The Move to Office 365
Moving to Office 365 is an exciting prospect. Not having to manage or pay for infrastructure and the promise of a more efficient, maintenance-free environment is enticing to say the least. As with anything good in life, there are some provisions, the chief among which is that the success and usability of your Office 365 environment depends largely on preparation and the consideration of a few key points prior to migration. First, what type of environment are you planning to have? What are your business needs around your content? What content are you bringing with you, and is that content structured in a way that is efficient and makes sense for the long-term growth of your environment? What do you do after migration? How do you work with the environment on a daily basis when, by design, it offers less control? These questions are a vital part of any successful plan for migration into Office 365.
When considering Office 365 there are two main models that companies choose: cloud-only and hybrid. Cloud only organizations go all in, moving their entire environment to the cloud including Active Directory, Exchange, SharePoint, etc. This is the model that makes the most financial sense as the return on investment is very high. Unfortunately, few organizations can fully embrace this model. Many find, (for compliance or internal policy), that they have sensitive content that they must keep on premises. This need for greater control leads to the hybrid model. Organizations with less leeway often move some parts of their environment to the cloud while keeping other parts in-house. They get the cost savings and reduction of infrastructure of the cloud, while having the security of an on-premises datacenter. While this may seem like the best of both worlds, it is also the most challenging to implement, requiring many decisions on what will and can be transitioned to the cloud.
Once the type of environment is decided, the focus shifts to content. What is currently in the on-premises environment? How is it being used by the people who need it to collaborate on a daily basis? In order to answer the myriad questions that arise from a move such as this, it is wise to take an inventory of content. Generate reports on how much content is being created, who is creating it, and how often it is being accessed. Determine what security policies are in place and how content sharing is being handled. Performing these types of pre-migration analysis will allow for content and environmental re-architecture that will better align with business processes and streamline the collaboration experience for users once in Office 365.
Taking all of these questions into consideration prior to migration will avert potential issues in the migration and implementation of Office 365, but what happens after the migration is done? Office 365 is, by design, a less open system than on-premises SharePoint. In order to ensure a certain level of service for all Office 365 customers, Microsoft has put some restrictions on what can be done in Office 365. While saying that there is less control sounds more dire than it actually is, Office 365 is not as pliable as on-premises SharePoint. Performing the day-to-day management of the environment and all of the disparate services that are included is quite an undertaking. For example, until just last week, detailed auditing within Office 365 was unavailable. Whereas with on-premises activity information was readily available or accessible through third party tools, Office 365 lacked such functionality. Even now the options are limited and actions are unavailable. It is imperative that when moving into the cloud, considerations are made for living with said cloud.
Office 365 and the cloud in general is a wonderful step forward. The technology, the functionality, and the value have large and positive impacts on how businesses run and how their employees are empowered to do their jobs. That said, Office 365, and moving to it, is not a panacea. It, like anything else, has limitations. But those limitations are easily mitigated by careful planning and thoughtful implementation.
Rob Matthews is a Product Manager for Metalogix. He started out working on cloud-based HRIS and compliance software for ADP before joining MetaVis Technologies, and has spent his entire professional career on cloud software.