Should I migrate to SharePoint on Office 365? Part 1

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As a speaker in numerous SharePoint conferences, as well as with my own customers, I am often faced with answering SharePoint questions. One that I am hearing more and more is “Should I migrate to Office 365? Is it right for me?” No doubt about it, it’s where Microsoft wants you to go, through the marketing and the changes we have seen, Office 365 is one of Microsoft’s biggest bets. But you don’t work to get the latest Microsoft products or features, you are trying to make sure that what you do is better for your business, adds value and shows a return. This article aims to help you answer that question, but is focused on the SharePoint side of Office 365.

What is Office 365 – An Overview

Before we can even attempt to look at a migration to Office 365, we need to understand what is being offered. What exactly is Office 365?

Migrate to Office 365

Through the arrival and increased popularity in all things cloud, we see a growing need for IT as a service, expectations for services available for your company have changed as well. Many companies prefer paying for services, which they will not need to maintain and operate internally and have it work for their needs. This allows them to focus efforts on bringing business solutions to their problems instead of efforts on those infrastructures. We can say that there are few core needs to every company: Email, Instant Access to people and Collaboration on files.

Email: No doubt about it every company in the world needs to be able to send and receive emails. But not everyone can afford the expertise, time and effort that go into maintaining such an infrastructure. We cannot have email go “down”.

Office 365 offers Exchange as a service, which allows you to do a lot without having to worry about this infrastructure. 

Instance Access to People: In the End User world, it’s been a while since we have been used to instant messaging (ICQ, MSN Messenger, etc…). However, in the office we have had no way to communicate with each other, which has proved to be a challenge with todays growing need to work away from the office. Access to people allows us to reduce the need for internal emails. It helps us access information directly from SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) and attack our emails a lot faster.

Office 365 offers Lync as a service, which gives you real-time presence and instant messaging. But it’s a lot more than that; it also allows you to make voice calls through your computer to others using Lync or Skype both in and outside your organizations. Lastly, you can create pre-planned or on the fly online meetings with people both inside or outside your organization. 

Collaboration on Files: The Shared Drive or File Server has reached a tipping point and no longer delivers on the needs of today’s technology advanced users. A physical folder structure on a company server allows for documents to only live in one folder or another. This limits our classification and findability needs. Access to the documents and basic collaboration needs like content approval or versioning have become expected features by our workforce. Today’s popular and efficient way to work with all kinds of files is by tagging them or assigning Metadata.

Office 365 offers SharePoint as a service, bringing the heavyweight champion platform to the package. SharePoint has long being used as a platform to build Intranets, Extranets, Websites and of course Team Collaboration Sites. It answers to many of the basic collaboration needs we are expecting to have but also allows us to build on and create other web-based solutions for us.

The obvious, when looking at Office 365 and what it offers, we see that migrating to it would remove a lot of cost regarding maintenance. All the servers, configurations, support and anything else needed to keep this in-house is removed and simply provided as a service by Microsoft’s Office 365 solution. But is it right for you to migrate?

I do invite you to visit the Office 365 official site as there are other advantages with it, like getting the Microsoft Office Suite as part of the service.

Why would you want to migrate to Office 365?

That’s a good question and before we continue on in this article, focused on SharePoint migration to Office 365, you need to see a benefit of going to the Microsoft’s Office 365 Suite.

Cost: Let’s face it; this is going to be the number 1 driving factor. Not having to buy the servers, licenses and everything else that goes with that of course. Though the end user will tell you to go buy storage at the local store if you are missing it, we all know that it is a little more expensive that. But let’s take a quick overview, I used a Microsoft tool and put in some numbers for a 200 users company. Mind you these are not real numbers and may not be exact but it does give us an estimate.

Migrate to Office 365

According to this, I would be saving at least 600$ per user per year on 200 users, that’s a lot. Of course not everything applies and you should not take these numbers as a case study.

Updates: If you want your workforce to be up to date with the latest version of everything and benefit from the latest features and integration, Office 365 is great for that. As a subscription model, you benefit from getting free and automatic upgrades to both your services and the products available depending on your plan.

Hassle-free: Hard to put a value on this but for many businesses, to just not have to worry about servers, deployments and everything else that comes with having your own IT department and in-house servers. It is definitely a great feeling, to pay for the service of emails, live meetings and instant communication as well as a platform that allows for collaboration as well as building what you want with it. Of course, some IT folk may be ready this and say “No way! On-Premises is better, it’s my job!” and I understand that. Fact is, the IT world is changing and so will the roles. IT will need to adapt through this transformation period and this means learning new skills. The bottom line is, we work for the business, to help keep it running, increase productivity and of course, profitable. 

In the second part of this article we will look at:

  • Comparing SharePoint On-Premises with Office 365 before migrating
  • Considerations on the migration process to Office 365
  • The legal and compliance worries people have
  • The downsides of migrating to Office 365
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