Why Office 365?
Let's put it right out there: Most of the organizations we work with are either using Office 365 or are considering using it. And when I say most, I mean upwards of 80% is what we see. Why do we see such a high adoption or acceptance rate of Office 365? The bottom line is that people see value in the platform and offering that Microsoft has created in Office 365. Enterprises both large and small see value in the predictable monthly costs for their email and Office productivity suite without a large upfront capital expense outlay. This is particularly well suited for organizations that are looking to pay for this through Opex funding versus Capex funding.
One of the reasons organizations are using Office 365 is so that they do not have to host their own emails servers anymore. This just makes sense and is a big deal as most don’t want to be in the email business, they want someone else to do it. We at Vicom are a Microsoft Gold Partner and 100+ person organization, but yet we use Office 365 as it's more cost effective and efficient for us than on premise Exchange. And yes, we are a Microsoft Partner that installs and supports Exchange at customer locations and yet we use Office 365 ourselves. It's less for our help desk people and admins to worry about and they can focus upon other strategic initiatives that we need them to work on. Plus they don’t want to be administering email anyway.
Another really intriguing aspect that organizations really like is the productivity suite in terms how they get to use Office. And for this I'm referring to the E3 solution. We all know that Office 365 E3 comes with Office, OneDrive, SharePoint and Lync, but I believe that one of the best features you get for your $20 per month per user (less for non-profits) is the continual upgrades. New updates can be installed automatically and you get the latest versions as part of your subscription. Plus you get to use it on 5 different devices (take your pick: PC, Mac, tablet, phone, etc.) as part of your subscription, which is a great feature and Microsoft has done a very good job on their mobile versions as well. As an example, for those that have used it, OneNote for the iPad is outstanding and something that I rely upon pretty heavily daily.
That being said when moving towards or using Office 365 it can make sense to use a trusted partner to help you with your migration and transition or to help provide ongoing support just as you would need for an on-premise Exchange solution. You can migrate to Office 365 internally but there many experienced organizations that do this routinely and tools to make it easier and faster to migrate—some of which make a migration anywhere from 50-80% quicker versus doing it manually. Again this is where a key partner can guide you if needed.
Also, things to consider include how you will integrate with your existing Active Directory environment, how you protect your environment above and beyond what Microsoft provides, how to archive, and also how to train and onboard you people to use it. Many organizations we work with are looking for support of their Office 365 environment that gradually decreases over time as they are more comfortable with the environment or even use a block of hours to have access to support when needed. The same rules apply for Office 365 as if it was an onsite implementation: migration, support, and optimization to ensure that the Office 365 environment truly brings that value it was intended to bring.
So when considering Office 365—and as I mention above the majority of organizations are looking towards it—make sure you consider all aspects including the architecture, migration, support, DR, and optimization of the environment. If implemented correctly, it should ideally be more cost effective than an on-premise Exchange solution and should allow your IT people to focus upon more strategic items which do not generally include administering the email and Office environment. And if you need, look towards a good partner to help you get the most value possible out of your Office 365 implementation and environment. That will reinforce the reason you decided to move towards Office 365 in the first place.