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Checklist: Preparing for a move to hosted Exchange

Is your company contemplating a move to hosted Exchange? Before researching providers, make sure you’ve completed everything on this checklist.

Hosted email services from Microsoft and other providers give companies another email delivery option. But before moving your email to the cloud, you need to figure out if hosting is truly a better strategy than on-premises Exchange.

To determine if hosted email services are the best fit, you’ll need proper documentation and preparation. The more information you have for your technical and business needs surrounding Exchange email, the better off you’ll be when responding to market and executive influences.

A properly prepared company should have the following information available when responding to hosted Exchange email queries:

  1. A strategy for hosted Exchange email that includes documentation of your rational for choices you’ve made thus far;
  2. A business case that includes the costs of your current email environment;
  3. Documentation of business and technical needs for Exchange email;
  4. Well-documented user and service segments;
  5. Gap analysis on the technical and policy requirements for cloud-based Exchange email services; and
  6. Outlined work teams that include users, business, HR, legal, compliance, storage, network, security, records management and other stakeholders.

Proper preparation requires a holistic view of Exchange email services and systems by examining all the factors that impact the cost and operation of your email system. The following checklist will help you get started:

  • User segmentation. Write down definitions for each type of user, the types of email services and service levels they require and their role at your company.
  • Service segmentation. Document all email-related services, including customizations and add-on tools.
  • Risk tolerance. Document all risk concerns and tolerance levels, such as data leak prevention and contract liabilities.
  • Cost model. Create a cost model that includes all of your current costs for hardware, storage, support, software, maintenance and other messaging services you currently pay for. Don’t forget to include mobile devices, email archiving products, network support, storage, perimeter security, maintenance contract, licensing, staffing and support costs.
  • Business requirements. Document the business requirements for email services and how it supports your business.
  • Technical requirements. Technical requirements include dependencies on your network, email archiving, directory, governance policies, desktop upgrades and other systems that will impact a move to a third-party hosted Exchange provider.
  • Current pain points. Document existing Exchange email issues, including system stressors.
  • Contracts and licenses. Document all service contracts, licenses and other financial obligations your company has for email services. Make sure to include costs and fees to break existing contracts.
  • Service contracts. Have your legal department review all hosted Exchange email service contracts to make sure there are no objections.
  • Gap analysis. Document any technical or business requirements that are either in progress or need to be completed prior to a hosted Exchange migration.
  • Migration plan. Document how much data you plan to migrate to your new service and get a cost estimate for the process.
  • Roadmap. Build out a plan that details the major milestones for implementing a hosted Exchange email strategy.

This list is a tall order so it may be a good idea to bring in consultants who have experience with Exchange hosting to help you make informed decisions. I’ve performed many of these assessments and always leave companies in stronger positions to move forward, regardless of their email situation.

With any strategy, the details will change over time, but properly documenting the foundation behind your decisions will provide guidance as the market and your needs change.

Karen Hobert is an IT industry research analyst focused on communication, collaboration, content management and social software technologies. She offers over 20 years of hands-on and market expertise to enterprises planning, designing, and deploying shared information systems. You can read more of her thoughts at Karen's Connecting Dots blog.

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