Is the time right to move to the cloud, wait plan it first!!!
Sooner or Later most of the organizations are moving to Office 365 and its a good thing. However emails being the backbone of any modern-day Business its utmost important that you plan the migration very carefully to ensure smooth, successful and minimal Downtime migration from your existing system to Office 365. There are quite a few things which you need to validate and decide upon before starting the migration.
Where are you Moving from and what all you can migrate ?
Ok, so each user may have a lot of other stuff than emails on your existing mail servers (on Premise or Hosted Server) like Calendar, Contacts, Notes, Tasks and not to forget Public folders. These other stuff may not be true if you are migrating from some old, outdated (I ran out of curse words J ) POP or IMAP solution but please validate. Usually if people are on Google Apps emails or On premise Exchange Server or some hosted Exchange Solution like Appriver, Rack Space or something similar than they maintain calendars, contacts etc. and usually want to get them migrated over as well.
So as you have decided what all stuff you want to migrate, you need to decide upon your migration strategy, for which read below.
What’s your Migration Strategy ?
Well you have already decided what all you want to migrate, the next step is to find some tool or solution which can do this migration for you. However, we will decide that in next step before that we should decide if we can go with a big bang switch to Office 365 or we actually want to do a phased migration. Confused ? let me try to explain in-depth.
See, when you switchover to Office 365, it usually involves following tasks
1) Migrated all the emails, contacts, Calendars, Public folder etc. to 365 servers from your existing on premise or hosted email solution.
2) Switch the MX records for the recipient domain to Point to Office 365.
3) When user start using Office 365 they will need to reconfigure their outlooks (in most cases) , their Phones /Ipads etc and also need to get used to to the new Outlook web access interface and web URL ( you can keep the URL same as earlier in most cases).
So now that you under stand the basic tasks to do Office 365 migration, It will be easier for me to explain what I mean by Migration strategy.
As explained above, switching to Office 365 involves a lot of changes at user end as well, so depending upon the number of user in your organization and how do you plan to handle user end tasks ( I mean whether local IT will take care of it or the User are smart enough to take care of it themselves) You would like to decided on a cut over vs Phased approach of migration.
Cutover or Big Bang approach : All the Mailboxes (Email Contacts Calendar’s etc) are copied over to Office 365 in the back ground (while you still keep using your existing email solution) and then one final day ( probably a Friday evening), the MX records are switched over to Office 365. when we use this approach we keep the end users very well communicated with time lines and what to expect. Also we send DIY instruction PDF’s to user about how to set up their Mobile Phones , outlooks or other devices to work with Office 365. Your local IT can also utilise the weekend to configure the outlook profiles on the office PC’s.
Cutover, is usually the best method to go with for organisations up to 300 users. Its simple and less cluttered. It’s a supported Migration path uptil 1000 users and one can follow it if they plan the end-user transition carefully, and that’s very well possible if the end-user is clearly communicated & educated of his role in the Migration.
Phased Migration: For Bigger organizations (In access of 1000 user) it’s not possible to go for the cut over and they want to go with the Phased approach where they can control the speed of migration and gradually migrate all the users to Office 365. Or they may also choose to keep some users on premise and others on Office 365. In this approach after all the initial setup and testing is completed the Administrator choose to move the Users in batches of 10 -15 users at a time. IT team get a liberty to move the users gradually while setting up their new profiles and handling their issues.
This approach sounds really cool and I have seen even the org’s with 30 users wanting to follow this one, but the complications involved in Phased Migration setup are huge, additional servers are required for components like ADFS/Dir Sync etc. The cleanup after the migration is completed is also time-consuming and costly. Also in this approach we have to maintain the On premise exchange server for longer run, and because your users are segregated between two different Exchange Org’s i.e. Office 365 and your On premise exchange server, so the complication level is usually on higher side, plus there is a dependency on local exchange, so one do not get the true freedom of having Office 365.
Which tool to use for migration ?
Well there are a plethora of tools available on web like Quest, Migration wiz and Microsoft Built in tools to do such migrations. Most of these tools are good but to use them successfully you need expert hands like some tech guru in your organization or may be some nice guys like us. ( Reach us you will be delighted )
Additional Considerations ?
Some organizations also need some additional features like maintaining same passwords across the local AD and Office 365, thankfully its possible with Office 365 but you still need to decide if you need Single Sign on ( SSO, where office 365 authentication literally happen from your Domain Controller) or you just need Password Sync where only the passwords are synced between your domain controller and Office 365 Server thus ensuring the passwords are same but the authentication is dealt directly by Office 365 Servers.
SSO or DirSync or Some third-party authentication provider are some complex decisions and long-term commitments, make sure you discuss the pros and cons with us or your IT vendor before implementing the same.
To conclude, If you pre-decide on all these considerations and make a through plan along with your team then Office 365 migration will be less cumbersome and highly productive for you.