Making the Migration – Switching to Office 365

Mar 14, 2016

Switching to Office 365.

As a small business owner, establishing effective data access & sharing platform that productively unites you with all your contributing partners is likely a top priority. Microsoft Office 365 provides you with the online hosting platform, however, migrations from standard methods of data access to Office 365 should be undertaken thoughtfully.

switching to Office 365

Whether your goal is to completely migrate all capabilities to the cloud or create a combined model with some service points remaining onsite, a proactive approach will be most beneficial. Thinking about the challenges specific to your business will ease the transition and will help to develop an informed plan. Planning ahead helps to create a database that is mutually beneficial for you and your channel partners.

The following tips can help you develop a road-map to approaching migration proactively:

Determine what’s required internally – an informed plan is the most crucial aspect of migration.

What kind of information sharing and access points do you require – both currently and moving forward? Establishing a strong idea of what’s required allows you to determine the best platform design for the needs specific to your business. Next, develop an understanding of what migration will mean for your partners – what specific benefits could this migration establish for them?

Finally, be prudent in choosing the most relevant data to migrate. Determine what data must be retained and decide if there is any dated information that can be eliminated from migration altogether. Once you have a clear idea of the data relevant to your business’ migration, you can develop a game plan to best address the associated service requirements.

Recognize what current applications are incompatible with migration to Office 365.

If your business is already employing on-site software for information storage and sharing, you’ll need to determine which will be compatible with migration and which will not. The compatibility will vary based on the applications you’re using and on the ways in which you plan to utilize Office 365. A first step in assessing compatibility could be a determination of whether or not your currently employed software applications have cloud-based versions. If they do, determine their compatibility with Office 365.

Establish a team approach – Supplement IT efforts with team engagement.

A genuinely beneficial migration requires all hands on deck. Don’t fall swoop to the idea that migration is as easy as having IT flip a switch. All users and partners should understand not only the motivations for migration but should also be informed about the migration process itself and the potential implications on day-to-day operations.

Establishing timelines, with specific crossover dates and expected milestones will serve as an excellent communicative tool. Proactively develop FAQ resources and designate a line of communication (email/phone/chat) that functions solely to answer more specific questions or comments regarding migration.

Build a migration toolkit.

Migration involves the repositioning of your business’ roots – data of all kinds need to be migrated as effectively as possible. The key is to choose the right way to move each type of data you’re hoping to migrate. Many automated management tools exist and can be employed for data migration which can simplify the process and increase efficiency.

Migration tools like ConnectWise, CloudConsole, and Kaseya 365 Command, among others, are offered by a variety of the major MSP software providers. Matching each migration task with a specified efficiency tool will help to streamline the migration process and maximize its benefits.

Arm & protect yourself – test and know your networks.

Make sure before the migration process begins that your content and platforms are secure. Be sure to test the networks at all points of access – offices, home offices, smartphones, and coffee shops. Be informed of the potential impacts on firewalls, proxies, DNS, and other resources before migrating to avoid being caught off guard or compromising data.

What about all that data you already have stored away?

Chances are your business already has a collection of previously archived data, stored onsite. Finding a way to effectively extract and migrate that data to Office 365 could be challenging and tedious depending on the archive’s density and how it’s stored.

Use your toolkit to increase efficiency and don’t neglect the consideration of third-party online hosts to store data archives. As an additional measure of protection, connect with data protection vendors for recommendations regarding backup, disaster recovery, and business continuity.

Factor costs: what add-ons and third-party services are required?

A variety of applications exist that can be used in conjunction with Office 365 to supplement its capabilities and increase productive power.

Do you require the use of Visio Pro to professionally chart and represent statistical data in diagrams? Would your business benefit from implementing Project Pro as a management and productivity tool? Is there a need to utilize third-party applications like DropBox or SalesForce to promote efficiency and organization?

Considering the costs associated with subscribing will help you determine the most efficient and cost-effective combination of applications to meet business needs.

Skype for Business (formerly Lync) can’t be your only communicative tool.

While Skype for Business does centralize digital communication, it isn’t without the complexity and definitely can’t serve as a suitable replacement for your phone. In terms of communication, don’t say goodbye to the old-fashioned phone but do be sure to keep an eye out for up-and-coming Microsoft initiatives. VoIP technology is developing and Microsoft has a cloud-based PBX strategy in the works. Mastering the most effective communicative tools will be crucial to a successful migration.

Choose the Office 365 plan that best suits your business needs.

There are a total of seven Office 365 plans that vary both in organization and offerings. The majority of small-to-mid-sized businesses can fulfill their needs with Business Essentials, Business, or Business Premium. However, getting informed about each plan and its associated offerings is a great long-term strategy. What will your business require in the sixth month? A year? 5 years? When selecting a plan, anticipate the growth and change that can occur over time, and make considerations for the corresponding needs that will develop.

Have a post-game plan for switching to Office 365

A complete migration isn’t the end of the road in. Plans need to be set in place to train users about Office 365 and effectively lead them in implementing its features. With data streamlined, a reorganization and reprioritization of IT resources will be required.

Feedback is another essential post-migration task. Learning, directly from users, what is working and what isn’t will be crucial to maximizing the benefits of your migration to Microsoft Office 365. External providers like TINYhr offers an automatic, anonymous, and real-time feedback tool called TINYpulse. This allows for the collection of concerns so that problems can be prioritized and addressed quickly.

Moving forward with these tips in mind will help your business surmount and overcome the obstacles associated with effective migration. However, these tips can be supplemented with accounts of your experience when switching to Microsoft Office 365. Did you encounter a challenge not discussed on this list? Is there important information missing that you think could help other businesses migrate successfully? Reach out and let us know!

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