Migrating to Office 365

This is the 3rd post in my "Cloud Adoption Journey – Blog Series"

In this post, we will explore "Phase 2 - Implementing the Plumbing and Supporting Infrastructure" required to migrate to Office 365.

The typical steps involved in this phase include:

  1. Creating your Office 365 tenant. It is important that you name your tenant appropriately as the tenant name (e.g. the part before ".onmicrosoft.com") cannot be changed currently and is shown to users in the URL of services that are built on top of SharePoint Online (e.g. OneDrive for Business).
  2. Establishing your identity management and single sign on strategy for Office 365. For most customers, this includes setting up directory synchronization. There are a variety of onboarding guides and resources here to help with preparing for directory synchronization (e.g. IDFix), setting up AAD Connect, and planning for how authentication will occur for Office 365 (most customers use Azure Active Directory directly or federated identities via Active Directory Federation Services - ADFS).
  3. License assignment is a key step in the process. This is how we drive which users can access which features and services in Office 365. Historically customers achieved this manually (e.g. via the Office 365 admin center) or automated via PowerShell. Most customers are now taking advantage of group based license assignment to ease the admin burden.
  4. Networking considerations are important. Ensuring we have enough bandwidth/capacity as the traffic is often shifted from the local/wide area network with on-premises servers to accessing remote services via the Internet. We also need to make sure we are allowing the needed traffic to flow to Office 365 by reviewing the various ports, protocols, and online locations that need to be accessed. Microsoft has pulled together a number of online tools and calculators to make this effort easier.
  5. Make sure you review the client requirements for accessing Office 365. This includes supported operating systems; web browsers; and versions of the Office clients. If you're not already using Office 365 ProPlus, start planning now for the support changes coming in 2020 to make sure your organization is ready. Also plan for the upcoming changes to Office and Windows servicing support.
  6. Security is an important consideration as we move to the cloud. In October 2017, I presented a session entitled "Securing, Governing, and Protecting Your Office 365 Investments" which covered some of the key considerations (see slide 5 of the presentation embedded within this post). Most companies at a minimum want to make sure they have a similar set of security policies in place when they move to Office 365 as they have today. However, many customers find there are opportunities to improve their security posture (e.g. data loss prevention, advanced threat protection, conditional access) while also improving the user experience and increasing adoption (e.g. not requiring a VPN connection to access content).

Once the core infrastructure above is in place, the next step is migrating content and enabling users to leverage the services.

  1. Historically many customers have started with migrating mailboxes to Exchange Online. Since I typically work with large global enterprise customers, an Exchange hybrid configuration is often leveraged for both the mailbox migration and coexistence (e.g. for sharing calendar free/busy information between users online and those still on-premises).
  2. Customers often look to enabling SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business to meet needs for sharing files and satisfying external collaboration needs. For example, an Extranet scenario with customers, partners, and suppliers. I have the privilege of presenting on the topic of hybrid SharePoint strategies with Bill Baer at the SharePoint Conference in May 2018.
  3. While email and file sharing are 2 of the most common initial scenarios for Office 365, I encourage customers to look for other opportunities to leverage Office 365 for high value, low effort use cases that can support the rollout and adoption of Office 365. For example, a Microsoft Team with Planner integration used by the group rolling out Office 365. Microsoft Stream for sharing videos recorded for training and communications related to the rollout. Yammer for cross company knowledge sharing and answering common questions by the community during the rollout. Microsoft Forms can be leveraged to create quick surveys and polls before, during, and after the migration to Office 365.

In addition to the resources linked to in my prior posts and above, here are some additional items to help you get started:

  • The Office 365 team has summarized and pulled together some great articles and training to help with preparing for Office 365 for enterprise organizations.
  • Microsoft FastTrack Center (FTC) resources can help guide customers through setting up the core foundation and migrating users to Office 365 at no additional charge. In addition to the FTC, Microsoft Consulting Services (MCS) and partners are also available to assist with more complex migrations and change management efforts.

While this post has focused on the core foundational elements often involved in moving to Office 365, I encourage customers not to just look at this as a "lift and shift". As I discussed in my "Building the Microsoft 365 Cloud Vision and Business Case" post, let's use this opportunity to seek new and improved ways of working and transforming our business. The next post in this series will start to explore some ideas and common patterns for areas to explore as part of phase 3 in our cloud adoption journey.

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