Office 365 Migration Tips: Top 10 Mistakes to Avoid

Jack Talbot
Jack Talbot

Microsoft Office 95 is a cloud service -- you just turn it on to instantly consume SaaS applications. If only it was that easy for small businesses (and their channel partners). Jack Talbot, general manager of ICONZ, a New Zealand-based IT service provider that was recently acquired, has pieced together a top 10 list of common Office 365 migration mistakes.

And of course, Talbot offers this qualified warning: Your experience with Office 365 migrations will vary, since some companies will move all workloads to the cloud, and others will prefer a hybrid approach that keeps some services on-premises.

Either way, here's the list...

Top 10 Office 365 Migration Tips

1. Analyze internal requirements. Migration planning is critical.

  • ICONZ says: Before any move, understand your future requirements. What’s the right information architecture to best support this? Then identify all possible stakeholders. What will a successful migration look like for them? What aspects need to move? What data may be too old and can be discarded? Only then, can you develop a timeline to suit.
  • ChannelE2E adds: Don't forget about the compliance considerations. Which healthcare and financial services records MUST be retained -- and for how long?

2. Understand which 3rd party solutions are incompatible with Office 365.

  • ICONZ says: Many products could be incompatible -- i.e. local Exchange, SharePoint or Lync utilities. Functionality will depend on each product and the nature of your Office 365 deployment. Ensure you know what’s compatible and what’s not.
  • ChannelE2E adds: Check to see if there are cloud versions of all on-premises software. Then check to see if those cloud alternatives are compatible with Office 365.

3. Don’t think an Office 365 migration is a simple task “for IT to do.”

  • ICONZ says: Successful migrations need all users to understand the end-goal, interim steps and likely impact to their work flow. Communicate this to all staff.
  • ChannelE2E adds: Much like any planned maintenance, communicate the cutover date -- and key milestones users need to address before, during and after the cutover. Set up an FAQ to help address questions. And provide a dedicated email address for users to submit additional questions.

4. Consider the right migration tools.

  • ICONZ says: There are working files, folders, emails and archived data to migrate. Choose the right tool for each job to simplify the process. ICONZ, for instance, uses automated migration tools to reduce complexity and drive down labor hours.
  • ChannelE2E adds: Many of the major MSP software providers offer Office 365 migration and/or ongoing management tools. Examples include (but are not limited to) ConnectWise CloudConsole, Kaseya 365 Command and LogicNow App Control.

5.  Test your network beforehand to ensure there’s no surprises.

  • ICONZ says: Firewalls, proxies, DNS, load balancers, miscellaneous resources may be impacted. Ensure you know what to expect.
  • ChannelE2E adds: Don't forget to test remote access as well -- from coffee shops, branch offices, home offices, smart phones, etc.

6. What will you do with your archived data?

  • ICONZ says: Most on-premises archive solutions won't work with Office 365. For full retrieval functionality you’ll need to extract your data off your current archiving solution. Depending on data quantity, ingesting that data into the cloud can be another time-consuming hurdle. The right tools, as well as non-Microsoft hosted options should be considered.
  • ChannelE2E adds: Check in with backup, disaster recovery, business continuity and other types of data protection vendors.

7. Factor in the cost of other add-on options.

  • ICONZ says: If you are planning to run other applications that integrate with Office 365, get an understanding of their costs. Examples include Visio Pro for Office 365, Project Pro for Office 365, Yammer Enterprise, and the like.
  • ChannelE2E adds: And don't forget about third-party services like Box, Dropbox and Salesforce.com. Figure out a way to manage all costs and cloud services for the end-customer.

8. Skype for Business (formerly Lync) doesn’t replace your phone.

  • ICONZ says: While you can use it for calling contacts, video-conferencing, quick emails and presence info - it still won’t replace your phone. Microsoft is planning on enabling PSTN connectivity, but this simply connects your Skype for Business account with a PSTN number. Don’t ditch your phone yet.
  • ChannelE2E says: Keep a close eye on Microsoft's cloud-based PBX strategy. And look out for complexities involving Skype for Business vs. traditional consumer Skype services.

9. Choose the right Office 365 plan.

  • ICONZ says: Companies can choose from seven different Office 365 plans – however most SMBs’ needs will be met by either Office 365; Business Essentials / Business / Business Premium.
  • ChannelE2E says: Be sure to anticipate long-term growth. How many user licenses will the business need in six months, a year and beyond?

10.  Develop a post-migration plan.

  • ICONZ says: How will staff learn about/implement Office 365’s new features? How will you re-prioritize IT resources, given a lower on premise hardware burden? The migration isn’t the journey’s end.
  • ChannelE2E says: To track user satisfaction with Office 365, leverage a tool like TINYpulse. The idea is to gain real-time feedback -- anonymously -- from the user base, and then address shared concerns in a rapid manner.

Office 365 Migration Tips: What Did We Miss?

Admittedly, thousands of channel partners have mastered Office 365 migrations. Many are now moving on to migrate customer workloads into Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services or another IaaS platform. Others are striving to connect the dots between Office 365, Azure and on-premises Active Directory.

Still, thousands of partners are still ramping up to manage Office 365 migrations. For those just starting the journey -- and for those who survived the journey -- what potholes did we fail to mention?

Joe Panettieri

Joe Panettieri is co-founder & editorial director of MSSP Alert and ChannelE2E, the two leading news & analysis sites for managed service providers in the cybersecurity market.