5 Tips to Avoid Office 365 Deployment Pitfalls

6/3/15 5:17 PM iCorps Technologies

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Cloud computing carries a big promise:  the removal of information technology (IT) burdens such as running internal servers and dedicating IT staff to back-end administrative tasks.

The good news is that cloud solutions like Microsoft’s Office 365 can indeed cut IT overhead, provided they are done right. The bad news: if you leap into a cloud solution without addressing vital IT considerations, you could face technology limitations and complexities down the road.

So just what are these potential pitfalls and how can you best take advantage of a solution like Office 365?

It starts with understanding what you really need in terms of capabilities and scalability. You also need to plan well for a smooth migration and create a cohesive, non-disruptive end-user experience.

Here are some factors to consider if you are looking to move to Office 365:

1. Select your plan carefully. While the lowest-cost option seems enticing and does suit many small businesses, a snap decision to go with the lowest cost plan may present barriers – especially when you need to scale beyond 25 users, or need advanced, built-in capabilities such as data loss prevention (DLP). While cloud solution options can be changed, do yourself a favor and assess your needs upfront to avoid disruptions.
 
2. Know your options and your limitations. While you don’t have to worry about managing software in-house, an often overlooked consideration is that if you plan on sharing passwords between Office 365 and workstation access and desktop software, then you need to plan for long-term Exchange coexistence. Office 365 and its Exchange Online component will execute email, but there needs to be an Exchange Server in-house to manage single sign-on. Considerations such as this, along with whether you want to migrate email all at once or in a phases, or whether you want to use third-party migration tools, should be assessed upfront.
 
3. Clean up. The junk in/junk out axiom for IT also holds true for cloud solutions in some respects. Many small to mid-sized companies (SMBs) choosing Office 365 will want to integrate Office 365 with Active Directory to allow for sharing of passwords between Office 365 and users’ computers. Active Directory is a central repository for managing user credentials, so if it isn’t cleaned up first, it becomes very difficult to create a seamless experience for users. Similarly, Exchange Server data should be cleaned up before migrating it to Office 365.
 
4. Assess which management tools are best fit. Office 365’s Web-based administration console suits many smaller companies for functions such as creating and managing user accounts, but for more complex management of the cloud solution, larger SMB organizations may be better served by using PowerShell, Microsoft’s command line and scripting environment for system administration. Knowing which sorts of functions need PowerShell—such as being able to automatically adopt existing folder permissions—is part of the due diligence involved in assessing management needs.
 
5. Stay current with supporting technology. Office 365 not only offers users the latest versions of Office software and collaboration tools, the apps have compatibility with previous generation of Office suites and Microsoft operating systems, but only a couple of generations back. For instance, Windows XP is end of life and is no longer compatible with Office 365. The bottom line is that organizations using Office 365 are always going to get the latest software, but they’ll finally have to move away from older generation products such as XP and Office 2003 to ensure compatibility.
 

None of these assessment factors is an insurmountable barrier to gaining significant value from Office 365. But if you ignore them, they can easily turn into pitfalls that disrupt and add costs to a rollout.

Overall, Office 365 has great potential — it reduces your IT burden while giving you access to the latest software on multiple devices. Just take the time to avoid these pitfalls, make sure all critical factors get addressed, and consider bringing in a proven IT Managed Services partner to guide you through a smooth deployment.

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With more than two decades of experience, the iCorps IT consulting team is dedicated to delivering excellence to our customers by staying ahead of market trends and understanding new technologies that could impact their business. iCorps delivers superior IT outsourcing, IT support and technology solutions implemented by the best consultants in the BostonPhiladelphia and New York (NY) areas.