Continually evolving technologies, data security threats, costly policy and regulatory requirements and daily operational headaches become challenging when it comes to managing an organization's messaging and collaboration system. Cloud or hosted solutions, for which an organization pays a monthly fee for internal IT services provided over the Internet, reduce these administrative costs and burdens and provide round-the-clock monitoring, which helps eliminate expensive system downtime.
More and more companies are moving to the cloud as they discover how hosted solutions can reduce not only the cost of internal IT applications, but also eliminate the capital costs of supporting those applications. By paying for messaging and collaboration services, organizations no longer have to worry about buying, installing, configuring and supporting technology.
Another plus for the organization is the increase in user productivity that results from cloud computing. A hosted solution increases productivity through high availability and scalability, giving people secure access to their data any time, regardless of their physical location.
Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Suite
Microsoft's cloud computing offering, the Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS), follows this model: For a fee, Microsoft will provide each user in an organization with e-mail, instant messaging, presence, Web conferencing and access to an intranet portal for collaboration. There are no server software, hardware, storage or maintenance costs. The BPOS hosted messaging and collaboration solutions include Exchange Online (e-mail), SharePoint Online (intranet/Web portal), LiveMeeting (Web conferencing) and Office Communications Online (instant messaging/presence).
BPOS comes in both Standard and Dedicated versions. Standard is a shared environment; it is one (large) Exchange server farm shared by many customers, or tenants, and multiple organizations may use the same servers.
A BPOS Dedicated environment gives each client its own Exchange server or SharePoint farm, but is similar to having its servers hosted in someone else's data center. Exchange Online Dedicated is available for customers with a minimum of 5,000 users.
There are some feature differences due to the 'shared' nature of BPOS Standard. For example, custom Web parts cannot be deployed in BPOS Standard SharePoint Online, and, to prevent a Standard customer from executing a search query and returning results from another customer's SharePoint Online sites, enterprise search capability across multiple site collections is not allowed.
Migrating to Exchange Online
Message systems frequently need upgrading, and there always has been a push to migrate from legacy versions of Microsoft Exchange to the latest editions with the newest features. With Microsoft Exchange Online, organizations will get the newest Microsoft technologies and releases at no additional charge.
The expense of building and designing a new Exchange environment goes beyond the obvious hardware and software costs. Upgrading the skills of current IT employees is one of the most expensive aspects. Exchange Online, however, requires only that an organization train its IT staff to support users of the hosted solution, not to deal with complicated architecture design.
Best Practices for Migrating to Exchange Online
Consider coexistence issues when planning the initial pilot stages of a migration from Notes or GroupWise to Exchange Online. Choose to move either (a) pilot users who do not rely heavily on scheduling tasks or (b) an entire small business unit all at once so end users can see free/busy information among themselves.
On-premises to Exchange Online (Two-Hop)-Previously, the only option available to migrate data from a disparate e-mail system like Lotus Notes/Domino or Novell GroupWise was to perform an on-site migration into a completely new Exchange deployment. It must be built out in an interim Active Directory forest, entirely separate from an existing production forest/domain.
Direct to Exchange Online (One-Hop) - Third-party migration products now make it possible to move Notes and GroupWise mailbox content directly to Exchange Online in a single hop, reducing the processing time in half and removing the need for a complicated chain of manual and automatic directory synchronization. Plus a single-hop migration mitigates most of the risk in comparison to a multiple hop migration.
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