Office 365 Migration Steps – A Breakdown of the Migration Process - CWPS

Posted by Gary Utley on March 21, 2018

1._cloud_to_cloud_backup.jpgMigrating a company’s infrastructure to the cloud is the sort of task that can make an IT administrator lose sleep at night.  While most organizations are taking the leap to the cloud, it remains to be seen which of these organizations will conduct their migration seamlessly.  

This article looks at some of the best practices and necessary considerations when mapping out your Office 365 migration steps.

Why We Recommended an Office 365 Hybrid Migration

Unless your organization is a one-stop shop, the steps necessary to transition to the cloud will require a great deal of time and attention. 

When it’s finally time to migrate your on-premise systems to Office 365 in the cloud, there are some basic pre, during, and post-steps that should be followed to help create a seamless experience. 

The pre-work should consist of an evaluative mapping of existing systems to determine how the data should be moved. This process could take months, and if your IT administrator has never completed these tasks, then we highly recommend seeking the guidance of an IT consultancy like CWPS. This is challenging task even for veteran IT personnel.

Here’s what’s at stake: data can be lost, employees may not be able to answer email, calendars and scheduling could break down – and more. Office 365 is designed as a business communication hub. Just imagine what would happen if that hub turned into a broken wheel.

This is why we often recommend an Office 365 hybrid migration, where critical infrastructures are split between on-premise and cloud services, then migrated gradually instead of in one big bang.

Another important step is to consider the bandwidth that it takes to complete the migration. These cloud data migrations are typically bandwidth-intensive; dozens or hundreds of gigabytes or even terabytes are transmitting from on-site servers to the cloud. Remote offices may need to be flagged if the bandwidth available could cause a bottleneck. Fortunately, Microsoft offers an alternate delivery of data via hard disks to their data center. There are also some third-party tools that can help. 

This might be a logical time to consider redundancies in cloud connectivity and network links – a process that is never a bad idea. 

In addition to looking at the impact of migration on current functions, another question to consider is how will staff be trained on these new systems? The cloud deployment of Office 365 will bring new capabilities to teams. Any Office 365 migration steps should include training on the new features, which will improve team efficiencies and innovate workflows. 

Office 365 Migration Steps

The steps taken in order to migrate to Office 365 will vary a bit depending on the method of migration as well as other factors like number of users, current infrastructure, necessary integrations, etc. However, the steps will generally look like this: 

1. Communicate the change to users and verifying domain ownership.

2. Prepare the servers for cutover and creating empty mail-ready security groups in Office 365.

3. Create a migration endpoint by connecting Office 365 to an on-premise email system.

4. Migrate the mailboxes.

5. Provide the users with licenses.

6. Configure the domain to route directly to Office 365.

7. Verify that the routing changed, then deleting the cutover migration batch.

8. Complete post-migration tasks including assigning licenses, creating an auto discover DNS record, and decommissioning any on-premise Exchange servers.

9. Send a welcome message to new users with details on how to sign in and training tips.

But even this relatively simple process must include a great deal of planning to ensure it all rolls off without a hitch. Redmond Magazine published some great tips on ensuring a smooth transition a few years ago that still hold true today. They include:

1. Accurately estimating the migration time commitment for you, your staff, and for the data itself.

2. Don’t skip any steps related to establishing migration architecture to support the transition. For example, if you’re doing a staged migration, you’ll likely need Active Directory Federation Services running on a secondary server to help with identity management between environments.

3. Utilizing a step-by-step test migration process before the actual deployment.

4. Understanding the impact on all existing workflows, employee functions, and even nuances related to software or hardware versioning. Migration can break calendar sharing, for example, so thinking the process through must include those crucial connections to other applications.

5. Make sure your organization understands what is happening by using Microsoft’s Office 365 Health, Readiness, and Connectivity Checks tool. This tool has been helpful in ensuring that the proper configurations are in place before migration.

6. Have a migration plan in place for your clients, as well as all critical business functions. Check browser compatibility, and do a software inventory to head off any interoperability issues.

Taking the time to plan for any technology migration is a crucial part of any successful deployment. There are third-party organizations like IES and tools that have the experience to make this a smooth transition. Remember, this is your migration; you set the timeline and the process that will make – or break – the transition. If you’re feeling organizational pressure to make a fast transition, having a team like IES on your side could not only ensure the success of your migration, but a speedier process.

Office 365 Migration Steps: Some Technical Details to Consider 

In an Office 365 hybrid migration there are some special considerations for technology interfaces, including:

1. Determining the health of your Active Directory and the Azure Active Directory. This should include a process for provisioning new or decommissioning old users. Tackle any of these potential security vulnerabilities now as part of the migration or increase your risk later on. In an Office 365 hybrid migration there are some special considerations for technology interfaces, including:

2. Also look at the health of your Exchange Server. Clear any configuration issues, corruption, or sub-performance before the migration. Any of these issues could slow down or hamper the move to the cloud.

3. If you’re using SharePoint, consider the impact of current customizations that may not be supported in SharePoint Online. Review ownership of the content structures in SharePoint and consider whether the current architectures should be changed or cleansed before the migration.

4. Consider what hardware is tied to the Exchange architecture. For example on-premise email archiving platforms, scanners or other multi-function machines that move documents between staff members, will need to be reconfigured after Exchange Online is deployed. Review any CRM systems that are integrated with Outlook; these configurations will need to be readjusted.

5. Discuss and analyze your firewalls to ensure they fit the Office 365 requirements. For organizations with multiple offices and a dispersed network, there will be new rules related to how these structures are handled.

6. Determine what legacy equipment will be decommissioned. If you have current Microsoft or other licensures, make certain these are retired, along with the equipment, so the organization is eliminating unnecessary payments.

Another technical detail to consider when planning out your Office 365 migration steps is the issue of compliance. Depending upon the type of organization, there may be specific compliance rules related to email archiving or encryption that must be addressed. Is your organization governed by any local, state, or federal rules related to data at rest or data transmittal? Are there geographic limitations related to data storage that may necessitate a private versus a public cloud?

While the CWPS team has a great deal of experience with these issues, it is always a good idea to consult legal counsel around these areas. Talk with your counsel about Office 365 data privacy rules and whether the encryption found within the service also mesh with the compliance rules that govern your organization. If it does not, there are third-party encryption services that will help keep you legal. 

Best Practices for a Successful Office 365 Hybrid Migration 

Developing your unique Office 365 migration steps will help guarantee a seamless transition to the cloud. Any plan should have some standard steps to undertake across any type of organization, including: 

1. How the migration will be phased by department or by office. This phasing is crucial to ensuring your organization will continue to conduct business as usual even during the cloud migration.

2. Rules related to ownership of the various tasks and content affected by the migration.

3. The timeframes for migration and the release of online capabilities and functions offered to your staff.

4. A backup and recovery plan that will take the organization through the migration and beyond. If your organization hasn’t developed a business continuity plan, it should be a logical part of your Office 365 migration steps.

Third-party consultancies like CWPS have been through these migrations dozens of times. IT administrators rarely have thousands of hours of experience in analyzing, planning, and safely migrating the varying frameworks and configurations that make up the heart of your business. Contact us to avoid any pitfalls in your move to the cloud.

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