TIPS FOR GETTING STARTED ON YOUR MICROSOFT 365 MIGRATION

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    Cara Van Ryn

These days, just about every organization is either in Microsoft 365 or wants to be. Before the pandemic, moving to Microsoft 365 was already appealing, and now it’s better than ever for employees either working in the office or at home. If your organization is fully utilizing Microsoft 365, collaboration is easier than ever with Microsoft’s many tools, and you also get to avoid paying for servers or hardware upkeep. The difficulty is that getting into the cloud requires a migration, and a good migration involves a lot of steps, so it can be hard to know where to start. 

The first step is to determine what you currently have. A Microsoft 365 environment has three pillars: Exchange Online, SharePoint OneDrive Online, and Azure Active Directory (AD). Exchange Online takes care of your emails, SharePoint OneDrive Online takes care of your files, and Azure AD takes care of your cloud-managed authentication and domain. During a full migration, you should make sure you meet all these core functions in the order we listed. However, you can choose to only migrate to one or two of these platforms, and you may already have one or more of these platforms implemented, which means you have a head start on your migration.

Generally, the key to a successful migration is careful planning. To give you a place to start, we’ll describe some tips for each pillar of a Microsoft 365 migration, so you can avoid some of the common issues that pop up during the migration process.

EXCHANGE ONLINE

The first step to migrating to Exchange Online should be to clean up your email system before starting the migration. Your IT department should work on the email infrastructure by ensuring you are only purchasing licenses for active individual users and identifying shared mailboxes, inactive staff mailboxes, and unneeded mailboxes. Taking these steps can drastically reduce the monthly cost of licensing and make the migration itself quicker and more efficient.

Next, make sure you install the latest version of the Office Suite on all machines before the migration. Older versions are less compatible with Microsoft 365, and having the licenses for Exchange Online means you already have the licenses for the Office Suite, so there is no reason to keep older, outdated versions with less functionality.

To get your migration started, you need to seed it first. Seeding a migration involves copying all the data over into the new source without cutting over to make it live. Once all data is seeded, it stays in sync with the source until a cutover happens, and all new data becomes accessible at the new destination. This happens in the background over the course of days to weeks depending on the amount of data, and it speeds up the actual cutover process immensely.

Once the seeding is completed, you’re finally ready to schedule the cutover portion of your migration. Try to pick a weeknight and let your employees know that email interruptions may occur throughout the evening. After the migration is finished, be ready to manually reconfigure your staff’s emails on their mobile devices. Mobile devices don’t configure themselves after the migration, which is why you have to do it manually. Taking these steps will result in a faster, smoother email migration with minimal disruption.

SHAREPOINT ONLINE

To begin your migration to SharePoint Online, you want to start with some spring cleaning just like with your Exchange Online migration. By planning out your SharePoint Site Collection architecture and reorganizing your source file system to match, you’ll ensure you don’t exceed any Site Collection limitations when migrating while also giving your staff an easier transition in the process. Furthermore, by taking the additional step of archiving any old data prior to migration, you can save on SharePoint storage space and reduce the overall time it takes to migrate your active files. If you’re not sure where to start with your cleanup, you can always tag in an outside organization like DelCor to help.

To schedule this migration, decide on a weekend (i.e., Friday evening through Monday morning) and communicate to staff that all files will be inaccessible during that time. Unlike with an Exchange Online migration, you don’t need to seed your SharePoint data because most organizations will be moving less than one terabyte of information. This allows you to go with a less disruptive weekend migration, which also allows time for any needed troubleshooting.

Finally, schedule time on the next business day after the migration to provide post-migration training for your staff. This will help your staff get familiar with SharePoint Online so they can take full advantage of the improved efficiency of the new system.

AZURE AD

Before starting your migration to Azure AD, it’s important to understand what role Active Directory plays in your organization. First, Azure AD is simply the cloud version of Active Directory, which is a tool that acts like a phonebook for your users. In more detail, Active Directory is a structure used to manage users and computers, and it acts as a mechanism for assigning users access to objects and organizing those objects for ease of access. By migrating to Azure AD, you’re moving this structure for the management of your workstations and users into the cloud and out of onsite servers.

To help your migration run smoothly, start by considering the size of your organization so you can get an idea of how large the migration will be. You should also think through how your user experience will change after the migration so you can prepare your staff.

Like with your SharePoint Online migration, it helps to do some spring cleaning before you migrate. Ensure you don’t have any legacy software or services that rely on your on-premises Active Directory for user verification and make sure your environment is organized before you replicate it in Azure AD because it will take more time to go through and analyze all the data if you wait. Once you’re ready to start your migration, make sure to schedule 30-45 minutes for each machine to be migrated so you have the time to get your staff situated.

If you want to know more before you get started, we’ve provided a list of resources about migrations and related topics that you may be interested in. DelCor is experienced in providing migration support and can guide you through the process if you want more hands-on help.

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