Key Considerations Before Migrating to Office 365

Companies of all sizes are preparing for their transition to the cloud. Office 365 (O365) will likely be a foundational part of that transition, particularly for small- and medium-sized businesses.  The transition is certain: it’s no longer a question of if, but a matter of when businesses will do it.

For small- to medium-sized business, there are a number of things that must be considered, from internal processes to compliance. While the benefits of migrating to the cloud may be clear: lower operational costs, simplicity, scalability, redundancy, and easy mobile access – the risks are easily overlooked.  We’ve compiled a list of things to consider before making the big move to the cloud.

    1. Data Protection
      Office 365 ChecklistCompanies with highly sensitive data naturally have heightened security needs and would be wise to consider how comfortable they are with having all of their data stored on a public cloud server. While O365 is very secure – it maintains high standards for backup and encryption procedures – migrating entirely to the cloud is effectively entrusting your data to a third party. A solution partner like RVM can help your organization adopt best practices such as minimizing the identity information copied to the cloud, providing policy to block unauthorized access, and employing multifactor authentication and integrated device management. Industry standard security parameters are available and can be customized to fit your organization’s requirements. Depending on the complexity or simplicity of your environment, it may be recommended to look for a hybrid solution where some mailboxes remain on premises as others move to the cloud. This allows you to test as you migrate.
    2. Compliance
      Many businesses today are bound by compliance. While this may have prevented businesses from adopting the cloud in years past, it’s less of a hindrance now that the Financial Conduct Authority has approved cloud usage (including public cloud providers). That said, understanding your company’s compliance responsibilities should still be a consideration before migration.  These may affect your company’s use of document retention and  data export settings, should you need to demonstrate documentation in response to a subpoena or compliance investigation.  Your licensing package, volume of data, and software expertise impact how efficient or inefficient this endeavor can be.
    3. Litigation Readiness
      Often companies overlook the business need to be litigation ready. They look at solutions like O365 as a means to reduce their operational costs related to IT and forget that there may be an impact down the road, like when faced with an SEC subpoena or a civil litigation.  When implementing O365, companies need to  conduct analysis beyond email, and consider additional impacts such as email archive solutions, integration with other business systems, and how to functionally use it to accomplish data exports or other recovery tasks.  Companies often realize their inability to accomplish these things too late, when they are faced with subpoenas and document requests, and end of paying a lot of money to quickly fix what they already spent a lot of money to implement.
    4. Managing Accounts
      For small- or medium-sized businesses, finding a solution to automate the cumbersome process of setting up accounts across cloud apps is crucial to success. Tools that enable provisioning of users for all services can be difficult — especially if you have custom or legacy apps that require complex configuration – but often pay off, as provisioning is typically the easiest way to add new users into the Active Directory. There are a number of options for managing synchronization between Active Directory and O365, supporting third party applications and single sign-on, and providing multiple accounts for multiple applications.
    5. Licensing
      O365 licensing includes many options. Many users will require different levels of access, based on use case. A valuable asset of O365 is the ability to avail the right toolsets to the right users. The platform also enables administrators to track license consumption and availability, reducing costs and simplifying true-ups.
    6. Hands off – Patch Management & Control
      Moving to O365 means giving up control over elements such as the patch management process, software upgrades, and other administrative tasks that could previously be performed on premises. Many organizations use third party utilities to manage their internal servers (Microsoft Exchange, Lync/Skype and SharePoint), but utilities designed to be installed directly on a server won’t work with O365 – as the management is done through O365’s portal. One benefit of remote management is that Microsoft pushes out environment updates regularly, meaning that users will always be running the most recent tools.

Above all, there is no one right answer for all organizations. Each should take the time to consider all the factors mentioned above (and any others that are relevant to the company or industry) and weigh the pros and cons. Should your company elect to migrate to O365, it is critical that you do so strategically, and with consideration for the safety and security of your data. Hiring a company like RVM to oversee the migration can ensure a proper setup protecting your company from threats now and in the future.

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