Small businesses love their cloud-based email and productivity suites. They’re expected to triple their spending on these products, from $1.9 billion in 2014, to $6.5 billion by 2019. By 2019, it’s projected that a full 73% of small businesses will have given up their desktop applications and migrated to the cloud for email and productivity tools.
Microsoft Office 365 is a leader in this space, with 16% of small businesses planning to move to Microsoft Office 365 within the next year.
But moving to Microsoft Office 365 can be tricky if you currently have an “on-prem” Active Directory set up for all of the email accounts in your business. “On-prem” is short for “on-premises,” which means your email software runs on a server that is located in your office.
The good news is that moving to Microsoft Office 365 will eliminate the job of maintaining your on-prem Exchange Server, which is Microsoft’s email and calendar system. Moving your email function online will allow you to spend less money on hardware, software and the IT guru or consultant needed to maintain your Exchange Server.
Here are three best practices for a successful migration:
1. Get expert help to migrate your on-prem Exchange Server.
If you’re starting from a “green field” and don’t currently have Exchange Server on premise, then you’re free and clear to go to Microsoft Office 365 with the online version of Exchange email with ease.
However, if you have an existing Active Directory environment (ask your IT specialist), the migration is quite tricky. You have to do a number of fairly technical steps such as set up single sign-on, synchronize Active Directory and configure security certificates. If those skills sound more advanced than your current staff can handle, you’re not alone. Few small businesses have the IT expertise to do an Exchange migration.
You have two choices: start fresh with new email accounts on online Exchange, or hire expert help with migrating. Hiring help can save you unnecessary frustration, time and money.
2. Buy a license that gives you access to both desktop and online versions of Office applications.
Many Microsoft Office 365 plans include the desktop version, which is important for several reasons.
First, the office tools available with Microsoft Office 365 are only useful when your employees have an Internet connection. Yet there are still times when people are offline and still need to work on that Word doc or Excel spreadsheet.
The good news: if you have both the physical desktop version of Microsoft Office and Microsoft Office 365, you can work offline knowing that all of your work will automatically sync-up in the cloud the next time you connect to the Internet. Imagine never having to worry if your documents are up-to-date, or if someone in your organization is working on the wrong draft. It might cost you a little more money to have the desktop version and the online version, but your employees will thank you for it. Plus, it will make transitioning everything to the cloud a little easier.
3. Get the right kind of Internet access.
Internet access is critical when you work with online applications. After all, you’ll be doing most of your work in the cloud. To use email, conferencing and collaboration apps, you’ll need to be online with a powerful, stable and reliable connection. Of course, how much bandwidth you need varies depending on the number of users and how heavily they will be using Microsoft Office 365. In general for a small business, 5 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload speeds should suit your needs. Microsoft has created some calculators to help you understand the minimum bandwidth you’ll need to run Microsoft Office 365 and Exchange.
Migrating to Microsoft Office 365 can be labor-intensive, so don’t be shy about asking for expert help. Still, small businesses that have made it over the hump are happy with the decision.
Working in the cloud is the future of office-automation applications. And if your workers choose a “hybrid” approach of both online and offline working, they will find that they have more collaboration, productivity and options on how they choose to work.