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The great Office 365 migration: Are we there yet?


If you work in the U.S., you may well be using Office 365. As of 2019, more than 500,000 businesses in the U.S. alone use Office 365, including 70 percent of the Fortune 500. And adoption continues to grow.

To gain insight into the reasons enterprises are migrating and what their experiences have been,  TechValidate, working with Zscaler, surveyed 250 IT professionals in organizations that are using Office 365. The survey results were compiled in a report: 2019 Office 365 Migration Survey.

About the survey

The organizations that participated in the survey had more than 1,000 employees and represented a wide range of industries, with the largest share coming from the technology, professional services, healthcare, retail, and manufacturing sectors. The top five titles of respondents included IT Manager, IT Director, CIO, Network Engineer, and CTO. All were surveyed on their experience deploying Office 365 and use was carefully defined: to be included in the survey, respondents had to be using Office, Skype, Exchange, and OneDrive. Of those surveyed, more than half came from businesses with more than 5,000 employees. Geographically, about half of the respondents were based in the U.S., with the other half from Europe.

The goals of migration

The top reason companies are migrating to Office 365 is to attempt to reduce the complexity of their IT environment. This was followed closely by the desire to improve application reliability and cut costs. This makes sense, as Office 365 in the cloud can seem like a way for a business to reduce hardware and infrastructure costs, and to reduce the IT management burden on the enterprise itself. However, because operating Office 365 in the cloud increases network bandwidth fairly significantly, organizations that keep their legacy hub-and-spoke architectures, and backhaul all their traffic through it, will run into congestion problems and a poor experience for users. Office 365 is intended to accelerate and support collaboration—this is what companies are craving, but they need the right infrastructure to deliver on that promise.

Legacy networks are hindering Office 365 success

In spite of years of deployment best practices—including Microsoft’s recommendation of direct-to-internet connections for Office 365—companies are still attempting to put a Band-Aid on the problem by upgrading their gateway appliances. Not only does this approach fail to solve the latency problems, but 40 percent of survey respondents said that the need for costly upgrades was actually delaying their Office 365 deployment the most. More than a quarter also stated that latency concerns were hampering their deployments, which falls in line with the network infrastructure issues many companies are experiencing.

In search of solutions

Organizations are not sitting idly by. They want and need to get the most out of their Office 365 deployments. Many of the companies surveyed are tackling their gateway problems head-on by routing Office 365 directly to the internet from branch offices. The direct-to-internet approach—what Microsoft calls local egress—greatly reduces connectivity issues and eliminates the latency created by backhauling traffic. Direct connections bring the Microsoft cloud closer to users to help companies achieve their goals of improving productivity and collaboration. And because direct connections reduce the need to backhaul traffic over costly MPLS links, they drive down costs, too.

The report offers five key recommendations that are well worth considering, all of which focus on network architecture:

  1. Revisit your MPLS and WAN strategy
  2. Route Office 365 traffic directly to the cloud
  3. Simplify proxies and firewalls
  4. Consider SD-WAN
  5. Rethink security

While legacy networks continue to pose problems for accessing SaaS and cloud services, there are solutions right now that can help organizations realize the collaborative workplaces they envision with Office 365.

Download the survey report.

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Steve Grossenbacher is Head of Product Marketing for Zscaler Internet Access

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