Moving to Office 365: Top 10 Things You Should KnowYou've been thinking about moving to Office 365. You know it offers some great capabilities while helping reduce some costs, but you need to convince management it’s the right move.

There is a lot to take into consideration, but these 10 talking points should help you explain your recommendations to management.

1. The Advantages and Challenges of a Public Cloud

Office 365 is a SaaS (software as a service) offering, hosted by Microsoft. This is a public cloud service, so it comes with a number of potential concerns -- availability and security being the two biggest ones.

There are a number of benefits to a SaaS offering like Office 365: you pay a monthly subscription for your site and nothing more, you get most of the standard SharePoint features, and you can work with external partners much more easily than in an on premises SharePoint implementation. Plus your employees can work anytime, anywhere.

But you are playing by Microsoft’s rules, which means there are some things you can’t do -- like install your own custom solutions. And you have to trust that Microsoft will secure your content appropriately and have your site available whenever you need it. It’s not unusual for SaaS services to become unavailable for periods of time, so make sure you understand what Microsoft’s terms of service are and decide if you can live with them.

2. The Hard Costs: On Premises vs. Cloud

There’s a big cost to SharePoint on premises, including hardware and software -- SharePoint is not exactly an inexpensive option. Add to these costs the resources required to maintain and administer SharePoint and you can clearly see dollar signs in your eyes everywhere.

Office 365 is subscription based, so you pay a monthly fee to use it. There are different subscription levels, depending on your needs, so make sure you know what each level provides in terms of services.

For example:

  • Office 365 Small Business (up to 25 users): $5.10/user/month
  • Office 365 Small Business Premium (up to 25 users): $13.25/user/month
  • Office 365 Mid-Sized Business (up to 300 users): $15.40/user/month -- adds desktop versions of Office apps
  • Office 365 Enterprise (3 different levels) ranging from $8.20 - $25.50/user/month

Each level gives you a few more things -- it might be more space, desktop tools, Exchange Online, enterprise social networking with Yammer, etc. Note that all Office 365 subscriptions include a OneDrive for Business account.

Which brings us to the Exchange part of the equation. Have you implemented Exchange on premises for email? Then you might not want a version of Office 365 that includes Exchange. Or you might want to migrate your Exchange to Office 365, eliminating those hardware, software and resource costs. But what happens if you continue to use your on premises Exchange? How does that affect your Office 365 subscription?

3. Migrating Your Existing Content

It’s unlikely you will start your Office 365 site from scratch. It’s reasonable to assume you will have a lot of content you will want to migrate into the new environment, which means you have some planning to do.

I strongly recommend that you don’t do a straight copy unless your environment is exactly the way you want it. It’s more likely you have some changes you want -- or need -- to implement. So take some time to plan how the migration will occur and what tool you will use to do it.

When you are selecting migration tools, take into consideration how fast the tool will work, how many (and what types) of changes you can do to your content during the migration process, and also what objects might not be supported through migration.

That’s right, there are unsupported objects in Office 365 -- like templates -- that you will have to look at and decide what to do with.

Migration is not a simple process, so plan carefully.

4. Backup Your Office 365 Content

Once you move your content to Office 365, you’ll need to employ a backup process. Microsoft does offer a degree of backup and restore for Office 365, so take a look at what they offer out-of-the-box and decide if that’s enough for you.

More likely it won’t be and you will want to employ another solution for ensuring your data is backed up and protected outside of Office 365. It’s possible you might want to backup to another cloud environment, or you may want to backup to an on premises server. It’s also possible you might want to do local backups to your desktop for certain team sites, or site collections.

The key is to know what how often content will change, what content is the most critical to have local copies of, and whether you are happy with incremental backups or need daily full backups.

5. Office 365 Security

Security is a major concern of every organization. You want to be sure your information is well protected and accessible only to those who need it. When you plan your Office 365 environment think about the content you have and how it’s created and shared. This will help you plan how to structure your sites and libraries/lists. If there’s specific content you need to share with outside parties, such as partners, suppliers, agencies, etc., you’ll need think about where to place that content, what type of permissions to set on it and what kind of IRM policies will need to be applied. In addition, consider how DLP (data loss prevention) may be required, especially if the information you want stored in Office 365 is highly sensitive. Here are some guidelines I put together for managing your Office 365 permissions.