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Upgrading to Office 365? Seven steps to ensure a successful migration

January 18, 2016 Office 365

Office 365 is one of the fastest growing businesses in Microsoft’s history and for good reason. Office 365 has transformed the way businesses work; offering increased productivity, better access, greater collaboration and elimination of the challenges that so many on premise solutions present. And now that Microsoft Office 365 is hosted in data centres within Australia, more local businesses are set to jump on board.

A successful migration to Office 365 ensuring employees can unlock the full value of the solution, hinges on a well thought out and staged process being undertaken. When embarking on an Office 365 migration businesses should be aware of the following steps:

  1. Identifying your needs

The first port of call for any business contemplating an Office 365 migration is identifying whether migrating from on-premises to Office 365 (in the cloud) is a good fit for your business needs.

If employee mobility is key to your business success, with Office 365 employees don’t have to be in the office to access their data. With anywhere, anytime access, businesses can count on the availability of worker productivity from almost anywhere on PCs, mobile devices and browsers that have a reliable internet connection. Office 365 desktop versions also allow employees to work offline and Office 365 data centres are able to offer reliable performance and minimal downtime, something not always guaranteed with on-premise servers.

For workplaces where collaboration is essential, such as a team jointly overseeing a new project, Office 365 offers one single location for file sharing and communication. Despite the fact data is stored at one destination, Office 365 offers peace of mind that important business data is safe and sound in secure data centres. And for businesses just setting up or those that are due for an upgrade, Office 365 charges on a per-user-per-month basis, therefore the initial technology investment isn’t as big compared to solutions requiring a physical server, and ongoing IT expenses are predictable and scalable depending on employee numbers.

  1. Requirements

Businesses today face a growing number of requirements and compliance laws when it comes to technology and data security, privacy and use. For this reason, businesses now expect managed services such as the cloud that are supported by rigorous operational practices and processes regarding security and data handling.

The fact that Microsoft didn’t have any Australian data centres initially proved a major barrier for many Australian businesses due to the fact that they needed their data stored locally, however in 2015 this was overcome when Microsoft has opened two data centres in Sydney and Melbourne.

Managed services with Office 365 ensures that businesses are able to meet various data protection and compliance requirements. Office 365 can also remove the need to own and maintain the data back-up and disaster recovery infrastructure once relied on by businesses.

Office 365 also delivers a high level of flexibility, allowing companies the ability to move some employees to the cloud while excluding others for compliance or operational reasons.

  1. Considerations /constraints

There are many Office 365 plans available and it pays to take your time considering the differences and which best meets your business needs. There are three types of commercial plans available: Business, Enterprise and Standalone. Choosing between the Business and Enterprise plans will be based on the size of your organisation and features required. Business plans are limited to a maximum of 300 users, so if your needs exceed that level then Enterprise plans are the appropriate choice. Standalone plans are also available per single user.

It is also worth learning from other companies some of the issues or delays that can commonly occur during an Office 365 migration, so that these can be accounted for or addressed prior to migration beginning. Some of these include the current environment having corruption and stability issues; slow network connections; high organisational IT security and firewalls; older versions of Outlook in use; email plug-ins; or integration with other 3rd party applications such as document management systems.

  1. Time frames

Many businesses underestimate the scope of the migration process and don’t dedicate enough time and resources to allow a full Office 365 migration to occur without disrupting normal business. When migrating to Office 365, there is a significant drain on data usage, therefore it is best to schedule the transfer when this will not risk overloading the system or impacting on business operations, such as during the weekend.

Also, businesses should not solely rely on Microsoft support when undertaking a migration to Office 365. This is because if an issue is faced during migration, Microsoft doesn’t offer immediate support, which is required to ensure the migration occurs within the planned timeframe. Microsoft commonly flags non-urgent migration issues for follow-up within 72 hours. Instead, businesses should have a local partner on hand to guide them through the migration process and who can be on the ground should there be any issues during the migration.

  1. Pick a partner

Choosing the right partner to help you move to Office 365 can determine whether your transition to the cloud goes smoothly or not. There are many steps involved in an Office 365 migration that can easily be overlooked if not undertaken by experienced IT professionals.

Choosing the best partner can prove a big challenge when assessing the large number of IT companies available. The best partner should make the migration as easy as possible for your business by ensuring the migration has little to no impact on employees, providing clear instruction on how to operate in the new environment  and help the business to get up and running as quickly as possible.

The process of picking a partner should be similar to choosing any other supplier – you should look at their work history, credentials and meet in person to see what they recommend or can offer your business.

  1. Set objectives

As with any project, an Office 365 migration needs a set of high-level objectives outlining what the business is aiming to accomplish and the criteria used to determine success.  Some common business objectives include:

  • Lower IT costs
  • More predictable IT costs
  • Increase employee productivity
  • Deliver more flexible work options through promoting remote and field work, as well as working from home.
  • Increase employee collaboration
  • Strengthen data security and back-up.

Office 365 migration objectives should be clear and measurable in order to aid the project team before, during and after the migration.

  1. Change Management

Many businesses get so focused on the technical side of an Office 365 migration that they overlook other important factors that are vital in the overall success and adoption of a new system. Change management plans involving employee notification, testing, contingency planning, employee training and user adoption are critical to the process as well.

  1. Execute & Measure

Once all steps that need to be taken prior to an Office 365 migration are complete and a plan has been tested for the migration, it’s time to finally execute the plan. With the help of your partner, all the planning that went in to the migration will lead to a seamless migration that avoids user downtime and data loss.

After any issues that have arisen during migration are resolved, measurement of the success of the Office 365 migration is essential. By regularly measuring how well Office 365 is meeting the business objectives set out prior to the migration you can ensure that the business and its employees get the most value out of Office 365.

IComm has helped many organisations successfully migrate to the cloud and experience the benefits that the Microsoft Office 365 suite has to offer. For further information visit http://www.icomm.com.au/



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