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Skykick Tackles Microsoft Office 365 Migration Headaches

Startup promises to reduce the pain for IT providers that help SMBs move from on-premises Exchange environments to Office 365.

Office 2013: 10 Questions To Ask
Office 2013: 10 Questions To Ask
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Thomas Allen wasn't easily sold on SkyKick, a new tool for migrating from on-premises email servers to Microsoft Office 365.

"I was a cynic out of the gate," Allen, marketing manager at managed services provider CyberStreams, said in an interview. "The first time we talked to them, it was pitched like a bit of a miracle product."

That made two of us. An initial PR pitch described SkyKick as an Office 365 migration tool that "automates the entire IT consulting project with a push of a button." That sounded optimistic. Allen thought so, too. When CyberStreams joined SkyKick's beta program, the managed services provider (MSP) began padding its customer estimates to avoid getting burned by pie-in-the-sky promises.

In reality, there's no one-click magic -- but Allen is a convert nonetheless. "It did turn out that my caution was highly unnecessary," Allen said. "We had some very pleased customers [because they received] invoices that were for much, much less than the low end of our estimates."

[ Is Office 365 right for you? Read Microsoft Office 365: How One Company Saves Big. ]

The reason, according to Allen, is a more holistic approach to cloud migration that takes into account everything from the sales process to post-migration support. In Allen's view -- and SkyKick's -- other migration applications focus mainly on the actual server-side transfer of data to online platforms while ignoring the other moving parts and pieces. As such, SkyKick is actually composed of four different Web-based products.

-- Web Planner handles the discovery and planning process, such as assessing existing hosts and mailboxes, and automates much of the statement of work and project plan for partners like CyberStreams.

-- Migration Sync moves the actual data: email, domains, calendar, contacts and so forth.

-- Outlook Assistant configures Microsoft's email client for end users, including their settings and customizations, and helps handle the actual switchover.

-- Portal is an app that enables project management, reporting and similar administrative tasks for the IT consultants in the trenches.

SkyKick, whose team includes former execs from Microsoft's Office and Bing divisions, emerged from beta Tuesday. Its customers are MSPs and other IT providers that comprise the vast universe of "the channel," which depends heavily on small and midsize businesses (SMBs) for its own client base. Microsoft itself put CyberStreams in touch with SkyKick as part of its effort to mobilize its vast partner ecosystem in its push for greater Office 365 adoption among SMBs. "They're trying to push partnerships that can help their channel better deliver to customers," Allen said.

While there's not necessarily a light-switch approach to moving businesses online from legacy servers, Allen said SkyKick has helped alleviate some key pain points for third-party IT providers like CyberStreams. For one, the end customer no longer needs to know much about its own infrastructure to enable a successful migration project. After some initial data input, SkyKick can answer many of the technical questions itself. "If you're talking to a typical business owner and ask questions like 'where is your DNS hosted?' -- they don't necessarily know what that means," Allen noted. Or, they might think they know what it means and give an incorrect answer.

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