Microsoft Office 365 may be an industry-leading business productivity suite, but just because it’s popular, does that mean you should use it? Not necessarily. Just because it comes from a big name like Microsoft, doesn’t mean it won’t come with its own specific barriers to entry, that may not make it the right choice for you.
You’ve no doubt heard of Microsoft.
It’s one of the biggest names in the business, which means its reputation often proceeds it. Undoubtedly, a lot of users out there, when weighing their options, have likely opted for Microsoft on name alone.
Is that really the smartest way to handle the decision, especially when it concerns your business? You may be looking for the right cloud solution for your business – here’s the fact: you shouldn’t just decide to go with Microsoft Office 365, just because it’s from Microsoft.
Before making any decision for your business, you need to do your homework. No matter how well known the brand is, that doesn’t mean it’s a perfect fit for you. As with any big-name product of service, it’s not unlikely that you’ve already heard lots about Microsoft Office 365 – but still, maybe you aren’t entirely sure what it is and how it works…
What is Microsoft Office 365?
In a nutshell, Microsoft Office 365 takes the Microsoft programs that are popular worldwide like Word, Outlook, PowerPoint, and Excel, and combines them with the flexibility and accessibility of the cloud.
There are two basic ways that this platform breaks down – the web-based and premium desktop versions.
The web-based Microsoft Office 365 Business provides users with online (browser-based) access to all their range of favorite Microsoft Office apps:
- Word (word processing)
- Excel (spreadsheets)
- PowerPoint (presentations)
- Outlook (email)
- OneNote (note-taking)
- OneDrive (file hosting and synchronization with 1 TB of storage)
- Access (database management, for PCs only)
Then you have the Premium alternative, in which users are delivered a range of enhanced and advanced features:
- Exchange (mail server and calendaring management)
- SharePoint (website building tool to share, organize, store and access information)
- Teams (a relatively new product for collaboration, meetings, chat, and communication)
- Planner (task and teamwork management)
- Invoicing, booking and business intelligence tools
- Customer relationship management functions
- Yammer, Microsoft’s social media platform that enables users to collaborate and connect with each other
However, that’s really just the beginning as to how the many tiers of Microsoft Office 365 plans break down, which brings us to the first challenge…
Challenge #1: Are there different Microsoft Office 365 plans, and how are they different?
Short answer? Yes. Microsoft offers a lot of different service plans, that vary in cost and included services, and even the type of included services. They even have tiers of Microsoft Office 365 that are designed specifically for certain industries (such as Microsoft Office 365 Nonprofit). Let’s clear things up – below are some of the most common plan types for Microsoft Office 365, how they differ, and what they include.
Exchange Plan 1
Essentially just the email client aspect of the much larger Microsoft Office 365 platform, this plan includes:
- Secure corporate email
- 50 GB of inbox storage per user
- Sent messages up to 150MB
- All inbox management features available – sharing calendar dates and contacts, out of office messages, web-based email support.
SharePoint Online Plan 2
Primarily designed as a file sharing and storage plan, this plan features SharePoint and OneDrive, as well as:
- Unlimited personal cloud storage
- Real-time co-authoring of files in the Microsoft suite of apps
- Centralizing and indexing of the user’s content in libraries and lists with metadata, records management, and retention policies
- SharePoint mobile capability
- In-Place Holds that allow users to preserve content from edits or deletion
As a more comprehensive version of Microsoft Office 365, in addition to Microsoft Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access (PC only), Publisher (PC only) and OneDrive (1TB storage), this plan includes:
- Web-based and desktop versions of the above Microsoft applications
- Skype for Business client (service not included)
- Licenses for an unlimited number of users
Including all the applications, services and features of ProPlus, this plan also provides:
- File storage and collaboration with OneDrive and SharePoint
- Additional apps and services listed under the Premium suite above, such as Microsoft Teams, Yammer, and Stream (providing users with the ability to stream video to team members and other contacts)
- Email hosting with 100GB of inbox storage and custom email domains
- Unlimited personal cloud storage
- Online video conferencing for up to 250 attendees
- Online meetings for up to 10,000 attendees through Skype Meeting Broadcast or Microsoft Teams live
An even more business-focused plan, this offering includes:
- Mobile installation of Office apps (up to 5 devices per user)
- Outlook email (50 GB of inbox storage per user and sent messages up to 150MB)
- OneDrive for Business (1 TB of cloud storage per user)
- Microsoft Teams
- HD video conferencing
- Yammer collaboration software
- Office online (browser-based suite of Office apps)
- Planner (project management platform that allows staff to plan projects, assign tasks, share files and communicate)
- Microsoft Flow (workflow automation app that allows users to automatically configure notifications, sync files, collect data without having to code the process)
- PowerApps (app development platform that allows users to build business-specific web and mobile apps)
In addition to the complete desktop and online Office 365 suite of applications (Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Teams, OneNote, Access [PC only], Publisher [PC only], Sharepoint, and OneDrive), this plan offer includes:
- Business management and CRM tools – Outlook Customer Manager, Bookings, Invoicing and MileIQ
- The range of online services offered in lower-tier plans like ProPlus and Business Essentials
So that’s what these plans include – but obviously, that’s not all you need to know to make your decision. There’s another key question…
What does Microsoft Office 365 Cost?
For each plan, these prices refer to a per user basis, per month. To figure out what it would cost you, simply count the number of users you need to add from your business, and you’ve got your monthly cost – that’s easy to compare against your IT budget.
- Exchange Plan 1 – $6.00
- Business Essentials – $7.95
- SharePoint Online Plan 2 – $8.95
- ProPlus – $12.95
- Business Premium – $14.95
- Enterprise E3 – $21.95
Challenge #2: Is migrating to Microsoft Office 365 easy?
Now that you know more about Microsoft Office 365, you may be interested in seeing what it can do for your business firsthand. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. If you’re not already using Microsoft Office 365, then you have to figure out how to migrate to it. Migrating from one business technology to another isn’t necessarily a simple process.
When preparing for your migration to Office 365, it’s important to plan efficiently and thoroughly. Also, before starting the technical process, make sure your entire staff understands what migration means for their work. What kind of downtime will they encounter, what are the benefits they will have access to once it’s complete, etc.
Three key aspects of Microsoft Office 365 Migration include:
List of Users
Keeping careful track of how many users you have and what they need to do will make migration much smoother than it would be otherwise. The last thing you want to do is overlook a user here or there and find they can’t access the system after launch because there weren’t enough licenses or log-ins arranged.
While you sort out the details of your new Microsoft Office 365 environment, it’s smart to work with temporary passwords. That way, it’s easy to test the environment without issuing official credentials and log-in info.
Domain Registrar Information
This is especially important for Microsoft Office 365 migrations – why? Because email is a central facet of Office 365. In order to ensure seamless changeover between your previous email client and Microsoft Outlook, you’ll need complete information on your domain registrar.
That’s not to mention that the migration process can vary based on where you’re coming from. For example, say you’re already using SharePoint – then what does the migration to the full Microsoft Office 365 suite look like? In this case, there are three key ways to make sure each and every important work file you have stored in a previous solution like SharePoint are properly migrated into your new Microsoft Office 365 environment:
Copy Your Files Manually
Although manually copying files is a possibility, it’s not often recommended. The fact is that while it does work, it’s not effective or practical. To do so, you take the files using the Explorer View in SharePoint and move them manually to the new destination. Unfortunately, by the very nature of this process, you lose metadata (including the “Created by” and the “Created date”).
Use Microsoft Office 365’s Migration API
This solution assists migration processes by increasing speed using the cloud services platform, Microsoft Azure. This works by exporting your content into a migration package which is then sent to Azure Storage. Azure then takes that package and puts it into your new Microsoft Office 365 environment, according to your package settings. This way is a quick option offered by Microsoft that is also a little more complicated than the alternatives. In order to take advantage of the migration speed, you do have to set up your complete environment ahead of time.
Use Microsoft FastTrack
If you happen to be migrating to an Office 365 plan for 150 seats or more, you can make use of Microsoft’s free data migration service. FastTrack also assists administrators with their move, providing a comprehensive set of tools and other documentation.
Challenge #3: Is Microsoft Office 365 as secure as you need it to be?
While Microsoft Office 365 does provide a range of industry-standard security features out of the box, it’s not infallible, especially when it comes to backup. As a cloud-based platform, all of the data accessed in Office 365 is backed up to a secure off-site location. This occurs simply by the nature of a cloud solution like Office 365. That being said, Microsoft’s first priority when it comes to management is most certainly the Office 365 infrastructure as well as maintenance of uptime on the user end.
This is about exploring the user’s role in data management. The reality, whether it’s actually convenient or not, is that Microsoft has empowered the user in this case to take responsibility for their data. Beyond the usual data loss and integrity protections that are provided as a part of Microsoft Office 365, users may need to double check the controls and other parameters involved with protecting their data. While almost anyone using a computer for work would understand the nature of why backing up your data is important (don’t forget that hard copies are often still filed in triplicate as a contingency), it’s likely you don’t know of each and every application that an effective data backup can have.
To start, here’s the top 5:
Data retention contingencies
At the rate that technology evolves (and how quickly your business’s standard operations and concerned policies are required to keep up with it), it’s no surprise that some businesses find it difficult to keep up with. When policy development falls behind the pace of adopted technologies, it can often lead to gaps, which can affect data retention. The fact is that Microsoft Office 365 only has limited backup and retention policies, equipped to handle situational data loss – not comprehensive.
Data loss is often the result of poor digital security; without the right defenses, cybercriminals can easily infect an IT system with ransomware or other types of malware and compromise company data.
You may have heard that the right antimalware solution will minimize the chance of data loss, but what about internal threats? It’s not fun to think about, but internal security threats (i.e. malicious employees) can cause just as much damage as external cybercriminals.
A majority of cybersecurity services offered today include the best in vital technologies, from firewalls to anti-malware to data encryption and more. However, as important as this technology is, on its own, it simply isn’t enough. The key to truly comprehensive cybersecurity (and therefore, data protection and data backup) is simple, yet often overlooked: the user.
“Set it and forget it” firewalls, antivirus software, and yes, backups, fail to account for how important the user is. Even the most effective data integrity measures can be negated by simple human error, which is why conventional solutions are simply not enough to make sure your data is protected. Much of data protection is dependent on the user, and as such it’s vital that you properly educate your employees in safe conduct. The more your workforce knows about the security measures you have in place, the more confidently they can use the technology is a secure manner.
Human error can be detrimental to data integrity. Without a viable backup, all it takes is one accidental click to delete a file, or one spilled coffee to fry a local hard drive.
When it comes to modern compliance requirements, redundant data backups are critical. You’ll want to make sure you know what’s required of your industry’s compliance regulations, and make sure you have backup methods in place to meet those. The default backup capabilities offered by Microsoft Office 365 may not suffice for the most stringent regulations.
When migrating to Microsoft Office 365, it’s likely that you’ll need a timeframe in which to transition, especially when it comes to bridging the gap between on-premises Exchange Servers and Office 365 Exchange Online. A vital part of this transition is to make sure that you have a backup solution capable of facilitating hybrid email deployments and can see Exchange data (no matter where it’s located, on or off-site) as the same.
Long story short: as much as Microsoft Office 365 does offer, nothing is really “set it and forget it” when it comes to security and data loss prevention. No matter what cloud platform you choose for your business, you shouldn’t assume it will keep you protected against cybercrime and data loss all on its own.
How should you mitigate Microsoft Office 365 migration, security, and other challenges?
While you can certainly try to manage the migration and ongoing management of Microsoft Office 365 on your own, there is a much more foolproof way to tackle it – with professional assistance. In order to eliminate unforeseen variables and limit your risk in the migration and ongoing management of a solution like Microsoft Office 365, it can be helpful to work with a Central Florida IT company.
How can a Central Florida IT company help you overcome these Microsoft Office 365 challenges?
Which Office 365 plan is right for you?
A Central Florida IT company can assess the ways you currently use your IT, and how you may need to use it in the future as your business grows, and then match those needs to the right Microsoft Office 365 plan.
How can you guarantee a smooth migration to Office 365?
By working with a Central Florida IT company that you trust, you can simply have them facilitate your migration process. Again, by relying on the experience that an established IT partner can offer, you won’t have to deal with the work that comes with migration.
How can you enhance the Office 365 security and backup capabilities?
The best way to deal with the potential security and data backup gaps in Microsoft Office 365 is to supplement it with a reliable cybersecurity or backup solution – the kind that a Central Florida IT company can recommend.
Is Microsoft Office 365 right for you?
Maybe not. Depending on what you do for business, how large your organization is, what your budget will allow, and a number of other factors, Microsoft Office 365 may not be the right choice. However, if you’re unsure, then it would be wise to get a second opinion from a Central Florida IT company that can evaluate your IT needs and figure out if Microsoft Office 365 can meet them.
Want more information about Microsoft Office 365? Check out these blogs:
How To Create Information Gathering Forms With Microsoft Office 365
How Advanced eDiscovery In Microsoft 365 Helps Manage Data