For most organisations, it’s hard to see their future email environments continuing to be deployed and supported on-premise. The clamour for cloud is deafening and with email solutions being so time consuming and complex to manage, Office 365 is the service most businesses will seriously look at first.
The pros of moving to Office 365 are well documented, however the act of migration requires careful planning and, in our experience, many organisations significantly underestimate some of the considerations necessary to make the migration a success.
Having worked with our customers on a number of Office 365 projects, we’ve highlighted three major challenges that every organisation thinking of a move, should be mindful of. Each has the potential to hamper the performance of Office 365 and in some cases, may create serious issues with the entire service.
- Identity follows the user not the device
In the “good old days”, identity usually gravitated around the device and not the user. Microsoft licensing terms enabled companies to license by device or by user, but as most organisations had fewer devices than people, most software deployments were typically licensed by device. In the new Microsoft cloud-first world however, Office 365 is licensed per user and in enrolling for the service, separate user credentials are created in Office 365’s Azure Active Directory for every member of staff. As most organisations operate on-premise Active Directory for identity management, this creates the instant problem of managing two sets of credentials. There are various ways to tackle this challenge, including selective synchronisation from the on-premise Active Directory to Office 365 or synchronising password changes made within the cloud to the on-premise Active Directory.
Challenges arise for IT teams and users when two sets of credentials are in play. Internal service desks experience more calls as users forget credentials and lock themselves out of systems, whilst headaches for IT are created as multiple credentials need to be managed.
The good news is there are ways to mitigate these challenges and arrive at a single set of credentials for both on-premise and Office 365 systems. However, it’s imperative identity management be taken into account at the planning stage, as whilst not impossible, picking through this post-move is much more difficult and intrusive.
- You don’t want your data going dark
Moving to Office 365 is liberating for your users. In some cases, users can activate up to ten devices on their Office 365 subscription, which means it’s possible to work “on the go” on almost any device.
Consequently, IT teams need to give serious thought to the data flows that begin to emerge in this new environment. It’s common that company data will quickly reside on a plethora of devices, many of which may not be company owned. As such, there’s a very real possibility that Office 365 will make it easier for users to create and store “dark data”; that is data that IT teams will have no knowledge of, let alone visibility. Office 365 therefore brings into sharp focus the importance of data governance, especially with new laws on the horizon like the EU’s GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), which will be severely punitive for organisations who hold EU citizen data and can’t account for its whereabouts. Again, there are several tools to help manage this potential scenario and even the possibility of driving users to access the service exclusively through the web app, which by default keeps data centralised. Of course, it’s better to be aware of these scenarios prior to implementation and before problems have a chance to spiral, so again it is imperative that the potential for “dark data” is addressed during the planning stage.
Similarly, just like any service, Office 365 is not infallible and whilst service uptime is generally good, it won’t be available all of the time. Credence needs to be given to the importance of data availability and what you do in the event of a catastrophe or even unplanned downtime. There is scope to run concurrent services that mitigate this with providers like Mimecast, but attention needs to be given to the amount of downtime that is tolerable for a service like email.
- Mobility is great, but needs to be managed
Office 365 ushers in a new attractive world of mobile working for users and with it, many of the benefits of more productive working practices. However, it’s possible that Office 365 may bypass some, or most, of the Mobile Device Management (MDM) measures already in place. The flexible licensing features of the service mean that a single user license can be used to install Office 365 on a number of personally owned, non-corporate devices such as home PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones. Put simply, wherever it is deployed, Office 365 needs to managed by IT. Therefore, when rolling Office 365 services out, it is important to look closely at the MDM investments already made by the business – in some cases there will be scope to upgrade or reconfigure existing solutions to create the management and security protection needed, in others, the MDM solution in place simply may not be up to the job. No one wants separate tools to manage Office 365 and then everything else, so it may be worth considering the MDM options available within the Office 365 service. Either way, reviewing MDM and planning for mobility management is critical for the project’s success.
There’s no question Office 365 is a fantastic service, but without properly considering these three challenges, migration projects can quickly run into trouble.
Spherica is highly skilled in helping organisations make the move to Office 365 and properly planning their migration, with these challenges and more in mind. If you’re interested in exploring what Office 365 could bring to your organisation, talk to us about one of our Office 365 Assessment Workshops, which quickly help you arrive at a robust plan and will ensure the service delivers the outcomes you expect.