Microsoft BPOS is a great solution for businesses to move their communication and collaboration infrastructure to the cloud. Besides saving money, there are other considerations which require planning and a thorough understanding of the solution and your requirements.
Planning for the move
When planning to migrate something as essential as email -it goes without saying that downtime is not an option. Knowledge workers survive without phones but email downtime is a complete productivity killer! A BPOS implementation and roll out should be treated like any other mission-critical project within your organization and a strong project manager and support team are critical to the success regardless of the size of your organization.
BPOS includes almost a perfect offering of a hosted solution for your collaboration and communication needs to boost efficiency and gain control of your IT expenses. However, the individual products that comprise BPOS do not have a 1 for 1 feature parity with their on-premise counterparts. Some of the limitations are
Sharepoint Online: Custom code deployment not allowed, Fab 40 templates not available.
Exchange Online: No IMAP support, Attachment size limitations, No public folders
Office Communicator: Multi-user audio\video calls are not supported. And even for one-to-one calls, the computers should be on the same corporate network.
Some of these limitations could affect you how you use these solutions! If you are counting on any of these plans accordingly, for example, use SharePoint libraries can be used instead of Exchange folders.
Mail box migrations
Migrating mailboxes to BPOS Exchange can get complex because of the various factors that go into it. Some of the factors that need to be considered are
- Existing Email Environment – Hosted or on-premise
- Email Type – Exchange or POP3, or IMAP
- Email Source – Lotus, Exchange, other
- Size of the mailboxes and Number of mailboxes
- Email client software used – Outlook 2003, 2007, Thunderbird
- What email enabled applications are used – Sharepoint for instance
Depending on the mailbox content size the migration time should be planned as migration would gobble up a lot of network bandwidth.
Microsoft provides a migration tool for migration tool for migrating mailboxes but there are some prerequisites that should be taken care of like credentials for each of the individual email boxes. There are also migration tools from other vendors like Quest which come in handy when migrating from other platforms such as Lotus Notes.
Client software Installation
BPOS comes with a Single Sign tool that makes it easy to access all the solutions without singing into them individually. However, this is an additional piece of software that needs to be installed on all user machines in order to access the different services. In addition, some client software also needs to be installed and configured for Outlook, Office Communicator, Live Meeting. The system requirements for this software could pose a challenge if your systems are dated.
Mobile Device Setup
Setting up mail access for your organizations mobile is another important consideration as not all devices support active sync technology used by BPOS exchange. Devices such as Windows Phone, iPhone, Nokia N series support Active Sync and can be configured to synchronize with BPOS Exchange email and calendar. For accessing BPOS exchange mail in other email enabled devices POP3 has to be enabled for the mailboxes. Also, different mobile devices will require a different type of configuration, for instance, Blackberry devices can set up to use Hosted Blackberry Exchange or Blackberry Internet Service. Though Sharepoint online works fine with the majority of the mobile browsers, the fidelity is not the same across browsers.
Migrating from on-premise Exchange to the cloud is relatively pain-free, however, some issues that should be considered during coexistence are
- Latest service packs should be installed on your on-premise Exchange Server
- Free/ busy information is not synchronized
- There may slightly delay in mail delivery as email forwarding is involved.
- Securing the email traffic between on-premise and BPOS ExchangeEmail coexistence with 3rd party email providers is also possible. But requires more elaborate steps and configuration.
Active Directory Synchronizing
Synchronizing your local active directory with BPOS using DirSync tool will save a lot of time by automatically creating all users in your local directory on BPOS, but understanding these limitations before setting up the synchronization is important.
- DirSync tool cannot be installed on Domain controller
- Dirsync tool cannot be installed on 64 bit systems
- Active Directory Synchronization is only one-way synchronization, therefore, all modifications changes have to be done in Active Directory
- Active Directory Synchronization doesn’t synchronize passwords
- A number of objects that have to be synchronized will affect your network bandwidth.
User Training & Support
User Training is a significant opportunity rather than a challenge with BPOS as it changes the way users work with their everyday tools such as email and messenger. If you are already a Microsoft Exchange, Sharepoint, and Office communicator user then the transition is easier, however, for first-timers, it’s like night and day.
BPOS solution provides great infrastructure savings for companies but implementing BPOS has various challenges. An experienced Service provider can help you see the silver lining quickly with these cloud-based productivity solutions for your organization.