2 things you need to know when switching to Office 365

Switching from Office on premises to Office 365 (O365) seems like a natural step—it’s the future of Microsoft, comes with tons of great benefits, and it allows you to work from a user-based system, rather than a device-based system. In most cases, you get more overall value out of the program.

However, switching from a device-based program to a user-based program, and from an ownership model to a subscription one, doesn’t always go smoothly. Processes like installation, true up, and licensing often look similar to what you’re used to, but need to be handled differently with O365.

To help you escape these mistakes—or recognize that you might be making them—here are two of the most common differences users face when switching to O365. Continue Reading…

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Will these product and licensing changes from Microsoft affect you?

what you need to knowYou probably heard Microsoft is buying LinkedIn. But have you heard about MPSA’s evolution and the licensing changes for Windows Server 2016 and Office 365 (O365)?

Microsoft announced a handful of adjustments to select current licensing models, as well as new suites of products, over the past several weeks. Understanding these changes will help organizations effectively plan for upcoming renewals and/or new IT initiatives.

Let’s run down the latest Microsoft changes. Continue Reading…

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Pump up productivity with these Office 365 add-ons

improve performanceNo doubt, Office 365 (O365) is a powerful productivity suite. O365 turned five years old in June, and it has become the cloud service of choice for enterprise users.

Still, some organizations have more specialized needs that fall outside the scope of O365. There’s an entire marketplace of add-ons and extensions that take the already powerful set of cloud applications to a higher elevation for individual needs.

Some of the more common areas where we see organizations looking to customize are single sign-on tools, security and compliance, and email support. There are a lot of options that build on the cloud suite’s offerings, so let’s break down what these add-ons can do and which ones might be best for your O365 environment. Continue Reading…

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5 ways to strengthen your Office 365 security

Office 365 securityOffice 365 (O365) ups the ante of productivity, giving users the power to work from anywhere. Whether with Word, Exchange, SharePoint, or Skype for Business, Microsoft’s O365 suite allows users to access sensitive data remotely without a VPN. In the era of Bring Your Own Device and vanishing perimeters, that flexibility and ease of use is a big boost to productivity.

But that “always on” mentality can be problematic for IT, as sensitive data can be exposed if IT or users don’t follow the right protocols. Convenience shouldn’t come at the cost of security for your organization.

Luckily, there are some easy steps IT can take to tighten up O365 security without limiting productivity. Here are five ways you can improve your organization’s security posture while giving users the O365 functionality they need.

Continue Reading…

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Office 365 E5 is here – 4 things you should know

Do you knowMicrosoft has introduced its newest Office 365 (O365) enterprise service plan – E5. It features Cloud PBX, PSTN conferencing, end-user and organization analytics, and advanced security. In conjunction with these new capabilities, Microsoft has added additional features to the existing E1 and E3 plans. As organizations evaluate these new capabilities, it’s important to understand how the introduction of O365 E5 will impact licensing options moving forward.

O365 E5’s availability

  • O365 E5 is now available for commercial and government organizations. However, E5 is not yet available for Government Community Cloud (GCC) and Education customers; availability for these customer segments will be announced at a later date.
  • E5 without PSTN conferencing will be sold separately through all programs where O365 Enterprise Plans are available.
    • Due to limited availability, PSTN conferencing is being offered as a separate add-on SKU to E5 under an Enterprise Agreement (EA) or EA Subscription Agreement only.
    • An E5 with PSTN conferencing single SKU will be offered at a later date.
  •  Updated O365 enterprise service plans consist of E1, E3, and E5. Below is a breakout of each plan’s features:

MS-O365-chart

E5’s licensing options

O365 E5 includes a number of new features that can be licensed as part of the suite or as standalone offerings. How an organization licenses these new features will primarily depend on its current O365 service footprint. There are three purchase order options for licensing E5 or any of its new components.

  1. Step-up: A step-up license allows an organization with active Software Assurance (or service coverage if Online Service, or OLS) to migrate from a lower edition to higher edition of a given product. An example of this would be “stepping up” from O365 Plan E1 to O365 Plan E5.
  2. Add-on: An add-on license provides rights to additional services and features while maintaining an existing license investment. For example, an organization can add on PSTN conferencing to O365 E5 without PSTN.
  3. Full USL: A full user subscription license is applicable when an organization is purchasing online services without any underlying license investment. An example would be purchasing O365 E5 without PSTN full User Subscription License.

An organization’s purchase option carries pricing and licensing implications. With the introduction of E5 and its new services, the number of iterations available for organizations to choose from has increased, and it’s important to understand these various options before making a final decision.

The retirement date for O365 E4 is set

The release of O365 E5 means the impending retirement of E4, slated for June 30, 2016. Organizations currently licensed for E4 can use the current plan under their agreement until renewal. Organizations that fall into this bucket will have two options to move forward with their O365 services prior to or at their renewal date.

  1. Customers interested in moving to E5 prior to their renewal can purchase an O365 E5 step-up SKU for each E4 user licensed. This SKU accounts for the difference in cost between the E4 and E5 service plans.
  2. Customers not interested in E5 can renew into E3, and add the Skype for Business Plus CAL subscription.

The upgraded features in E1 and E3

New features added to O365 E1 include Skype Meeting Broadcast and Task Management. Skype Meeting Broadcast will allow E1 customers to host every kind of meeting, including one-to-one, one-to-many, and one-to-thousands. In addition, Work Management in E1 allows for project management capabilities for teams.

E3 customers will be granted the new features available in E1, and will receive expanded rights to Data Loss Prevention (DLP) and encryption.

Visit Microsoft’s O365 Roadmap for the company’s online services portfolio. As you evaluate your move to O365, or more specifically, the new features and capabilities of O365 E5, it is important to have a partner to help you navigate this path. Reach out to your SHI Account Representative to get started.

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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. Continue Reading…

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Office 365 incentives are back – with a new core benefit

Microsoft IncentivesDetails of the next round of incentives for Office 365 (O365) adoption have been released, and there’s one big change for customers.

Microsoft has unveiled the Fiscal Year 2016 incentives, which will kick in for customers who purchase new licenses after Sept. 1 of this year, in order to spur O365 adoption and deployment. For customers who purchase O365 licenses from July 1 through Aug. 31, a bridge period with similar benefits is available as well.

Here is what you need to know about this year’s FastTrack offer, and why you should prepare your IT environment before you contact Microsoft. Continue Reading…

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The 3 most common questions we hear about Office 365 deployment

Office 365 DeploymentYour organization has purchased Office 365 (O365). Now what?

If you’re tasked with deploying O365 and are unsure what to do next, you’re not alone. From uncertainty about which workloads to move, to a lack of technical expertise, many IT professionals we’ve spoken with have run into roadblocks in the way of completing an O365 migration. And pressure from the C-suite to move to the cloud doesn’t help.

Based on our recent conversations, we put together a list of the three most common questions we’re asked about O365 deployments. In addition, we’ll be conducting a free webinar to demystify the process and delve into the core technical components of a deployment. Take a look at the questions below and sign up for one of the webinars to kickstart your O365 deployment.

We bought O365, but how can we deploy it? How do we best consume the service?

It’s common for organizations to have under-deployed O365 assets – they just don’t know the best way to make use of their new services or conduct the deployment. Some companies, because they question the security of the cloud or simply hesitate to enact such a drastic change, simply sit on assets they’ve bought.

An O365 deployment can be accomplished either by an organization’s own IT department or with the help of a Microsoft partner that can help “turn on the lights” for your O365. When you consider your deployment options, investigate Microsoft incentive programs that help offset the costs of deployment.

With Microsoft set to offer new incentives in the coming months – details of the next incentive round will likely be announced in June – organizations that start planning now will be better prepared to qualify for them. These plans will provide a roadmap that can help you or a partner actually conduct the deployment.

What workloads should we move to the cloud?

While executives are pushing their organizations into the cloud, IT departments have to worry about the nuts and bolts: In the cloud, which workloads can be effectively run and which information can be properly stored?

The most common O365 workload we see moved over to the cloud is Exchange, followed by Lync and SharePoint. Lync is actually fairly easy to deploy in the cloud for organizations that run it on premises already. These are the most common workloads, but all Office products – Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Publisher, Access, and OneNote – are available through certain O365 licensing.

What skills and tools do we need to deploy all the necessary workloads?

A full O365 deployment is a daunting task simply because many organizations lack the tools or technical expertise required. Even planning a deployment can be overwhelming, and many IT professionals realize they need help in both the planning and the migration. Deploying from old infrastructure and servers (like soon-to-be-retired Windows Server 2003 components) presents its own set of difficult challenges that can stifle progress.

For some organizations, a lack of manpower in the IT department or the preliminary cost of a deployment are hurdles they cannot overcome. So when organizations rely on a Microsoft partner to help with deployment, they receive a new level of technical knowledge and different processes that help vault them past these common issues.

How to get your O365 cloud deployment off the ground

Once you have the basics down — whether you want to deploy yourself or with a partner, what you plan to deploy, and what resources you need — it’s time to take a closer look at the technical requirements. In our O365 webinar, we’ll look at everything from the core components of O365 to identity management to migrations of Exchange, SharePoint, and Lync.

If you’re a corporation, education institution, Texas education institutiongovernment agency, or Texas government agency that needs help deploying your O365 services or even figuring out how your organization can best take advantage of the service, register today to secure your spot in the webinar, and feel free to leave a comment below with any questions.

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How to determine if you qualify for Office 365 incentives

Microsoft IncentivesTo help more organizations get started with their O365 subscriptions, Microsoft is now offering several financial “carrots” to spur deployment. New customers that purchase more than 150 O365 licenses from Sept. 1, 2014 to March 31, 2015 are eligible for basic onboarding and deployment, as well as monetary incentives aimed to offset the full cost of deployment through a certified Microsoft partner. These incentives can be realized by private and public businesses, government entities, and even some educational institutions that meet certain qualifications.

Microsoft has instituted a handful of O365 deployment incentive programs, and some, like the FastTrack: Getting Started program, have already been exhausted. But don’t get confused. While the FastTrack: Getting Started program is out of funding, the O365 Adoption Offer is still available and can be utilized by customers that begin the process through a certified Microsoft partner. While these programs might sound the same, they offer distinct benefits. Continue Reading…

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Microsoft extends Office 365 ProPlus education benefits

benefitsLast year Microsoft announced it would give students free access to Office 365 (O365) through its Student Advantage program. Now the software giant is extending these benefits to school faculty and staff, and revealing a self-enrollment model that makes it even faster and easier for all parties to take advantage of these benefits.

Effective Dec. 1, 2014, any educational institution purchasing Office for its faculty and staff can now include an O365 Professional Plus (ProPlus) subscription at no extra cost for all students, faculty, and staff. Anyone with an active school-specific email address from eligible schools can sign up and install the following versions of Microsoft Office on up to five machines and five tablets of their choice:

  • Office 2013 Professional Plus
  • Office 2011 for Mac (and the new Office for Mac when it comes out next year)
  • Outlook for Mac (next generation)
  • Office for iPad (full featured)
  • Office for iPhone (full featured)
  • Office for Android tablet (when available)

Continue Reading…

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