There is a lot of excitement among businesses of all sizes and types towards cloud based solutions. Office 365 being one of such cloud based solution. However, migration to Office 365 is not a cake walk, if not properly planned it may result in surprises to businesses, users and administrators. Cloud computing basically gets us two chattels, it’s a change to the way IT is provisioned, with applications running on a cloud infrastructure. The other is that it’s a change to the way end users collaborate. True cloud applications don’t just run in the cloud but allow teams to meet in the cloud to collaborate and innovate.
Office 365 is still essentially an on premise solution rehosted in the cloud, it’s the same office functionality and still needs on premise Microsoft program to work. Here is our experience to look at few contemplations we echo and plan migrating to Office 365.
Active Directory Synchronization
A typical Enterprise environment will have Active Directory for authentication, which is also consumed by on premise exchange servers for Global address list generations and rendering. Some organizations customize the user properties to show additional information like ‘Cost Center’. Though we can sync active directory to Windows Azure AD to be consumed by Office 365 for unified global address, the custom attributes like cost center are not synched. We should be prepared for this transition.
Unauthenticated Proxy Access
To setup Office 365 you may need to make some changes at proxy servers, almost in all enterprises users are authenticated at proxy before they could access Internet, Office 365 requires a list of URLs and IP addresses belonging to Office 365 should be allowed for unauthenticated proxy access, though it may sound not so challenging. It may require certain changes at your proxy and some proxy servers may not support this configuration. In Hybrid Office 365 deployments where we have opted for Exchange online.
Mail Flow – user experience
After migration to Office 365, users accessing emails from inside the Office may experience a little delay in sending and receiving emails because the number of hops between the email client and server have increased, however for users who are working from home or directly connected to Internet, mail flow may be relatively faster. Also users who send and receive huge email attachment may face some longer download time.
Mail Flow – Security
For exchange online users, Microsoft offers Microsoft Online protection as anti-spam, data leak prevention and anti-virus solution. Though this service is granular enough to serve most of your requirements, it may not be a great replacement to your current filtering system. We may need to configure the MOP with same rules as your current anti-spam system, which essentially means starting fresh with anti-spam configuration.
Alternatively, if for compliance and other reasons each email has to go through an on-premise server, we would need centralized mail flow, which adds additional hops.
Lync and SharePoint migration
Lync online audio and video calls between users will consume more Internet bandwidth as the services are now hosted on Office 365. If users in adjacent buildings or in same site are on an audio call they would be using LAN. However when everyone is moved to cloud all calls would have to go through firewalls across to Internet which may introduce spikes in Internet bandwidth usage also add in some jitter. It becomes a little more difficult when thinking about migrating SharePoint to Office 365, as there are no native tools available from Microsoft to move content to SharePoint, unlike exchange and Lync where we have tools and commands to move mailboxes and as Lync users we need to rely on third party tools to accomplish migrations.
Service Health monitoring and utilization reports
Once migrated to Office 365, monitoring and reporting may be another challenge. Though Microsoft has its own monitoring system in place for internal monitoring of servers and services, however as a customer we do not have access to the information. From reporting perspective, there are some PowerShell scripts provided by Microsoft, which are not granular enough. Thus, you may need to look for a partner for granular reporting and monitoring of Office 365.
Office 365 offers great features accessible to users through variety of form factors with almost similar user experience across devices. This enables users to be productive on the go with familiar tools, and on top of that, all this comes with no capital expenditure. Instead, customers only pay for what they consume through subscription. Office 365 plans gives flexibility to only subscribe for the features you use. However, transition to Office 365 should be planned to ensure great user experience. Mindtree has helped many customers adopt Office 365 service with minimum user impact. If you are looking forward to Office 365, Mindtree can add value to your Office 365 journey through our expert thinking.
Special thanks to my colleagues and Office 365 expert, Dhruvaraj Pudel for research and technical contribution to the blog.