Posted by Tyler Chancey GCFA on Mon, Jan 25, 2021 @ 3:24pm

Moving to the Cloud

Let’s face it – most businesses rely on email to get things done. Modern collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams are vital for the growing work-from-home environment, but email will always have a special place in most organizations. Most organizations see the benefits associated with the cloud but have trouble executing the actual migration, fearing business impact or increased costs. The goal of a successful transition from legacy on-premise exchange to modern cloud exchange online is easier to obtain than most would believe. We hope that this post can serve to illuminate some common concerns from our clients and the responses associated with a managed migration to cloud email services.

Concern - We use email for everything. If our services are down, even for a day, we could have serious business impact.

Utilizing a specialized team for migration to Microsoft 365 and Exchange Online is the surefire way to guarantee minimal downtime when moving to cloud solutions. Cloud migration is a tried-and-true practice at this point for experienced teams. No longer is Cloud the “mysterious, cutting-edge” aspect of technology. With modern standards and guidelines, a managed migration can be achieved painlessly. Your users probably won’t even notice anything changed! By implementing a hybrid system in which both cloud and on-premise Exchange are utilized, cloud migration experts are able to ensure that an organization stays online and “normal” until all the background tasks associated with the cutover are completed. In our experience, a well-trained team can migrate legacy exchange into a cloud model with zero downtime.

Concern - We need our email services to be online 24/7/365. We feel that direct control over our own infrastructure will allow us to maintain better uptime without relying on 3rd party support.

The feeling of losing control of your environment can be intimidating for both company leadership and IT staff. Moving to the cloud represents an implicit trust between your organization and Microsoft to keep services functioning. Fortunately, Microsoft Guarantees 99.9% uptime with a financially backed service level agreement. From our professional experience, Microsoft has far exceeded this estimate with nearly non-existent downtime for their cloud services, with only ~50 minutes of downtime in 2019. On-premise exchange servers are far more vulnerable to failed patches, cybercriminal attacks, configuration issues, and unexpected power cycling. By moving to Exchange Online, your organization’s average uptime will almost certainly increase.

Concern - We like our current email address and inbox settings. What will change when we move to the cloud?

First things first – your domain will stay the same. Email addresses, contacts, settings, etc. are directly migrated. By migrating to Exchange Online, you simply augment your email capabilities with potentially increased features and options. User impact is extremely minimal when the migration is performed by a trained team. The primary user impact associated with the migration is the requirement for an Office365 or Microsoft365 account. A vast majority of organizations already have such accounts in place, but in the scenario that there is no such account established for users, they will need to perform a self-service account creation upon first use. This is a painless and semi-automated process that requires simple inputs from the user.

Concern – We are already established with our expenditure regarding on-premise email. We are worried that email administrators, IT staff, and purchased hardware will become purposeless.

This concern is probably the most common for our team to receive. It can feel like all these resources that were invested into a solid infrastructure would be wasted as soon as a company migrated to Exchange Online. In general, the consistency of an operational expense (monthly or annual) such as Exchange Online can greatly ease the erratic spending involved with on-premise hardware and reactive staffing needs. If your team has brand new hardware and licensing along with a trained staff, there may be scenarios where cloud migration might not be the right solution. However, this hardware and staff can be repurposed into more critical uses for the business. Exchange server hardware can be converted into critical business application servers. Exchange admins will simply perform their role as normal with the administrative privileges located in Exchange Online. This migration to the cloud may even enable staff to increase their time spend securing the environment due to reduced hardware overhead.

With the standardized nature of cloud services, the risk associated with new technologies is almost completely nullified. Exchange Online is a robust tool for organizations of all sizes. The sheer breadth of features, support, and benefits easily explain the growth of cloud email services. As we move further into the decade, trends suggest that cloud-hosted email will continue to explode in growth and popularity. Moving to Exchange Online and the associated operation expense model is a huge boon for most business scenarios.

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