Office 365 - Next Steps to Get Started

Hi. My name is Rick Rietz.  I'm Director of Consulting Services at DMC. Today I'd like to introduce you to Office 365 and tell you how you might want to get started if you've explored some of the features and you are ready to move your business into the Cloud.

I have created a couple other videos about Office 365 – some provide an overview of the different features within Office 365 and some demonstrate Office 365. This concludes the video series by explaining your next steps and how to get started with Office 365. I've boiled this down to 5 steps.

First step: Pick your plan family. Microsoft offers a small business suite, a midsize suite, and an enterprise suite. For most organizations unless you're truly a startup and you're not quite sure if your business is going to survive very long, I would probably not recommend the small business suite. It's maxed out at 25 users, so you cannot add a 26th user. The midsize suite could be appropriate for some businesses. It also has a hard limit; the top end limit is 300 users. You cannot add a 301st user.  One key drawback to consider is that IT support from Microsoft is only available during business hours, it's not 24x7.  For organizations that operate in multiple time zones, I typically recommend the Enterprise family. It has none of the limitations that I just mentioned and includes additional features.

Once you've picked the family that's appropriate for you, I recommend then that you pick the specific offerings that are going to be most appropriate for your business. You can choose each of the features in an a la carte fashion and you just pay for what you actually need. Usually, you'll get a price break if you choose one of the packages. I often recommend either the E1 package which will include Exchange, SharePoint, and Link all for just $8 per-user, per-month. Alternatively, you can choose the E3 package which also throws in the full desktop version of the Office Suite: Excel, Power Point, and Word along with advanced SharePoint and Exchange features. Usually the E1 or the E3 is going to be the best deal, $8 or $20, but you can analyze a breakdown all the different Office 365 components and purchase them a la carte or as a package.

The next step is to figure out how you're going to migrate to Office 365. For email, usually you have to decide “Do I need to convert my existing email?” Perhaps a small organization with a handful of employees can just import existing email via Outlook into their new Office 365 account.  For larger organizations that already have Exchange on-premise, there are built-in tools to move all of your email for the entire organization into Office 365.  Or, you can choose to use a third- party tool. I typically recommend Migration Wiz or SkyKick; they are the best email migration tools on the market. They handle a migration from Exchange, Google, or pretty much any other email system that's out there.  They can be used to migrate all of your email boxes over to Office 365.

A second thing to think about is authentication. Do you want to manage and have single sign-on capabilities so that your on premise systems and your Office 365 suite use the same ID and password? That is what's called Federated IDs or Active Directory Federated Services (and now there is also DirSync plus password sync). 
A step back from Active Directory Federated Services would be just to sync your accounts via DirSync. When you add a new user to your active directory, their ID automatically syncs to Office 365. However, the passwords would be maintained by Microsoft on the Office 365 platform. People can change them at will, but the actual passwords are stored on Microsoft servers.
The other authentication option is to have Microsoft manage the whole thing. This is actually the simplest option.  People can (but don’t have to) pick the exact same ID that they typically use to log on to your own network, and they can choose the exact same password as well. They are not synchronized between on-premise and the Cloud, so they'll have to manage the Office 365 account separately. 

The third thing to think about is how are you going to tackle your SharePoint migration? You may have documents on a network drive or on an on premise SharePoint server. You could actually use the drag-and-drop features of SharePoint and just drag files via your desktop into the Cloud, and they'll automatically sync those files over. You could write PowerShell scripts that will take certain documents or preserve a certain type of hierarchy you may have in place already and replicate that within SharePoint in the Cloud. Thirdly, there are a number of third-party tools that you can purchase to do that. Typically, you don't need a third-party tool unless you're talking about a ton of data. I'd say if you have 50 gigabytes or more of data, it's worth considering actually purchasing a third-party tool like AvePoint or Metalogix.

The fourth thing to think about is to plan out some of the advanced features of your Office 365 platform. If you're going to have SharePoint online as one of your components, you need to plan out the site taxonomy. How is the site content going to be organized? How are you going to navigate between the different sites within your intranet, as well as any project sites that you set up? Within each of those project sites and department sites, you need to pick the specific SharePoint features that you're going to utilize within those sites. You also can set permissions and decide which user groups are going to have full access, read-only access, or no access. Finally, plan out some of the workflows. If you're going to automate some business processes or use SharePoint workflows in which to manage those business processes, you may also choose to do some dashboarding and track some key performance indicators. That would probably be the last step in trying to plan out your advanced features.

Then finally, actually execute the process of purchasing your Office 365 subscriptions. As I mentioned, I do recommend the enterprise suite; there are a ton of a la carte options as well as bundles. Then, they now also offer CRM online, which is a tremendous value at only $65 per user per month. Again, pick your plan family, pick the specific offerings, select your migration strategies, plan out the new features, and then go ahead and purchase your Office 365 subscription.

Microsoft does offer a 30-day trial. We would be more than happy to set you up with that trial and get you started; give you a little taste for it before you buy. Of course, we're more than happy to help you with any migration activities, plan out your new Office 365 platform and help you grow it to really maximize the benefit from it. If you have any questions, please contact DMC. Thank you.
Rick Rietz, Director of Consulting Services, DMC, Inc. 2222 N. Elston Ave., Suite 200 Chicago, IL 60614 (312) 255-8757