What to consider before moving to Office 365

March 8, 2017

 

Although Microsoft cloud services have been a great success and many companies are now migrating their content to Office 365, there is something you should know before making this move.

 

After almost 4 years developing solutions for Office 365 and migrating customers to SharePoint Online I can certainly say that Office 365 is not the flawless service that we’d like.

 

Obviously, Office 365 has many benefits that make it such an appealing service; such as price, convenience, low maintenance, continual updates and so on. However, what Microsoft does not show is how frequent the SharePoint Online service is under maintenance, or in restoration mode. Even updates on the service can make the whole difference to your day by breaking your previously trouble free solution.

 

That said, here is our list of considerations before moving to Office 365:

 

1- Availability

 

Microsoft guarantees 99.98% up time on their Office 365 services. However, having the environment slow due to maintenance, service restoration and services in degraded states such as One Drive for Business not syncing due to an update, do not fall in these numbers as they are not considered down time, but certainly will affect user experience at best and render layered solutions inoperable.

 

You need to consider some backup plan such as storing the critical information locally, and working out how your business can run daily without being affected by a partial outage or even the 0.02% of the year when the service is actually down.

 

2- Bandwidth

 

Cloud computing is great and saves you a lot of time and money. However, what is forgotten sometimes is that it relies entirely on your connectivity to the internet.

 

Bandwidth is a big player in this because if you do not have a fast internet connection everything is going to be slow. It may not seem like a big deal at the beginning but workloads tend to creep up in volume and when all staff rely entirely on the company bandwidth to do get their job done, it can get very slow.

 

In Australia it is particularly common to have poor upload throughput even if your download is fast, and both upload and download are important for efficient use of cloud platforms.

 

You need to consider carefully your internet plan and your network infrastructure in order to have a quick transition (where upload is of paramount importance) and efficient ongoing access.

 

3- Training

 

Many companies skip this step thinking their staff are perfectly capable using Microsoft Office, therefore, they would automatically know Office 365. Well,  if you want to take full advantage of your subscription that’s the wrong approach.

 

Office 365 is fairly simple to use and quite intuitive, however, many of your staff will require some level of training to get their job done in this new way. Also, Office 365 is not only about Microsoft Office, it got its own web application such as Delve, Yammer, PowerApps, SharePoint Online and so on.

 

Your staff will most certainly need some level of training to get the best of Office 365 and not get stuck.

 

4- Application Development

 

Office 365 is very flexible in terms of custom development allowing your company to build its own Office Apps in order to boost your productivity. However, building Apps for Office 365 needs some consideration.

 

Office 365 is a live service provided by Microsoft which updates it almost in a daily basis. Every day you can see minor and major bug fixes being deployed which sometimes can affect your App.

Mostly, changes on the Office API, service restoration which may remove the permissions of your App and some outages, on apparently unrelated services, can bring your App down. If you are planning to build an App that is critical to your business, you have to consider all these scenarios in order to avoid a complete operational nightmare.

 

When these events happen you will be entirely reliant on Microsoft support. Support is quite responsive but not always helpful. Support is only provided to troubleshoot the core service due to the variety of changes that could have been made in your Office 365 environment.  Anything done by the application/development team. or anything added as pre-built app is not in scope of Office 365 and you’ll need support arrangements with respective solution providers.  It’s a difficult area as problems that mysteriously appear, also tend to fix themselves without any acknowledgement that there was an Office 365 problem.  The onus of proof that the Office 365 service is at fault is on you!

As a business, you will find yourself waiting, with your system down, until the issue is acknowledged or fixed by Microsoft.

 

5- Security

 

Microsoft guarantees your data safety, it is all encrypted and nobody has access of your files unless you say so. And here is there problem.

 

When moving to the cloud, many people get scared about content leakage, hackers getting to your data and other increasingly worrying breaches we see on the news. Microsoft covers all this, Office 365 is very secure and you can be quite confident that your data is not going to be hacked. However, the issue is the internal security. 

 

With all your data stored in the cloud, everything being accessible from anywhere, any device at anytime, you need to consider a good internal security policy, setup the compliance capabilities, review your SharePoint permissions ensuring critical documents are not accessible by the wrong employees on search or via many other possible means.

 

It may seem like there are a lot of negatives to Office 365 and that is not the point of this article.
The take away is to be aware of the considerations and pitfalls so that you can mitigate and manage around any negatives.

 

The positives of office 365 far outweigh the negatives and they are minor in comparison to on premise options. 

 

If you have recently moved or are planning to move to Office 365 you need to consider these 5 points to avoid any surprises.

 

Within Reach Software can perform a needs assessment and gap plan to determine the right architecture for you, whether that be entirely Office 365 and cloud (such as Azure), Hybrid, or On Premise.  Please don’t hesitate to contact us for expert advice.

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