Any Small Business considering a move to cloud based services should make sure that they engage a professional to ensure the best outcome. Cloud platforms like Microsoft’s Office 365 provide a slew of great benefits and features. Any migration to Microsoft’s Office 365 from an existing on-premise Office suite requires help in order to successfully negotiate the nuances of moving apps and data smoothly to the cloud.

Microsoft themselves recommend hiring third-party consultants who specialize in 365 Office migrations – and these type of shifts to the cloud are now becoming more and more common. However, identifying a consultant that is up to date on these kind of maneuvers is critical.

A recent Forrester report: “Market Overview: Microsoft Office 365 Implementation Partner Ecosystem”. Clearly states that “Microsoft clients need service providers to help them take advantage of the cloud…Partners are essential to Office 365…”

A complex endeavor such as moving over to Office 365 software as a service is a complicated process. What may seem like a simple case of moving files from one source to another is in fact chock full of danger zones that may not be readily apparent. While most in-house IT staff can likely find their way through the maze of the process, having access to professional support from someone who has done this before is invaluable. Doing this the first time is fraught with potential missteps, while having the counsel of someone who has done this process many times over makes the difference. It’s not advisable to be the first person to explore an unknown jungle – particularly when the ramifications of any misstep can result in shutting down operations or losing critical information.

Common issues associated with Office 365 migrations include possible loss of software functionality, function redundancy, security leaks, archiving, duplication of data, cost, licensing and authentication. It is advised to make the Office 365 migration in pieces or stages to mitigate any issues. The two common applications that are targeted for migration are the Office Suite products and email solutions.

Most businesses choose email (or Exchange Online) as their first Office 365 adoption. Depending on the current on-premise setup, email migrations can be a nerve-racking experience given the importance and reliance that all companies have on their email communications systems. Hybrid deployments, which involve a combination of on-premise, Exchange servers and Office 365 can be the most challenging.

Hybrid deployments are sometimes chosen as a temporary framework as the company moves to the cloud as this arrangement addresses business continuity in the event of an outage. Having dual platforms offers a secure backup system and at the same time allows the company a comfortable cushion as it transitions over to a full cloud commitment. This type of scenario would require an on-premise Exchange Server plus Office 365 in concert with on-site or third party archiving. In order to move from on-premise to the cloud and back again on demand, businesses will require mailbox freedom.

Businesses are becoming more comfortable hiring third party IT consultants to plan and implement migrations to cloud based services like Office 365. A 2012 Forrester study found that 19% of IT decision makers used consultants for planning, and 26% reported to hire consultants to perform the implementation of those services. In 2013 these numbers jumped to 41% hiring consultants for planning and 40% for deployment.

There are many reasons to hire an outside expert – and they are not just implementation support. Third party IT experts are solid investments for longer term planning as the migration initiatives grow and begin to impact other services and aspects of the business. IT consultants know where the bodies are buried and spend time and money on certifications and training for cloud based services. Many times their service contracts also allow quicker access to licensing agreements and cost saving processes.


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