Advantages of Office 365
Office 365 is a cloud solution provided by Microsoft themselves, and it really does take the hassle out of supporting not only email, but also apps such as Word for Windows, Excel and even SharePoint.
You will find that Office 365 works out cheaper per seat than equivalent solutions from hosted companies. In addition, this Microsoft solution also provides security features that Rackspace, Hostway and the rest, don't offer, for instance Office 365 is certified by:-
- FISMA (Federal Information Security Management Act) and for the European Union's Data Protection Directive, EU Model Clauses.
- HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, sets the standard for protecting sensitive data.
Why Migrate to Office 365 Now?
One computer truism that has stood the test of time is, never migrate to new software until it reaches version 3. Well, Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite (MSBPOS) unofficially could be called version 1 of Office 365. Since then Microsoft has made huge improvements in the reliability of cloud based apps, thanks to the release of Office 2010 [version 2], and particularly, with Office 2013 [version 3].
Many former sceptics have been converted by the improvements delivered to Office 365 in 2015. Not only is there a better management interface, but also admins appreciate how the self-service password reset for users will save them time. For enterprise subscribers there is even an Office 365 video portal. Microsoft has recently upped the attachment limit to 150 MB, whether admins will enable this feature for their users, is another matter!
How to Prepare for Your Office 365 Migration
While your overall email migration plan will depend on the number of staff and the current version of your Exchange Server, here are some of the common strategies:
Users go home on Friday leaving their current in-house Exchange system for the last time. Then when they return to work on Monday morning, thanks to the IT dept's efforts at the weekend, they switch seamlessly to Office 365. This is a suitable method for smallish organizations of less than 2,000 staff.
Move test users to Office 365, then move the rest in batches of 2,000.
Integrate your Exchange Server with Office 365.
Users Import Their Own Email
This is possible, but I have yet to experience an organization where this is desirable from an IT, or company management point-of-view.
As usual, Microsoft make it easy to switch from GMail and other IMAP systems to Office 365.
Help with Office 365 from SolarWinds
If you are thinking of running a trial migration, then it makes sense to choose mailboxes that meet the Office 365 requirements. SolarWinds SAM (Server and Applications Monitor) produces a vast array of reports including Exchange Server. The 'Users by Mailbox Size' report can identify which have mailbox sizes of less than 25 GB, and thus are suitable candidates to trial a migration. As you can see in the screenshot, the report also shows the size of all their attachments.
Another way that SolarWinds' SAM can help plan a migration is to run a report on your Exchange Database Storage.
How to Setup Office 365
- Verify your domain.
- Add Users.
- Tell your current domain provider to switch to Office 365.
- Download and install Office 365 locally on your PC
- Configure Outlook to work with Office 365.
- Import email and contacts
- Setup Office 365 on other devices, e.g. mobile or tablet.
For companies with more than 150 users Microsoft have a dedicated 'Onboarding team', who will assist with deploying the Office 365 services that you need. The team are particularly good at identifying and solving DNS and active directory problems.
As usual, Microsoft provide a range of Office 365 plans depending on whether you are a small business or an enterprise with more than 300 users.
Common Problems with Exchange –> Office 365 Migrations
- Permissions problems, created by upgrades resulting in broken inheritance.
- Ambiguous namespaces. Internal -v- external, or tablet -v- mobile.
- Sizing databases, both physical and virtual.
- Password changes, especially on mobile devices.
Tip: Clear credentials on the local device.
- Cached Exchange Mode, check the local offline storage file.
- Shared calendars, check the permissions.
Tip: Remove the calendar, add again.
- Shared mailboxes, e.g. conference room.
Problem occurs when some users are in the cloud, others still on-premises.
- Watch out for email size limitations.
In reality only a problem if users are abusing their email folders.
- Old versions of Outlook or IE that are no longer supported.
SolarWinds SAM (Server and Applications Monitor)
SAM collect the metrics of all aspects of hardware and software, and you can check the status using the AppInsight for Exchange dashboard. The benefit is you is that you can identify and diagnose Exchange related performance problems easily. For example, the dashboard displays the top mailbox users. Also, where users have mobile devices, look to see if they have been able to synch lately.
A good question is what to do with all this data? The secret is avoid being snowed under information, instead setup alerts. For example admins are alerted when key thresholds are exceeded, or mailbox users to take action just before they exceed their quotas.
AppInsight for Exchange is a component of SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor (SAM).
Summary: Office 365 Migration
There are 4 main options for Supporting Exchange (and Microsoft Office)
- Keep the existing on-premises Microsoft Exchange.
- Consider Google Apps.
- Move to a hosted Exchange provider e.g. Rackspace.
- Migrate to Office 365.
Office 365 is the cloud solution with a future, it also happens to be the most cost effective and the only option backed by FISMA and HIPAA certification.
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