A couple of years back, Microsoft was pretty much giving Office 365 licenses for free to organizations in the hopes they would join the cloud services future. But it didn't work. Too often, companies were doing nothing with the licenses.
One key reason was the prohibitive costs of migrating. Granted, with time and effort an organization can use the built-in tools, make the connection to Office 365, and migrate themselves. But in many cases, IT resources were already stretched pretty thin, which meant finding a professional service firm or consultant to do the job for them -- and those cost more than most companies could justify.
Microsoft needed to do something to control the costs without getting into the professional services game directly. And thus was born the FastTrack program, which aids the migration to any part of the Microsoft Cloud: Office 365, Enterprise Mobility Suite, CRM Online, or Azure.
FastTrack provides free tools and resources, best practices, and setup guides. It also has experts who can assist with the migration process, both through guidance and direct remote assistance. If you need a partner to assist with a more complex migration, Microsoft will connect you with a partner while also ensuring that the price gouging of the past is avoided.
Migrating to Office 365 as a hybrid (on-premises/cloud co-existence plan), as opposed to a direct cutover migration, requires the following:
- Directory sync: You need to connect your on-premises Active Directory to the Azure Active Directory with a directory sync. This just ensures both Active Directories contain the same users, which is necessary for the migration of the mailbox.
- Identity management: I recently explained the identity management migration paths. You have to decide between two sign-on paths. One is same-sign-on, where you either sync the password between the two directories and the users can use the same password to sign on and the account is verified in the cloud. The other is single-sign-on solution through Active Directory Federation Services, where the verification is performed on-premises. Or you might go with a third-party solution.
- Hybrid Configuration wizard: You should have a latest version of Exchange (currently 2016) to run the hybrid configuration wizard. Although you can use Exchange 2010 or 2013, you won't get as smooth a process as with Exchange 2016.
Once connected, you can onboard and offboard mailboxes at will. It sounds simple, but the reality is a bit more complex when you’re in the thick of it. A quick way to see how involved it might be is to use Microsoft's Deployment Assistant to see the list of configuration steps involved.
A successful migration ultimately concludes with user adoption. I recently outlined ways IT can increase user excitement for Office 365 (or any new tool) by offering pre-migration training. Free resources from the FastTrack program can help titillate users about the new features coming their way.
The FastTrack offering continues to evolve as well. For example, it can now move organization’s files to OneDrive for Business from file shares, Google Drive, and Box.
It’s a winning formula. FastTrack helps you develop a strategy and make the move to Microsoft Cloud solutions at no cost or at least a low cost. Getting people into Office 365 and then using its tools is a good goal to have, and Microsoft making it that much easier is even better.