One of the best ways to set yourself up for success when moving your business to Office 365 is a seamless migration with no downtime for employees. We've helped hundreds of companies migrate to Office 365 and have picked up some tricks along the way.
Follow these steps for a successful migration:
Determine your needs and priorities
The first step in migrating your business to the cloud is to determine your needs and priorities. The overarching question is what do you want to put in the cloud? Is it just email, or are you also trying to move documents and file shares?
You also need to know what your requirements are. For example, if you have specific compliance requirements, you’ll need to know what those are. If your business is heavily dependent on specific programs (like your ERP system) make a list of those, too.
Not everyone in your organization has the same requirements to perform their job: some are deskless workers that only check email on their mobile devices, others use the full suite of Microsoft Office products on their desktop. Get input from key contributors up front so you can incorporate it into your plan.
Regardless of your answer, our suggestion is to go ahead and choose an Office 365 plan that includes file storage (SharePoint and OneDrive). Whether you plan on implementing a file plan in SharePoint or not, everyone should take advantage of OneDrive – each user gets 1TB of space to backup and secure their files. Also, purchasing a bundle of services is cheaper than subscribing to individual service (Email only is $4 user/month whereas the Business Essentials package is $5 user/month).
Get a Microsoft Partner
This step is optional, though we recommend it. If you have a tech-savvy team, you may be able to handle the migration yourself. But if you don’t have much experience with this, it’s better to get an experienced Microsoft Partner involved up front – even if it’s just to help you with the planning phase.
A Microsoft Partner should help answer your questions (including which plans to get), plan your migration, help you purchase your licenses, perform the migration (at a time that isn’t disruptive to your business), and provide post-migration support.
You will want to find a partner with experience moving a company similar to yours (ideally, you’ll find a partner with experience moving companies of all sizes), both in size and requirements.
If a company has lots of experience, but only with migrations from large companies using a corporate email system, they may not know the best migration path for a smaller company and vice versa.
Pick a Plan - or Plans
After you know your requirements, you’ll need to choose your plan(s) based on the requirements you determined. If you’re not sure what to get, your Microsoft partner can help you choose the plans that best fit your needs.
One of the great things about Office 365 is the ability to mix and match plans within your organization and easily move between plans. If you later determine an employee needs a different plan, you can switch them to a different license at any time.
There are a few options to choose from (even more when you consider add-ons and Microsoft 365). You can compare the most popular plans here. Microsoft also has comparisons of small business and enterprise plans.
Some notes about plans:
- If you just want to move your email to the Cloud, you can get an Exchange Online plan for $4/user/month. But Office 365 Business Essentials starts at $5/user/month. It may be worth looking at paying the extra $1-2 month per user to get the online storage and other apps.
- Office 365 Business Premium includes the Office 365 Business Center with apps you can’t get on any other plans (including the more expensive plans).
- Business plans have a maximum limit of 300 of each license type.
- If you need more advanced features, like PSTN conferencing or advanced security features, you may need Office 365 Enterprise E5.
- There are additional features, like Advanced Threat Protection and Exchange Online Archiving available as add-ons.
- If you need to upgrade operating systems, or if security is a top priority for you, you may also want to consider Microsoft 365, which includes Office 365, Enterprise Mobility + Security, and Windows 10 Enterprise.
Plan Your Migration
After you’ve picked your licenses, the next step is to plan your migration. Planning your migration, whether you work with a Partner or do it yourself, is one of, if not the most critical steps. Without a plan, you’re more likely to miss something. It’s much harder to fix something in the middle of a migration than it is to take the extra time to create a plan from the beginning.
The first step in creating a successful plan is to look at how your email/data is currently set up and the way your users access the services. This will help you determine the best way to move your data. It can be done manually or by using an automated migration tool.
During the discovery phase, your partner will also confirm where your current domain and mail records are hosted.
During the planning phase, you’ll need to review and delete any data or old accounts that you do not require. You’ll also need to map out any new workflows, process changes, or compliance settings that will be used with Office 365.
Your migration will likely involve moving some of your data to SharePoint or OneDrive for Business. One of the biggest mistakes we see companies make is just to pick up your files from your physical server and dump them into SharePoint or OneDrive.
If you’re meticulous about file organization now, that may work for you. But if your company struggles with file organization on a physical server, just moving everything over as is isn’t going to change anything. Work on your file organization BEFORE migrating it over. SharePoint includes features like keywords and metadata that can help.
It is best to work out a solid communication plan to send out to all your users. Your communication plan should include what the users should expect the weeks and days leading up to the migration, what to expect the day of the migration, and after the migration is complete. We’ve gone into more detail about what your communication plan should include in this blog post.
Make the Change
Once you have your plan in place, you can make the move. On the move date (which should be predetermined in your plan), you or your Microsoft Partner will actually migrate your information over and make the switch from your old service to Office 365.
The process will vary some from company to company, depending on what data you’re migrating over, but typically the actual migration process looks like this:
- Set up new Office 365 accounts.
- Copy mail (including contacts and calendars) over to Office 365 accounts
- Move any other data over (like stored filed being migrated over to SharePoint or OneDrive). This step is typically where there is the most variation based on what data you’re moving.
- Cut your MX records (your mail records) over to Office 365.
Note: This plan is for a basic migration. Some migrations, especially migrations with customer SharePoint work, will have more steps.
Your users should be able to log in to their new Office 365 account on the next business day with all their old mail already populated in their new account.
That's it! You're done with your migration and your business can start using Office 365.