it.

Many legacy applications such as a local Microsoft Exchange, SharePoint or even Google’s GSuite, will allow you to output your entire userbase as a spreadsheet. When properly configured, this can be uploaded directly to Office 365 and you can create users en masse. The problem with this is the potential for data entry errors or for having a spreadsheet that isn’t quite configured correctly.

Larger groups will want to consider a hybrid migration that keeps the on-premises Exchange server running in concert with Office 365. The two systems can connect and share data, allowing you to essentially automatically upload your user list along with all of your mailboxes.

These hybrid migrations are one of the most common methods for large organizations moving from a local version of Exchange Server. One issue to note is that migration from current versions of Exchange Server (2010 and up) are easier to configure than from older editions.

2. Configuring Licenses

Microsoft offers a large selection of plans for user licensing. You know from the start that the whole process is much easier than deploying the traditional Office Suite. With Office 365, you don’t have to deal with tracking local installations, removing software from employee computers or freeing up licenses when people leave. You also never have to worry about a license audit again.

However, that doesn’t mean the cost – on an annual basis – is automatically lower. Here’s where you have the opportunity to decide exactly who needs access to what. A full audit of your users may show that some need access to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc. while others don’t need the full Office Suite. With Microsoft’s license program, you are allowed to mix and match applications for different user groups. Some may only need Outlook for email, while others might need specialized applications such as Access, Publisher, InfoPath, or Sway.

Mixing and matching these various licenses – usually assigned by user group, but can also be customized to a single user – can help ensure that you are not wasting money by paying for functionality that a user never needs.

Analyzing usage and needs can be more complicated than it seems. Most users will request licenses for applications that they might need someday but don’t use all the time. The basic Office 365 installation doesn’t help much there, but there are certain tools that can be deployed on your network that analyze usage patterns and help inform management where the money and licenses are actually needed.

The major benefit comes when you receive a request for a new application from a user. If you approve it, you just check a box and the user can download and self-install the new app. No more remote access or taking up support time with installation. When the user no longer needs that app, you can turn it off with another click.

3. User Permissions

Office 365 offers a large range of fine-grained user permissions and administrative powers. They can be assigned to users based on groups they belong to or a specific type of role. For example, an assistant might have access to his or her boss’s email, while a team leader might have write and file delete privileges in a specific space that normal users don’t have.

Spreading these admin permissions too widely can lead to confusion over responsibilities and also present a security concern. Concentrating all the permissions among a small group could lead to an overworked team.

Microsoft offers a wide range of preconfigured roles that you can assign at the initial installation. As your needs evolve, you will want to customize the admin roles. The Office 365 admin panel offers many options here, or you can consult a third-party consultant that can suggest best-practices that fit your users.

4. Shared Accounts

Many organizations rely on shared email boxes or storage drives to facilitate teamwork and normal business operations. Addresses like support@company.com or sales@company.com can be set up and shared at no ongoing cost in the local editions of Exchange. The same goes for a shared network storage drive on your local network.

But in Office 365, in addition to each user needing his or her own account to login and access software applications, shared email accounts also need a license. Specific spaces in the cloud version of SharePoint or other applications may also need licensing. So for each shared or group account, there is additional cost in both setup and ongoing licensing.

This can present a challenge to small or medium-sized businesses that are choosing Office 365 to control costs. The actual costs may be higher than a simple headcount would suggest.

One solution, of course, would be to just eat the cost and continue as normal. But the Office 365 migration also offers the opportunity to reexamine your current business model and figure out if you are really working efficiently. Dropping a shared email license for a different collaboration tool such as Office 365 Teamwork might make more sense in the long run.

5. Administrator Access

Certain Admin roles can be assigned to trustworthy individuals. Planning these roles based on existing responsibilities on your legacy system is a good start. But the specifics of a Office 365 admin or support role takes on new meaning when your system is in the cloud. Permission to reset passwords or access user storage or email needs to be taken more seriously because these functions can be accessed from just about anywhere. Support personnel also need deeper training in the specifics of the Office 365 infrastructure.

Microsoft has planned out a lot of this for you. They offer a set of predefined roles from Global Administrator through to specific compliance and user-control administrator roles. Specific permissions and roles can be delegated to groups or users temporarily or on a permanent basis.

One important detail is that the Global Administrator role is initially assigned to the person who signed up for Office 365. This person will be responsible for using the Active Users page or Office 365 Powershell to assign additional administrative roles.

6. Legacy Functions

Email data, such as from an Exchange Server, tends to migrate somewhat seamlessly. Certain other software applications or business operations may not migrate so easily. Even Microsoft-supported systems such as SharePoint might not transition completely.

For example, an Excel spreadsheet could have links directed to legacy locations in SharePoint or another service. Those embedded links will not update automatically and will be broken when the changeover occurs. Permissions and user access is also not a one-to-one match either, so some access may change for certain users. Some tools can automate the transition, but they are not always perfect.

You can solve all of these specific problems with a great deal of time and effort, but the important takeaway is to manage expectations and ensure that mission-critical changes are documented and dealt with before the final transition.

7. Security and Training

Some employees or even regulatory bodies could still have fears and concerns about the security and safety of company and customer data in the cloud.

Microsoft offers training videos on the basics, but a complete internally developed or outsourced training program can help alleviate these concerns and also ensure that every user knows the appropriate steps to take when it comes to properly handling access and data.

Moving a group of users over and then tasking them to become Office 365 ambassadors and internal resources within the company can help a great deal.

A multi-phase transition with a technical consultant assisting can also help soothe fears. These are programmed and planned well in advance to help acclimate an entire organization as it gets ready to migrate to Office 365.

Making the Move

A lot of the Microsoft marketing material on Office 365 encourages users and IT staff to go ahead and sign up for Office 365 and take it from there. But before taking that first step, it’s very important to prepare your system, your data, and most importantly, your users for the migration.

This planning should be in-depth and comprehensive. Using an experienced third-party can provide a much smoother experience. You will still need to take the time to explain how your environment works and what you need to be productive, but the third-party takes care of the real heavy lifting.

Find out today how an organization like Enterprise Integration can help create the perfect plan for your Office 365 migration.

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