What You Should Know Before Purchasing Office 365 – 5 Pragmatic Tips

Insight from our IT Division Supporting our Corporate Infrastructure

With such a wide array of advanced applications and features, Office 365 can be quite complex. And without a thorough understanding of what it has to offer, companies often diminish the return on their investment.

When we moved Hostway’s corporate email infrastructure from Exchange and Linux mail servers to Office 365, our team gained a number of insights from a Corporate IT perspective. Now, we’re sharing our five most pragmatic tips so that other companies can make their move to Office 365 a smooth and successful transition.

  1. Make a List of Must-Have Features

Those of us in the Corporate IT department started by asking ourselves, “What are we happy with? What do we dislike about our current mail system and other applications?” We then asked our fellow Hostway employees the same questions. This led to several discoveries:

  • Many individuals used different applications that weren’t necessarily compatible with each other, but they ultimately wanted applications that were tightly integrated to increase productivity
  • With Hostway’s previous Linux email system, profile information wasn’t readily available, requiring users to look up recipient email addresses in a separate application each time they wanted to send an email; this inefficient process was a drain on productivity

Knowing this information allowed us to plan for full functionality and perform an effective cost/benefit analysis for all the different options and features.

  1. Be Aware that Add-Ons can be More Cost-Effective than Higher Level Plans

The most cost-effective plan is not usually the highest tier plan bundled with the bells and whistles—some of which you might never use. If a medium- or lower-tier plan meets all but one or two needs, filling the gaps with add-ons will generally result in the best price. However, if you need more than a couple of add-ons for full functionality, going with the next highest-level plan will probably be less expensive, while also providing a few extra features.

For example, a company with message encryption and policy-based protection needs could purchase the Office 365 Enterprise E3 plan from Hostway at $20 per user per month. However, the Azure Information Protection can also be purchased as an add-on for $2 a month.

If a user’s needs are met mostly by Business Essentials plans, the company can buy Business Essentials at $6 per user per month plus the $2 add-on and generate a savings of $12 per user every month. This means an annual savings of $28,800 for an organization with 200 employees.

  1. Understand Customization Options

There are a huge variety of functions, applications, and plans within the Office 365 universe. Understanding the different functions of Office 365 plans enables organizations to effectively customize the applications for maximum use and increase cost-effectiveness.

Different plans can be purchased for different users based on their roles within the organization, and certain users can be given the full functionality of Enterprise E3. This allows the company to achieve cost savings on Business Essentials plans for everyone else.

To figure out the perfect customization for your business and understand the full functionality of Office 365, talk to a provider about the plan options available and play with the environment. Look for a hosting provider that offers a free month so you can familiarize yourself with all of the options and gain the experience you need to start guiding users within your organization.

  1. Know What’s at Stake

While Office 365 still allows you to manage a number of admin settings, you don’t have complete control over the physical server, which affects security, compliance, and administration settings. You also lose access to email if the internet is down, just like with any cloud service.

The benefits of Office 365 far outweigh these minor drawbacks, however. Companies on Office 365 have a lower total cost of ownership than those with on-premise Exchange. Maintenance is handled by your provider, which frees up time for your Corporate IT team or owner. Plus, the higher level of redundancy built into cloud services ensures uptime. If there is an issue, the Corporate IT team is not on their own, but can leverage the hosting provider’s large team of experts 24/7/365 to resolve the problem right away.

 The Move Can Be Seamless . . . with a Little Planning

We find that the most seamless migrations into Office 365 include a comprehensive discovery phase that investigates:

  • Mailbox settings
  • Company contacts
  • Distribution groups
  • Specific permissions
  • Shared mailboxes
  • Resource mailboxes
  • DNS management locations

The planning process enabled us to identify who had what, where, and when. We could then effectively migrate during non-peak hours.

A seamless migration means no downtime or missing emails. This is important for most businesses, and Hostway was no exception. Not only did we have three different email systems to migrate (an Exchange environment, plus two Linux IMAP systems that had accumulated over time), but we also had mailboxes for people who had been with the company for more than a decade, each one accumulating hundreds of gigabytes in email data.

The Corporate IT team has seen huge improvements since we moved to Office 365. As a fully-managed Office 365 provider, we leveraged the expertise of Hostway’s 15+ years of partnership with Microsoft to orchestrate a smooth migration, and our own internal experiences have now helped to shape the support and expertise we provide to our clients.

To learn more about migration considerations or leverage our expertise, call us at 1-888-545-8591 Interested but still not sure?  Signing up with Hostway allows you to experience the Office 365 environment for free up to a month.

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