Three tools to help your Office 365 migration run smoothly

Three tools to help your Office 365 migration run smoothly

Summary: The Exchange, SharePoint and Lync Online servers in Office 365 are almost the same as the on-premise servers; but migrating to and running Office in the cloud is still easier with a little help

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Office 365 has passed SharePoint as Microsoft's fastest growing product: at the company's financial analyst meeting recently, Kevin Turner called it the fastest growing product in the history of Microsoft.

It makes perfect sense for businesses; every business needs email, but buying your own mail server and paying Exchange experts to run it doesn't make your business stand out at all. Buy email as a service from Microsoft and you can spend the money on something that differentiates your business.

But getting onto Office 365 isn't necessarily painless, especially if you don't already have Exchange; migrating from desktop mail apps that have been grabbing mail via POP or IMAP means spending time on every PC to get messages transferred to the server.

SkyKick has a service that walks Microsoft partners through the steps of a migration, with tools that automate a lot of the process - from finding the email address of everyone you need to migrate to getting them to install the new Office software on their PC.

The reason Microsoft partners are signing up in their thousands to resell Office 365 isn't just that they can't sell you Small Business Server any more, it's that they can build tools that add extra features and management to Office 365.

We asked En Pointe Technologies (one of the larger Office 365 partners) which tools they were finding the most useful and their cloud architect Ramin Archer gave us a list of three; one for migrating onto SharePoint Online; one for managing identity and single sign on; and one for monitoring the applications once you're there. 

While Exchange Online is almost exactly the same as the on-premise version (except you can't run the PowerShell that allows your users to get their email on more than ten devices), SharePoint Online has some limitations.

If you run custom code on SharePoint, you're going to have to run that on Azure and connect to it from SharePoint Online. Even if you only have your own taxonomy for organising documents and personalising search, you need to migrate that - and you want to do it without losing metadata, version history and any tags and keywords applies to the files.

Archer recommends MetaVis, because it keeps all of those, even when you migrate public folders. "Customers would try to move the data over manually, which would result in the loss of the ever important meta data," he told us. "We also saw issues with file names concerning special characters which would not migrate over." MetaVis keeps all of those intact when you migrate your SharePoint files online.

If you want to let users log into to both Office 365 and other systems with their Active Directory account and password, you need to set up single sign-on (SSO). You can use Active Directory Federation Services to allow Office 365 sign in relatively easily, but it's more complicated when you want it to work with other services. Plus, this makes your Active Directory a point of failure for cloud services, so you need to make sure it's going to stay running - and if you're moving to the cloud because you don't want the cost and effort of buying and running your own servers, beefing up your on premise Active Directory to cope with SSO seems counter-intuitive.

Okta is a cloud-based SSO that can integrate multiple apps - like Gmail and Salesforce as well as Office 365. Archer likes Okta so much he's going to run En Pointe's own SSO with it.

Office 365 has a good SLA and uptime is excellent; for the quarters between July 2012 and June 2013 it's been available 99.98 percent, 99.97 percent, 99.94 percent and 99.97 percent of the time (you can see the latest figures at http://trustoffice365.com/). And you can see the status of all the Office 365 services in the admin portal.

That's not enough information for some admins, who are used to getting a lot more detail about the performance of in-house servers and applications.

Archer recommends Exoprise's Cloud Ready which gives you real time statistics, trends and performance tracking by running synthetic transactions on the Office 365 service. That lets you keep an eye on logon times and compare them with what other Office 365 users are seeing.

"The monitoring service provides IT administrators with visibility into the entire Office 365 structure, ranging from online transaction response times, to Active Directory Federation services and even network and bandwidth utilisation," Archer told us. If there's a problem you'll know about it before users complain.

Running services in the cloud means you're letting the service provider do a lot of the work. Adding your own tools to integrate and monitor cloud services means you don't have to give up all the control and as the Office 365 platform matures, we'll see a lot more of the tools you've had for enhancing on premise services showing up for the cloud too.

Further reading

Topics: Cloud, Collaboration, Enterprise Software, Microsoft, Servers

Mary Branscombe

About Mary Branscombe

Mary Branscombe is a freelance tech journalist. Mary has been a technology writer for nearly two decades, covering everything from early versions of Windows and Office to the first smartphones, the arrival of the web and most things inbetween.

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11 comments
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  • Another solution

    Simply do not use Office 365. It is nothing but a scheme by MS to make you pay forever instead of a one-time payment. Box-purchased Office has worked well enough for me for many years -- without having to pay for every update whether or not I use it, increased bandwidth costs, plus all the dangers of using the cloud.

    Doc
    Doc.Savage
    • That's why they have Office 2013.

      It doesn't need the cloud, it's not a subscription, and it's, well, Office.

      My dad's doing a jump from 2002 -> 2013 after using 365 as a trial run.

      There's nothing wrong with the old Office, it's just that, you know, it's really old.
      ForeverCookie
    • So don't buy it...

      But I found the ability to access my applications on multiple systems, have my calendars shared with others (exchange capabilities), shared email boxes and similar just too much to not purchase and use Office 365.
      Technocrat@...
    • Office 365 is more than just the Office apps

      I don't think the boxed copy of Office gives you Exchange with multi-gigabyte mailbox space; think beyond the desktop apps for the Office 365 service ;-)
      mary.branscombe
  • Not the kind of story I expected

    This story is more about Microsoft's leveraging Office365 into the niche for which it is a best fit and primarily talking about the Outlook/Exchange server and support. No surprise that this part of the business is booming. It's where it offers a real advantage.

    What I want to know is the degree of success of Office365 outside this zone in the wider market? That's where it's cost becomes a real-world disadvantage.
    RaulYbarra
  • Should you migrate?

    I recently wrote two office 365 migration series with 1 specifically on "Should I migrate?" that covers some of the concerns and worries many have. It's definitely not for everyone and you should always start by asking, does it help my company be more profitable/productive.
    http://en.share-gate.com/blog/should-i-migrate-to-sharepoint-on-office-365-part-2
    bniaulin
    • Tools

      Also there are many tools out there and depending on the need, a tool like Sharegate could help specifically on the SharePoint side of things
      bniaulin
      • SuiteMoves

        If you're interested in a simple to use, cost effective file migration tool check out SuiteMoves by the Suite team - www.thefullsuite.com
        Andrew.Sims
  • Migration Doesn't Need to be Hard With The Right Tools

    We've been in the business of migrating businesses to Office 365 for about 18 months now and have seen many issues along the way. I even wrote about file migration back in August 2012 (http://thefullsuite.com/blogposts/cloud-computing.aspx#content).

    We work with smaller businesses and generally the file migration tools have been built for enterprise businesses - they cost too much and they do to much. Most smaller businesses really only want SharePoint Online for file management. So we built SuiteMoves. It literally picks up your file system and migrates it to SharePoint Online automating responses to all the issues encountered along the way. We recently migrated 80,000 files to a site and only had 8 files that required manual intervention - most tools have at least 5% of files requiring manual intervention or you need to restructure your file system, which isn't required when using SuiteMoves.

    www.thefullsuite.com


    PS: SkyKick have a great product - we use them whenever possible for mail migrations!!!
    Andrew.Sims
  • Great Product & Service - But there are hidden costs too!

    Office 365 is a mix of products and services. As a product, you get the latest versions of Office Software and as a service, you get Email, SharePoint and Lync. Together these are great software and extremely valuable for anyone from small business to large enterprises. As a home user, or Student, you can go for respective subscriptions for Home/Business or University. For enterprise, hidden costs are in its administration as system requires the knowledge of Exchange/SharePoint in order to fully utilise the features for day to day use. POP/SMTP is dead. IMAP is fading as people need their emails, contacts and calendars in one place and accessible from variety of devices. I bet, once you are an Office 365 user, you will forget the world.
    sharadka
  • Thank you for sharing - Great Tips

    I think that Exchange Server Migration is a very delicate project and to be taken very seriously as it is a detailed work as well. You are giving us some great tips.

    Some Articles I would like to share as well:

    Exchange Server Migration to the Cloud
    It takes a lot of time and effort to get it right. Thank you for helping

    Here some information about services for helping you with migrations
    Peterjacksontechy