Also, users used to collaborating with colleagues through BPOS's Office Communicator and Live Meeting tools will have to learn to use Lync, which becomes the suite's primary tool for messaging and video and voice conferencing. Users will also need to create new, stronger passwords. A number of other user experiences will change too, so it's important that training is ready and available.
Before throwing the switch on a full-blown implementation of Office 365, it may be prudent to undertake a fifth preparatory step--the launch of a pilot program. Standing up a single department or small organization on Office 365 will provide a chance to work out the kinks, test new workflows, and discover bugs before committing the entire enterprise to the platform.
Fortunately, Microsoft has created tools and policies designed to help users establish pilot programs. The company recommends that pilots last from three to six months. Data from pilot groups can be preserved and integrated with wider deployments afterwards.
Sixth, plan intensively for "the next 48 hours." After agreeing on a transition date with Microsoft, the software maker will undertake a data migration from BPOS to Office 365 on your organization's behalf, usually over the course of a weekend. During that time, access to SharePoint data will be locked and Active Sync devices will not be able to connect to Exchange Online. Other services may be down as well, so users need to be forewarned.
Finally, once the transition is made it doesn't mean the job is finished. After Microsoft has stood up an instance of Office 365, there are some last steps IT administrators must take at their end to complete the job. Among other things, admins must sign in to a new Administration Portal with new credentials, review the status of the transition, and create or assign a billing administrator.
Office 365 marks a major step in the evolution of Microsoft's Office franchise and should deliver significant value to organizations that can leverage all of its cloud-based potential. So it's worth taking the time to have a solid evaluation and transition plan in place.
Microsoft is offering more information about the transition on its Office 365 Web site.
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