How to best prepare for your Office 365 deployment

cloudGoing all in with the cloud requires a big step – just ask any organization that purchased Office 365 (O365) and has yet to deploy its licenses. Moving the litany of Office products to the cloud is a major commitment for any organization, but fear not: Help is on the way through a number of incentive programs run by Microsoft.

Microsoft offers different incentive programs derived from a variety of funding buckets to drive the deployment of O365. As part of these funding vehicles, both Microsoft and certified third-party providers assist organizations in deploying their O365 services, such as mail migration, SharePoint, OneDrive for Business, and Skype for Business, to the cloud.

This round of incentives, called FastTrack Adoption Offer, is open to customers that purchase a minimum of 150 licenses between Sept. 1, 2015, and March 30, 2016. (Organizations that purchased O365 licenses over the summer, from July 1 through Aug. 31, may still qualify for incentive through a special bridge funding “early bird” program.) Now, let’s take a look at how enterprise organizations can get off the ground and into the cloud.

What are these O365 incentives, again?

Eligible customers that purchase at least 150 new O365 seats and open a tenant account will be contacted by Microsoft within 30 days of the purchase date. As part of the initial onboarding, Microsoft will conduct a FastTrack deployment that moves core workloads such as Office Pro Plus, SharePoint, and Skype for Business into the cloud. Email migration to the cloud is now considered a core benefit that Microsoft will complete. In most cases, organizations must work with a certified deployment partner to complete the incentive package and finish full onboarding services.

Organizations must have at least 15 percent active O365 usage to qualify for these incentives. Organizations can receive up to $60,000 to offset the total cost of deployment, depending on the size of the onboarding and the purchased number of licenses.

Another incentive offering is the O365 Proof of Concept program, which is only open to certain customers and Gold and Silver Cloud Productivity partners. This is a more exclusive program with a more restricted budget, so contact your partner provider to learn more details about the nomination process and funding levels.

One deployment or one hundred, be prepared

Deploying one O365 license isn’t too challenging – some of us could do that relatively easily. But for enterprise organizations deploying hundreds or thousands of licenses with on premises, security, MDM, and other concerns? Not quite as straightforward.

Organizations that work with a trusted third-party deployment partner can fine-tune an O365 deployment and avoid or easily solve the common challenges often associated with a large scale deployment.

Some of those issues are as basic as configuring the tenant account and assigning the licensing. In many cases, organizations will need to conduct an Active Directory cleanup because Microsoft will not deploy services until Active Directory is prepared. Typically, the basic challenges preventing a full cloud deployment are application remediation and Active Directory discovery. In addition, there are always questions about security and end-user training and policies, which a third-party expert should be able to address.

But other complications are more nitty-gritty. Working on a proverbial island, IT managers at some large firms are unsure how to run services (like SharePoint) from the cloud. Sometimes, the questions they pose are fairly simple, such as whether to do a full deployment right away, or work in stages. Or what applications must be remediated and repaired. Others, of course, are more specialized: How do other organizations run Active Directory Synchronization in the cloud? How should you configure Instant Messenger on Skype for Business? A third-party provider can assist these IT managers to best configure and manage their O365 deployment and cloud environment.

A partner-assisted deployment

Faced with these challenges and where to begin, enterprise organizations are increasingly relying on third-party partners that can provide expertise on the cloud to scale O365 deployments. These partners can lead the way on a large deployment, and assist organizations in managing the incentive requirements.

Microsoft’s TechNet has more information about the FastTrack incentives and Onboarding benefits and the responsibilities organizations must complete before Onboarding can begin.

SHI’s team of experts can help organizations determine eligibility for Microsoft’s incentives and plan for and complete an onboarding. Contact your SHI representative today to start the O365 deployment process.

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