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Pulling together the pieces for a move to Office 365

Preparing for an Office 365 migration can be overwhelming. Exchange admins should break the process into five manageable stages.

Although Exchange Server has been around for years as a core business application, Office 365 gives companies the option to offer email as a service. Many businesses are taking the bait and wondering how they can have Exchange's email capabilities without the infrastructure overhead.

Before a business jumps into Office 365, a large amount of preparation and research is required. The planning can be overwhelming and involves intricate details, so breaking it down into manageable pieces is the simplest solution.

In his series helping businesses gauge their readiness to move to Office 365, senior technology editor Stephen J. Bigelow takes an in-depth look at the five questions to ask as you plan a switch.

How will you handle your domain name and Active Directory?

One task organizations need to figure out is how they will redirect traffic from any local Exchange servers to the cloud-based Office 365 service. There are two options for doing this, but each approach has its drawbacks.

How will you migrate users and manage their accounts?

Organizations have three general options for establishing user accounts: Active Directory synchronization, identity federation and multifactor identification. It's important they know what each option entails before choosing one.

Which migration method will you use?

Once you have your domain name and user account management plans, the next step is to decide which method you'll use to move to Office 365. Organizations can choose between a cutover migration, a staged migration or a hybrid migration.

What tools will you use during the migration?

Organizations have a number of options in migration tools. Microsoft offers numerous free tools, but third-party utilities often can do a better job of meeting your needs. Tools with free demo periods or ones that are freely available let you test and evaluate different options.

How will you monitor Office 365 after the migration?

The work isn't done after admins migrate to Office 365 -- they must decide how they'll monitor the environment to keep it running. There are four general areas involved in reporting and monitoring, and admins can use native tools or third-party tools to get the job done.

This was last published in December 2014

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What advice would you give to organizations considering a move to Office 365?
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The best advice I can offer an organization that is considering moving to Office 365 is that it is the best option for your business if you have multiple devices that do not have Office installed. You can manage all of your files at your convenience. It is also a great addition to your business because of the security features, files are encrypted therefore those who are not authorized cannot view them.
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Jenny hits the most important point. If you do not already have a significant investment in Office on multiple devices, Office 365 can make a lot of sense. For that matter, most users may be just fine with Outlook.com (the more I look at what gets used by a majority of users, the more likely I think that would make sense for the vast majority of people, with the Power Users being the ones to spring for licenses.
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What I can tell the organization is to know which migration options will work for the organization. Understanding what each options provide is critical. For a complete cutover there's no problem because everything will be moved to O365 as it relates to email, SharePoint and Lync. However for Hybrid and/or Single Sign On, the availability of ADFS / AD / SSL connectivity will be essential to the business and its users. So thinking of additional server resources for (2 ADFS servers and at least 1 Proxy) is core.

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THE MOST important question to ask:
Is my company ok with giving our Emails/Data to Microsoft??
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