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How to Successfully Migrate to Office 365

Microsoft Office 365 not only offers a strong option for email, but also provides small businesses a springboard into the cloud.

IT managers toiling with aging email infrastructure and cumbersome legacy applications, take solace: Microsoft Office 365 offers an attractive alternative. For SMBs, a migration to Office 365 provides a vehicle for getting email, online collaboration tools and productivity applications standardized and updated with minimal capital investment and few maintenance headaches.

Microsoft Office 365 makes it easy to collaborate and exchange information among physically dispersed employees, partners and customers working on different devices.

For the cloud-wary, an Office 365 upgrade also serves as a launch pad to other cloud endeavors, such as Software as a Service enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management, that provide enterprise-level tools smaller organizations need to navigate a competitive market.

Pre-Planning

Prior to an Office 365 upgrade, Evans Food Group ran multiple versions of Office and Windows, including Windows XP, with no spam management and no way to share information with external users.

Microsoft Office 365 offered a quick technology overhaul that would allow internal and remote supervisors, salesforce and factory and operations staff to collaborate, communicate and share information easily.

However, without the proper planning, help, tools and expertise, migrating all company email, files and users to Office 365 creates a challenging and disruptive endeavor.

For Evans Food Group, an Office 365 migration provided a quick way to bring an entire IT infrastructure into the 21st century. Before the migration, the 68-year-old company ran operations on old spreadsheets, a homegrown database and an ancient Exchange server.

Small businesses contemplating an Office 365 migration should consider these best practices Evans Food Group learned along the way.

Think Before Buying

50%

Percentage of SMBs who expect to run 100 percent of their IT in the cloud by 2020

SOURCE: BetterCloud, “Trends in Cloud IT,” June 2015

A multitude of Office 365 features and options may sound enticing, but could easily overcomplicate a migration. Businesses can save time and money by identifying specific user needs before shopping for a solution.

Determine what Office 365 packages to select from, beginning with the full-suite Office 365 Enterprise to the smaller Exchange Online. If users’ needs change, it’s quick and easy to update Office 365 packages through the online admin controls.

Evans Food Group saved thousands of dollars by working with plant and department managers to distinguish between power users (those who needed the full Office 365 E3 package) and other users (those who could use the Exchange Online Plan 1).

Take Inventory

Beginning with the business network, perform an inventory, analysis and upgrade — if necessary — or risk issues with SharePoint data transfers and Skype during the migration.

To support Office 365, Evans Food Group built a multiprotocol label switching cloud to increase WAN throughput up to 50 gigabits per second and replaced unmanaged 100-megabit-per-second switches from multiple vendors with managed HP ProCurve 1-gigabyte switches.

It’s also important to document all company PCs, workstations, notebooks and other components — plus memory and operating system versions — that need upgrading to ensure a successful Office 365 deployment.

Evans Food Group upgraded all user systems to Windows 7 and 8GB of RAM as part of the deployment project.

Check Email Settings

With email the crux of most Office 365 deployments, users expect a seamless transition.

During the migration, make sure the company’s email domain publishes correctly. If the new IP address publishes incorrectly, company email could get flagged as spam — impacting communications with customers and partners and disrupting business.

Evans Food Group’s email didn’t publish correctly at first, but after working with Microsoft to repair the situation, all of the company’s clients were able to send and receive their email properly.

It’s also important to synchronize Active Directory internally with Microsoft Azure to get single sign-on convenience and security for employees at the project onset.

Evans Food Group waited, and the lack of consistent passwords for Active Directory and Office 365 made it a struggle for mobile users to access their email while outside the office.

Don’t Go Alone

An experienced technology partner can help successfully plan and run an Office 365 deployment project.

Evans Food Group worked with CDW and a local technology partner with Office 365 migration expertise to plan the transition. With a partner, discuss whether a full-scale or partial rollout makes the most sense. Evans Food Group chose to do it all at once.

Initially, there were significant trepidations about diving into the cloud. But surprisingly, the whole migration process was remarkably smooth.

Moving Forward

Adopting cloud technology and changing a company’s IT culture requires faith.

But the flexibility of Office 365 allows businesses to customize expenditure as user needs change — which leads to greater benefits at smaller costs.

Alexander Bedrin/Thinkstock
Nov 09 2015

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