From Good to Great – Why Office 365 Needs Mimecast

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From the moment BPOS was first released about five years ago, we’ve consistently said on this blog that we welcome Microsoft’s move to the cloud, that it’ll be a great solution for some businesses, but that mature cloud services like Mimecast’s will play a major role as adoption begins to gain momentum. Well, if BPOS was Microsoft’s trial run, Office 365 is the real deal and it does now seem to be gaining serious traction in the market. But our position remains the same, and in fact the business case for Mimecast’s solutions to enhance Office 365 looks stronger than ever.

Office 365 is positioned by Microsoft as a one-stop-shop, and on the surface looks like something of a panacea for a business looking to outsource email and stop managing an on-premises Exchange server. For many businesses, particularly in the SMB space, it is.

But for larger companies, or those for whom email is a mission critical application, Office 365 may not be quite so alluring. In general, Mimecast customers fall into that category – they want to use best practice cloud services to protect email from threats, and store the data in a secure, highly available archive. And amongst our customer base we’ve seen a preference for keeping Exchange on-site – there’s strong interest in Exchange 13 – or moving to a hybrid model with some mailboxes on-site and others in the cloud.

The blockers to Office 365 adoption seem to fall into three categories.

  • Archiving doesn’t offer sufficient levels of compliance and eDiscovery capabilities
  • Uptime is a concern
  • Exchange Online Protection may not represent best practice email security

We also think a further need will emerge, for a single archive of multiple types of unstructured data, fully searchable both for eDiscovery purposes and for day to day use by end users from their laptops, smart-phones and tablets. An Enterprise Information Archive for Office 365, to use Gartner terminology.

For Mimecast, then, nothing much changes from how we position around on-premise Exchange, where we offer enterprise grade cloud services that remove complexity and cost. With Office 365, it’s less about cost and complexity, and more about the ‘enterprise grade’ piece. As Office 365 adoption gains traction, the ‘pain points’ will also crystallize, and the ecosystem of ‘supporting’ or ‘enhancing’ services will emerge.  It already is emerging.

Is this a bad thing for Microsoft or Office 365?  On the contrary. Businesses who want to go down this path will be reassured that there’s a third party ecosystem of mature cloud services that can enhance the ‘off-the-shelf’ capabilities of the various SKUs of Microsoft’s new cloud solution. We expect to find businesses buying Office 365 plus Mimecast for any one of the three issues above, or potentially buying our entire UEM suite if that’s what best meets their needs. And we also expect companies who’ve already moved to Office 365 to subsequently purchase add-on services to shore up functionality in those key areas, be they compliance or security related, or based on concerns about downtime.

So, to conclude, Office 365 comes in a variety of different shapes and sizes at different price points, ostensibly for businesses with different messaging requirements. It covers a lot of ground, and for many businesses the barrier to purchase is that one or other area of critical functionality doesn’t quite meet requirements. With Mimecast, which works seamlessly within an Office 365 / Exchange context, these perceived short-falls can be fixed, and the barriers to purchase removed. With Mimecast, Office 365 goes from good to great.


Migrating to Office 365 from BPOS without Mimecast

This is a Guest Post from a prolific blogger- Andy Kemp who has recently moved from a long standing customer of Mimecast and to a Microsoft Gold Partner UniTech, one that doesn’t have Mimecast in place but excited about what the toolset could do for them. One of the recent things he’s been tasked to do is their Migration from BPOS to Office365 both internally and for a number of serviced clients, and it’s interesting to see what life without Mimecast is like…

I finally took the plunge and migrated our primary email domain to Office 365 from BPOS the other weekend- we still don’t have Mimecast but we didn’t want to wait any longer! It could have gone better but on the other hand it could have been more painful like it was when I migrated one of our secondary domains.

The two issues I faced when migrating were:

  1. Migrating the data from BPOS to Office 365
  2. Migrating the Domain from BPOS to Office 365

1. Migrating the data from BPOS to Office 365

Unfortunately there isn’t a really clean automated way to do this, the only way possible which I found to do this was to attach the new Office 365 Mailbox using the address to their exchange profile and copy/move the folders across.

This was pretty simple for the mail, contacts and task folders but the calendar folder was done in a slightly different way, you need to change the calendar view to a list and then copy and paste the entries into the new Office 365 Mailbox:

As the Exchange Folders were cached I needed to let the local folders sync up to the Online Exchange Server to then enable me to setup a clean outlook profile with only the 365 exchange account connected.

As this was all done pre migration it meant I had all my data in Office 365 when I switched over domains. This was the next step, although what should be a simple process proved to be my biggest worry with the migration even though I had done it before.

2. Migrating the Domain from BPOS to Office 365

As I have mentioned before this process although sounds straight forward is the most laborious part of the migration. If you are moving from an on prem setup or another hosted solution, then it is nowhere near as painful as moving from BPOS to Office 365.

The problem I had was with FOPE (Forefront Online Protection for Exchange) for BPOS although the Domain no longer existed in BPOS there were still artefact DNS records in FOPE which meant if I added the domain to Office 365 and then sent an email to an account using that Domain I would get an NDR immediately due to a possible mail loop. As the FOPE for Office 365 would see the DNS records in FOPE for BPOS and get a little confused and then just return a “Computer says No!” in the form of the NDR.

What I had to do was fill in a Standard Request form for removal of artefact DNS records and submit that as a Service Request via the BPOS admin centre and then call Microsoft BPOS support with the Service Request number and asked them to hurry the process up… well that made them sort it in 2 days as opposed to 6!

After a week into the move things have finally calmed down and users are running with no issues.  I have several Service requests open with Microsoft for Office 365 due to small issues that I’ve had in the admin portal but on the whole things are running well.

We are taking full advantage of Lync 2010 and the ability to federate with other organisations. We are now in the process of setting up our company intranet and extranet using SharePoint online.


Guest Post: BPOS to Office 365 Migration- Managing Without Mimecast (or not)

This is a Guest Post from a prolific blogger- Andy Kemp who has recently moved from a long standing customer of Mimecast and moved to a Microsoft Gold Partner UniTech, one that doesn’t have Mimecast in place but excited about what the toolset could do for them. One of the recent things he’s been tasked to do is their Migration from BPOS to Office365 both internally and for a number of serviced clients, and it’s interesting to see what life without Mimecast is like…

I have used Mimecast in the past for several reasons, email archiving, antivirus and malware protection, business continuity and compliance. These are all great reasons for using it but one other is for email migration. In the past when I have done system upgrades it has been pretty painless and stress free, moving from Exchange 2000 to Exchange 2003 for example.  However I think that now it is a completely different ball game as the Cloud is involved.  Moving to the Cloud is again relatively painless (just a different approach), at least from a technical point of view; politically it can be very stressful.  But moving from Cloud to Cloud for me at the moment is proving a bit of a headache.

I’m in the process of moving from BPOS to Office 365, and you would think that this would be a pretty straightforward migration moving from one Microsoft Online Service to another.  Is it straight forward? No! As a Microsoft Gold Partner and one of Microsoft’s Cloud Partners we were an early adopter of Office 365 closed beta and I was getting to like it more and more the more I used it throughout the testing.  However, when it came to domain migration I started to like it less.

The main issue for me migrating from BPOS to Office 365 is migrating your domains from one to the other. It can take anything up to 48hrs for the domain to be removed from BPOS and FOPE (Forefront Online Protection for Exchange) and only then can you add the domain in to Office 365. Then if something had gone amiss and you needed to remove the domain from Office 365 (like I had to) you would have to wait for anything up to 24hrs. It turned out my problem was that the domain had not been fully deleted from FOPE on the BPOS side.

All this time means that your email might well be unavailable (more than likely to be honest) and could have serious knock on affects to your business as email is now treated as one of the most common ways in which we communicate with our customers.

The main drive for using Mimecast in my previous place of employment was to ensure that email was accessible at all times, even when the in house exchange servers were unavailable. This could also mean when you are migrating from one service platform to another, and I would say that the same principle could be applied to a hosted email service.

Through using Mimecast you could very easily remove the headaches from your migration from one service to another as the continuity that Mimecast offers would provide you with email delivery during the process of the migration. You’ll effectively be using Mimecast as a pivot I guess for the transition.

My migration from BPOS to Office 365 has been in process for four days now.   Fortunately it is a non-critical domain I am testing with, but if this was a live email domain that I relied on for business my customers would be receiving NDRs for every email that is sent in to me.  This could well be avoided by having Mimecast in the equation as email would be delivered through Mimecast to your email service, regardless of it being on premise or hosted.

Moving email platforms is something that you do not want to do or need to do on a regular basis but if you do need to migrate your email then you will find that having something like Mimecast will make the migration even simpler and reduce your down time to a bare minimum if any.

Even if you are doing a simple email migration/upgrade you’re at risk.  Sure you will have a full backup of your server to revert back to if the migration/upgrade were to go pear-shaped –  if you did have to do a restore how long would that take you? An hour? A day? A week? I previously worked for a law firm and lawyers like to hold on to their emails; I had mail stores in the excess of 150GB, mailboxes of 15GB and over! The restoration of the email data would take about a full day (in the excess of 400GB Email data) but once the stores were restored I would then have to do an offline defrag on each mailstore db which could take anything up to 8 hrs per mail store meaning email would be down for a week. With Mimecast you could work on your exchange servers for that week and still be able to send and receive email, even by using outlook on the user’s desktop.

How long could your business survive with email down time? I guess in all honesty not very long.

I eventually got the domain working fully in Office 365 after a few calls to Microsoft and a few days of waiting! Email was being delivered to the right domain in the right service, finally!

It was a good learning curve (which is why we did it with a test domain) so when it comes to moving the live production email domain we know exactly what to do and what to expect. I am hoping that the production migration goes a bit more smoothly now! Mimecast will not take every risk out of email migration, but it will certainly give you a great level of continuity if you did face any problems when it comes to email migration.



BPOS now or Office 365 later- you need to decide now

In my last post I talked a little about Microsoft and their increased activity in the cloud and how that made me feel- very proud as it happens.

In this post I wanted to talk a little about how I think potential customers might feel about the Microsoft Business Productivity Online Services Suite (BPOS) offering.

You see, with so many of us telling IT managers and staff that the cloud is such a perfect panacea to many of their ails and consumers using online services for just about everything, it is no wonder that Microsoft created the BPOS cloud offering.

This is a service that delivers Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft Office and Microsoft SharePoint from the cloud. All of Microsoft’s core communications products, their crown jewels – outside of the OS space – delivered via the cloud.

The next evolution in this offering is nearly upon us and there is a significant facelift in the works, with a move to Exchange and Office 2010, an upgrade to SharePoint 2010 and the addition of Microsoft’s much talked about Lync communications server. Welcome to Office 365!

The Office 365 beta is already out there in production and details are starting to emerge about the transition. This got me thinking with my Sysadmin hat on- if I were thinking about buying BPOS, should I buy it now or wait until Office 365 is released?

It turns out quite an interesting strategic issue and one that needs actioning quickly if you are to take advantage of a number of things. The reason for that is new customers will get Office 365 when it’s released first and existing customers will wait before it’s released and then have up to a year to move- which is totally under their control.

So why would you want to go to Office 365? Here are some reasons:

  • Exchange 2010 back end with significantly improved management features (a lot more control for admins)
  • Sharepoint 2010 with extended customisation
  • Office 2010 available as a web app and as an installed desktop application on a subscription
  • Lync for presence, IM, video, voice

So why would you want to sign up to BPOS now?

  • You want to stay on Exchange 2007- e.g. because Office 365 doesn’t support Office 2003
  • You want to control your migration timescales

Even still, if you are waiting for Office 365 or going to BPOS, now is the perfect time to think about your migration strategy. Orlando posted on Monday about Migrations, but I can’t help but agree with esteemed Exchange MVP Nic Blank when he says “Archive before you migrate” and that’ll make your transition to the cloud quicker and easier. Even if you can have 25GB mailboxes- migrating them is a not a pleasant (or quick) task.

Personally, I would wait for Office 365 because we’re on Office 2007 and soon to be 2010, so there are no client side issues. Plus we’re already on Exchange 2010 and it wouldn’t make sense to go back to 2007. Especially considering the clever things you can do with routing thanks to the CAS role in 2010 and Office 365. But that’s another post.