Microsoft Office 365 has a wide range of advantages for small and medium businesses, one of which is the option to use the Office 365 cloud-based email service. There’s a lot to consider when making this switch, however, to ensure that it’s the right move, and that the migration is performed in a way that benefits the company.
How Can SMEs Benefit from Using Office 365?
Switching to Office 365 is ideal for SMEs – the upfront costs are low, and the licensing system is simple no matter how many machines and products you need. Exchange Online, the business email product, is another great reason to make the switch to Microsoft’s cloud-computing office suite.
What to Consider When You Switch to Exchange Online
Switching your company over to Exchange Online can be highly beneficial, but not all email migrations are smooth sailing.
1. What does your current email setup look like?
If your organisation is currently using any version of Microsoft Office, you’re probably using Microsoft Outlook for email. This generally gives you the widest range of options for planning the migration to Exchange Online. If you’re using a different email solution it may influence the options you have for making the switch.
2. What version of Office is the organisation using?
The ideal situation is that all users have Office 2010, or a newer version. Any machines that are running an older version of Microsoft Office may need to be upgraded or replaced. In some cases, Office 2007 may allow for a full data migration, but that’s the absolute cut-off – any version of Office prior to that date can’t connect to Office 365, so no data can be migrated to the Exchange at all.
So, if you’re running at least Office 2010 you should be able to migrate all data to the new email server. If you have Office 2007, it’s possible that some data won’t be able to transfer. With any version prior to 2007, migration isn’t possible, meaning an Office upgrade would be needed first.
3. What other apps or devices rely on email to function?
When you migrate your email server it’s not just email function you need to think about. Depending on your setup there may be other apps and devices – such as scanners and printers, for instance – that rely on the email link-up. Make sure to account for these in your migration plan to avoid post-migration headaches!
4. Your email security needs may change.
Switching to Exchange Online means you’ll be using cloud-based email data storage, which means there are new security considerations to think about. For instance, Office 365 has its own antispam and antivirus solutions, so you’re free to stop using your current email security suite – but don’t forget that your users may have spent years building up custom block or whitelists, so you may need to think about options for migrating that data as well. Depending on your needs, it may also be worthwhile considering cloud-based security products that can complement Exchange security features.
As well as threat protection, you must also consider DLP compliance when making the switch to a cloud-based email service. This is an important consideration for SMEs, because the business and premium Office 365 packages offer different levels of DLP and compliance features.
5. Implementing new features and retaining existing ones.
It’s also important to consider that an email migration may mean losing data such as autocomplete files, email signatures, and personal storage. If that data is required after the migration it’s important to ensure that it’s backed up, to prevent it being lost.
Migrating to Exchange Online also means the change to implement new features, so it’s a good opportunity to take a good look at your email service and see what’s missing, and what could make it better.
Which Office 365 Email Plan is Best for Your Organisation?
There are three different Exchange Online Plans. These include Plans 1 and 2, and Office 365 Business Premium, which includes the full range of Office 365 products in addition to Exchange Online email. So, your organisation can choose Exchange Online as a stand-alone cloud-based email service, or as part of the full-service Office 365 suite, which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneDrive, Teams, and other features.
All three plans include a secure, reliable email service, with the ability to connect using any supported version of Outlook. However, the higher-level plans include superior email security features, more mailbox storage space, and messaging services.
The question is, which option is best for SMEs? It really depends on whether your organisation is interested in operating entirely in the cloud, and whether you’re dealing with the kind of data that needs to be protected to remain DLP-compliant. If DLP compliance is important to your organisation, the level 1 plan isn’t likely to provide sufficient protection – plan 2 or the business premium plan is a better option. Similarly, if the organisation is moving to a cloud-based environment, choosing business premium is the better choice, especially if you’re already using Microsoft products.