So, you’ve decided that moving your on-premises content to the cloud is the right solution for your business. But what comes next?
Whether you’re hoping to go all in on Office 365 or go hybrid, you want to make sure your business makes the most informed decisions and doesn’t rush the migration process. A stress-free Office 365 implementation is a significant project and takes careful planning, prudent decision-making and time.
Fortunately, there are many things you can do to safeguard the process and fine-tune the workflow to get the deployment up and running.
To help your business make the right choices, we’ve created this Office 365 implementation checklist:
Don’t overdo it – break up the migration process and take one step at a time.
As with any other project, start planning your Office 365 implementation by deciding on the priorities and objectives to get things started.
Don’t be tempted to tackle all implementation tasks at once. Rather, break up the migration process into separate workstreams with allocated timeframes that allow you to keep track of the pace of the deployment, while keeping individual tasks serialized.
Always leave enough time to properly plan, prepare, and execute the process. However, don’t think of the individual migration as completely self-contained – tasks outlined in the planning and preparation parts may occur simultaneously while preparation tasks and those planned for your migration part are likely to overlap some of the time.
Part 1: Plan your Office 365 implementation
To get the ball rolling, start your Office 365 implementation project by gathering information about your current IT environment and developing deployment strategies for Office 365.
Get everyone on board
Schedule an initial meeting to launch your Office 365 implementation project and familiarise your deployment team with the overall goals and scope of the project. Clarify and confirm all responsibilities so everyone knows what their role will be.
Know your IT infrastructure
Collect information about your existing IT environment. This provides a a snapshot of the current technology solutions implemented by your business. Take note of this and check if your on-premises environment meets the requirements for an Office 365 setup:
- Servers and components
- Network architecture and DNS
- Authentication solutions
- Directory design
- Mail routing
- Hardware and software
- Mail and other client applications
- Mail archiving and compliance
To help you with the inventory, Microsoft provides Office 365 readiness checks. This means an automated tool will establish the configuration requirements for the services you want to set up and then perform readiness checks against your on-premises environment to check that the requirements are met. We then inform you of any issues in your environment that might delay the deployment of Office 365.
Another useful resource is the Microsoft Assessment and Planning (MAP) toolkit. This is an automated, multi-product planning and assessment toolthat delivers detailed readiness assessment reports, as well as comprehensive hardware and software information, and actionable advice to help you speed up your IT infrastructure planning process and collate further information on assets within your current on-premises environment.
Outline an implementation agenda
Decide upon a migration agenda to schedule your Office 365 implementation tasks and track the workstream progress.
Decide on a mailbox migration strategy
Decide whether you need to purchase any third-party email migration toolsets and check on hardware requirements.
Assess mailbox size and item counts
Confirm the size of your mailboxes and the amount of items in those mailboxes that you will migrate to Office 365 (mailbox size and item count, along with available network bandwidth, will impact your migration speed).
Identify existing business-related content that needs to be migrated
Establish which files, folders or any other existing business-related content needs to be moved from your on-premises environment to Office 365. If you plan to migrate Office templates, bear in mind that upgrading your Office client could lead to file format changes and therefore to issues when trying to launch built-in macros in a template.
Learn about different options for user identity and account provisioning
Office 365 provides various mechanisms to add employees to the service and manage user accounts.
Define your email coexistence strategy
Email coexistence is a key feature offered by Office 365. For businesses with Exchange Server environments, email coexistence allows a connection to be established between the on-premises environment and Exchange Online.
Test network bandwidth
Test the bandwidth of your business’s network to calculate migration speed.
Choose your mobile platforms
Plan for any changes required to the mobile platforms used by your business with the move to Office 365. Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync enables employees to synchronize their mobile devices with their Exchange Online mailboxes.
Create a communications strategy
You will need to schedule notifications for employees to let them know when they will need to start working with Office 365 and provide clear instructions on what they will need to do to switch to the cloud environment smoothly.
Part 2: Prepare your move to Office 365
In the second part of your Office 365 implementation project, focus on cleaning up your on-premises environment to prepare for the migration.
Add and confirm your domain name with Office 365
Add your domain name to Office 365 via the Microsoft Online Services Portal and create the DNS records to send domain traffic to Office 365.
Clean up your on-premises Active Directory for directory synchronization
Prepare your on-premises Active Directory (and update, if necessary) for synchronization with Office 365.
Enable single sign-on
Install and configure identity federation servers on-premises and activate the single sign-on service.
Install the Directory Synchronization Tool and synchronize
Install and configure Directory synchronization servers on-premises and activate Directory Synchronization to provision user accounts for an Exchange hybrid deployment.
Configure your email coexistence
Install and configure Exchange hybrid servers on-premises to allow communication between your existing Exchange servers and Exchange Online.
Configure SharePoint Online
Prepare for the deployment of any custom SharePoint solutions and migration of existing SharePoint content.
Configure Lync Online
Configure domain federation and public IM connectivity settings to boost your network for Lync conferencing.
Install client applications and Office 365 desktop setup
Install client applications and deploy the Office 365 desktop setup to ensure client applications are updated and configured for Office 365.
Part 3: Take the final steps: Going all in on Office 365
It’s now the time to move your mailboxes and business-related content from your on-premises environment to Office 365. Here’s what you need to do:
If not completed in the preparation part, assign licenses to employees through the Microsoft Online Services Portal to grant access to Office 365. Enable Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, and Lync Online.
Inform of the migration
Communicate to your employees on when the migration is going to happen, how long it will take, and what they need to do to switch to the new platform.
Start to migrate mailboxes to Exchange Online (use your selected Exchange migration tools or third-party solutions). To speed this up, you may need to reduce the size of mailboxes.
Move existing files and folders
You can use third-party migration tools to move existing Office documents and templates from your existing on-premises environment to Office 365.
Change DNS records
Once all migrations are complete, change your DNS records to your domain registrar.
Configure mobile phones and devices for Office 365 You will need to set up user mobile phones along with any other mobile devices to access emails and Office documents on the go. Another option is to send out clear instructions to your employees on how to connect to Office 365 from their mobile devices.
On the subject of mobility in the workplace don’t forget that in order to work with Office templates on mobile devices, you may need to rethink your template management approach, particularly if your Office templates contain VBA code (your employees will only be able to use them on a classic Office client on a PC).
Perform a post-migration service testing
After all migrations are completed, you will need to perform a full-scale testing of the Office 365 service functionality.
Finally, check your Office templates
The final step is to test your most important Office Templates to see if they launch correctly upon the move and examine whether there have been any faulty changes in style and formatting. If any of your Office templates link to other Office files or integrate with CRM or ERP systems, test those connections too (you might experience security warnings which will need to be dealt with).
Remember that no migration is perfect, but careful planning is the best way to prepare for your Office 365 implementation.