Cloud computing continues to influence every aspect of modern business. Traditional on-premises solutions are no longer enough, with flexible distributions and remote working arrangements demanding more sophisticated connectivity, data storage, and security protocols. With increasing migration to the cloud, more businesses are adopting Office 365 for its advanced communication, collaboration, and productivity abilities.

Despite the inherent power of cloud-based platforms, migrating between systems can cause issues with data loss, lack of continuity, security, and accessibility. If you don’t have a plan, employees will feel out of the loop, data will be compromised, and migrations can take months instead of days or weeks. In order to streamline the migration phase, it’s important to adopt the right tools and include your team in the process.

When the time comes to migrate to Office 365, you have several options to consider. In this article, we’ll look at the different migration approaches to help you decide what’s best for your company.

Why Choose Office 365?

As a cloud-based platform, Office 365 provides numerous advantages over on-premises solutions, from improved control and access to enhanced scalability, easier collaboration, and unlimited storage. Security is also greatly improved with cloud-based solutions, with automatic updates and security patches applied in real time to prevent intrusions and data loss.

There are many benefits to using Office 365, especially if your organization is invested in the wider Microsoft ecosystem. Office 365 is a powerful collection of online tools, from simple email and word processing applications to project planning, office presentation, and team collaboration software.

The following benefits are central to the Office 365 ecosystem:

  • Accessibility – It is designed to work anywhere on any device.
  • Automation – The latest software and security features are updated in real time.
  • Security – Standards, monitoring, and automation ensure data safety.
  • Collaboration – A consistent environment promotes teamwork.
  • Scalability – As a subscription service, it has a scalable architecture and pricing structure.
  • Flexibility – Personalization features are integrated and easy to manage.

How to plan an Office 365 migration

Planning an effective migration to Office 365 doesn’t have to be difficult. While there are several migration types to consider, the following steps will help you make the right decision for your organization. The following guide focuses on email, but the lessons learned can be equally applied to other elements of Office 365.

Step 1: Understand your migration needs

Every successful project begins with a good plan. When it comes to email and communication systems, understanding what needs to be migrated or reconfigured is the first step. Regardless of your business size or sector, it’s important to consider the following issues:

  • Communication is a central component of Office 365, with user mailbox data — emails, contacts, calendars, and tasks — being some of the highest-risk and most potentially disruptive items. It’s best to plan your migration to ensure zero disruption, no downtime, and no data loss for all mailbox data.
  • User mailboxes and system mailboxes need to migrate successfully to ensure business continuity. If you use email to send automated messages, they will be affected. This includes all email marketing platform, CRM, ERP, MRP, mobile app, web app, and e-commerce platform data. Migration novices often overlook this data.
  • Many organizations use shared mailboxes for generic emails like info@ or team emails like sales@, which are important for web leads and general inquiries. It’s crucial to ensure consistency and proper functionality for all communication channels.
  • Distribution emails from pre-defined lists help you save time through targeting, segmentation, and automation. If you’ve gone to the trouble of creating lists in the first place, you want to ensure they remain consistent and integrated with the surrounding software ecosystem.
  • DNS records need to be reconfigured so that your email flows to Office 365 instead of your old system. User devices also need to be reconfigured to connect to Office 365, including desktops, laptops, tablets, and mobile phones. While endpoint management and remote work are a huge advantage of Office 365, configuration is integral to ensure proper functionality.

It’s important to think about the migration type that’s right for your organization. Before you can create and follow a detailed plan, there are many factors to consider. The following questions offer key insights into the migration process:

  • How much time do you need to migrate?
  • How big is your migration budget?
  • How much data do you need to migrate?
  • Which existing email system are you using?
  • Which version of Exchange Server are you using?

Step 2: Make a plan and adjust where necessary

Your email migration should be completed with no downtime or data loss. Business continuity is integral, and correct planning will help ensure minimal impact on business systems and users. The planning process is often underestimated, with energy applied at the outset saving you time and money down the track.

Problems often arise due to a lack of consistency, the existence of users across multiple locations and time zones, and the need to work with many different devices and email clients. You may also have to configure different email domains hosted by various providers and iron out hardware and software compatibility issues before they create unwanted complexity.

Each migration plan should be unique to the organization. However, your plan should include each of the following sub-plans:

  • A licensing plan vs user-by-user plan
  • Spam and malware filtering plan
  • Device clients plan
  • Team resources plan
  • Active directory plan

Choose a migration method

Once you have analyzed your operational needs and thought long and hard about why you’re migrating in the first place, choose a migration method that aligns with your plans and objectives. Microsoft has outlined several migration plans that provide an operational framework to streamline the process and ensure business continuity before, during, and after migration:

  • Cutover migration – You migrate all on-premises mailboxes (a maximum of 2,000) to Office 365 over a few days.
  • Staged migration – You migrate batches of on-premises mailboxes to Office 365 over a few weeks or months.
  • Hybrid deployment – You combine existing on-premises solutions with the cloud in a seamless deployment.
  • Third-party migration – You use valuable tools from third parties to conduct email migrations across platforms.

The rise of cloud computing is a major influential factor for businesses across the world. Office 365 is the industry standard for cloud-based communication, collaboration, and productivity solutions. However, while the accessibility, flexibility, and security of the cloud are impossible to ignore, migration can be challenging. If you’re undecided about the appropriate Office 365 migration type for your organization or need help taking the first step, please contact the experts at Softlanding for insight and application.

 

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