How to keep Office 365 migration costs in check

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Microsoft is pushing enterprise customers to migrate to Office 365, and many are making the leap. How can companies make the move less costly and optimize usage rights and flexibility?

Microsoft’s Office 365 – the cloud-based version of Microsoft’s flagship productivity software solution – is growing by leaps and bounds. The enterprise adoption rate of Office 365 has nearly tripled since 2014 and some estimate the offering is now the most widely used business cloud application available – even more than Salesforce.com.

With adoption rates reaching new highs, enterprises are more motivated than ever to join their peers in the Microsoft Office cloud. But migration to Office 365 is rarely a simple process and it’s easy for costs to spiral upward.

Here are seven questions to ask to keep Office 365 migration costs in check, and optimize usage rights and flexibility:

What feature/functionality differences can be expected and how will they impact your enterprise’s user experience? Office 365 isn’t a single product, it’s a brand – which means you don’t automatically have access to every service included under the brand. If you’re considering a migration, you need to understand which features and services each SKU includes. Depending on the SKU, you may be losing some of the features and functionality of your on-premise Office investment.

What resources will be required for migration and what’s the scope? Don’t underestimate the complexity of moving to Office 365. Once the migration begins, the sales and licensing specialists that held your hand during the sourcing process won’t be so involved. Finding the right partner(s) to move you to the cloud requires just as much attention as the sourcing event (there are advisors out there to help with selection, if needed). Furthermore, the scoping of work needs to be precise. How many users will be migrated at once? Will certain users require access during migration? Will this require separate tenant provisioning? Be specific – identify the legacy data stores, application workflows, etc. that need to migrated and make sure the provider has the necessary tools to minimize roadblocks.  

What will be done with your existing messages and archives? Keep in mind that most on-premise legacy archives will not work with Office 365.  In many instances, you may be forced to export the legacy message data into personal folder files (also known as PSTs) and then import those into Office 365.  Ensure that your migration plan includes time and resources for any needed migrations.

How can you make Microsoft’s SLA more favorable? The SLA for Office 365 isn’t particularly negotiable, but there are still opportunities to make it more favorable (or at least to leverage your concerns to win concessions in other areas). How does Microsoft calculate 99.998 percent uptime? Is that acceptable? Are the penalties for SLA non-compliance material enough to cover the implications of service failure on your business? Microsoft also offers partner-hosted private cloud capabilities for large enterprises with particular contractual, data and network requirements.

Will your Office 365 agreement provide price protection for future purchases? Microsoft’s pricing and sales strategy for the cloud is still evolving, but the days of “freeware” are disappearing as adoption rates climb. Are price increases on the horizon? It’s a possibility. Enterprises need to leverage their future Office 365 commitments to secure contractual language that will protect them against price increases as well as allow them to take advantage of price cuts throughout the term of their contract and at renewal time.

Will you need on-premise use as well as cloud use? If so, what Microsoft SKU mix will help you best achieve this? Despite Microsoft’s eagerness to push enterprises to a cloud-heavy Microsoft estate the reality is many businesses, driven by information security, accounting, usage or other requirements, will prefer to keep a mixture of on-premise and cloud licenses. Deciding which mix of offerings will help you achieve the right balance is difficult. Companies need to understand the myriad options available to them, as well as whether they will able to vacate the cloud service and move back on-premise should their balance preference (or IT/business needs) change. 

What transition assistance will be provided should you decide to move back to Microsoft’s on-premise solution or to another provider? At some point, you may want to go back to Microsoft’s on-premise solution – or switch vendors altogether. Migrating this data fully intact is a substantial undertaking. Historically, Microsoft hasn’t provided robust transition assistance, which means companies need to negotiate services or funding up front to lessen their burden down the road. Be sure to clearly specify your data transition needs in your agreement as well as Microsoft’s service and fiscal responsibilities.

The decision to move to Office 365 isn’t a minor one. The advantages are numerous, but so are the risks. This problem is compounded by the perceived non-negotiable nature of cloud contracting. Microsoft’s sales and licensing specialists aren’t motivated to ease this burden, so customers must be vigilant. This extra due diligence up front will translate into lower cost and risk over the term of your Office 365 investment The – not to mention a more positive migration experience.

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