How to Migrate Your Small or Medium-Size Business to Microsoft Azure and Office 365

What is Microsoft Azure?

Microsoft Azure is collection of computer services offered by Microsoft. These services are provided using a network of datacenters that Microsoft built and operates around the earth.

Basically, Microsoft built a global network of datacenters, filled them with the best computer hardware and software money can buy, and are allowing businesses to use these resources as a paid service.

Microsoft’s Azure datacenters are currently located in 54 geographical areas around the earth. Each geographical area is called an Azure Region. The following map shows the approximate locations of each of these Azure Regions.

Together, these datacenters make up what Microsoft likes to call the Microsoft Cloud. So whenever you hear the term Microsoft Cloud, remember that it is simply referring to hardware and software running in Microsoft’s global network of datacenters.
All of the services offered in Azure are meant to be accessed remotely, from your local computer, over the internet. This is typically done using a web browser, or administrative tool, such as Windows Remote Desktop (RDP).

You can purchase the services offered with Azure by signing up for an Azure Subscription. Once your purchase you Azure Subscription, you can instantly begin purchasing such services as Azure Virtual Machines and Azure SQL Databases. There are several different subscriptions to choose from. Some subscriptions allow you to pay for the services you need on a monthly basis. Other subscriptions allow you to pay for your services annually, in exchange for discounts on the costs of services.

What Services does Microsoft Azure Offer?

Microsoft offers more than 100 services as part of Azure. These services are organized into different categories. Some of their more popular services include:

  • SQL Data Warehouse
  • Virtual Machines
  • Web Apps
  • SQL, MySQL
  • Azure Active Directory
  • Azure Backup
  • Azure Monitor
  • Content Delivery Network
  • Load Balancer
  • VPN Gateway
  • File Storage

Three of the most popular services include the following:

1. Virtual Machines

Azure allows you to create Windows and Linux Virtual Machines any of their Azure datacenters. These Virtual Machines can run many of the current popular operating systems, including Windows Server 2016 and Red Hat Enterprise Linux.  After creating your virtual machine, you typically connect to and manage it remotely, using Remote Desktop (RDP) or Secure Shell (SSH).

2. App Services

Microsoft Azure allows you to create Web Apps, Mobile Apps, and Web Sites running on either Windows or Linux application servers. Azure allows you to create custom domains and apply SSL certificates with all of your Azure apps.  Azure also offers templates of the most popular web apps, allowing you to quickly deploy such products as WordPress, Drupal, Moodle, and many more. Typically, a developer would create an Azure App, and then upload their application’s code to the app, using a product such as Microsoft Visual Studio.

3. SQL Server on Virtual Machines and Azure SQL Database

Microsoft Azure allows you to create and manage Microsoft SQL databases in their Azure datacenters. This allows you to manage SQL databases without having to maintain your own database servers.

Typically, you would create an Azure SQL database using a restored a backup of your local on-premises SQL database. You would then manage the database using a product such as Microsoft SQL Server Management Studio.

The complete list of Azure services is always changing. The complete list is available at https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/services.

All of the services in Microsoft Azure are accessed remotely over the internet. For example, if you create a Windows Server Virtual Machine in Azure, you will need to use Windows Remote Desktop (RDP) to connect to it from your local computer. If you create an Azure SQL Database, you will need to use Microsoft SQL Server Management Studio to connect to it from your local computer, or a developer will have to connect it to an application using a bit of code (connection string.)

What is Microsoft Office 365?

Microsoft Office 365 is a collection of products and services that are purchased as a subscription. Just as someone would subscribe to Netflix and receive access to an entire library of movies and TV shows, you could buy a subscription to Office 365 and receive access to the latest versions of the Microsoft Office suite of products.

The products and services available to you depends on the type of subscription you purchase. Microsoft offers a nice variety of subscriptions, beginning with a low cost basic option, continuing all the way up to a pricey yet comprehensive package of software.

The two most popular Office 365 subscriptions for small and medium-sized business are as follows:

Product

Office 365 Business

Office 365 Business Premium

Outlook

Yes

Yes

Word

Yes

Yes

Excel

Yes

Yes

PowerPoint

Yes

Yes

OneNote

Yes

Yes

Access

Yes

Yes

Publisher

Yes

Yes

OneDrive

Yes

Yes

Exchange Online

No

Yes

SharePoint Online

No

Yes

Microsoft Teams

No

Yes

The Office 365 subscription primarily allows you to download and install all of the applications in the Microsoft Office suite. You are always provided with the latest, fully updated, and most secure versions of these applications. Each user is licensed to install all of the Microsoft Office applications on up to five mobile phones, five tablets, and five Windows or Mac computers.

The Office 365 Business Premium subscription gives you access to Microsoft Exchange Online and SharePoint Online.
Exchange Online allows you to setup an organization-wide email system. Users will be able to download the Microsoft Outlook Client to their desktops and connect it to Exchange Online. In addition, users will be able to use the Outlook online client to access their email remotely when they are away from the office.

SharePoint Online allows you to create intranet, extranet, internet and Team Sites.

A complete list of the current Microsoft Office 365 subscriptions are available at https://products.office.com/en-us/compare-all-microsoft-office-products?tab=1.

All of the products and services in Office 365 can be managed and configured through a web application known as the Microsoft Office 365 Admin Center. Up to 300 users can be added to a subscription, and each user gets to download and use the Microsoft Office software available in the subscription. You pay for each user on a monthly basis.

The typical workflow for purchasing and setting up a new Office 365 subscription is as follows:

    1. Purchase an Office 365 Subscription
    2. Add users to your subscription
    3. Assign licenses to your users
    4. Users download, install, and start using Office software

Adding users to your Office 365 subscription allows them to access all of the products and services available in your subscription plan. Adding a user means an administrator logs on to the Office 365 Admin Console and creates a user account for that user. The user accounts are stored in a special database called the Azure Active Directory Service.

The Azure Active Directory Service that comes with an Office 365 Subscription is not the same as the normal Microsoft Azure subscription. Rather, the Azure Active Directory Service that comes with Office 365 is just a small, free, very limited database (formally called a Directory Service) that is only used to contain your Office 365 user accounts.

You cannot use the free limited Azure Active Directory Service that comes with an Office 365 Subscription to access any of the other Azure services, such as creating virtual machines or hosting Azure SQL Databases in Azure datacenters. The sole purpose of the limited Azure Active Directory Service that comes with Office 365 is to provide a database for you to store your Office 365 user accounts.

What Microsoft does allow you to do is to:

   1. Sign up for an Office 365 Subscription
   2. Sign up for an Azure Subscription
   3. Connect the Office 365 Subscription to the Azure Subscription

Connecting your Office 365 Subscription to your Azure Subscription gives you the best of both worlds. Your Office 365 Subscription can be used to provide your users with the latest versions of the Microsoft Office applications. And your Azure Subscription can be used to purchase any of the more than 100 Azure services, including Virtual Machines and SQL Databases, in Microsoft’s Azure datacenters. Connecting the two subscriptions would allow you to have one place to manage all of your Microsoft products and services, and would allow Microsoft to send you one bill at a time.

Are Azure and Office 365 the same thing?

No – Microsoft Azure and Office 365 are two completely different services.

The fact that an Office 365 Subscription comes with a free limited version of an Azure service – Azure Active Directory Service – causes quite a bit of confusion. Many people think that when they purchase an Office 365 Subscription, they automatically get access to all of products and services offered with a Microsoft Azure Subscription. But this is certainly not the case.

The Azure Active Directory Service that comes with an Office 365 Subscription is not the same thing as having a full Microsoft Azure Subscription. Rather, the Azure Active Directory that comes with Office 365 is just a small, free, very limited service. The Azure Active Directory Service is actually provided by Microsoft Azure, but is very limited, and can only be used with Office 365.

For example, you cannot use the limited Azure Active Directory Service to create virtual machines or to host Azure SQL Databases. Its sole purpose is to provide a database for you to store your Office 365 user accounts.
Notice in the following screenshot that the free limited Azure Active Directory Service that comes with an Office 365 Subscription only has three available services:

In contrast, the next screenshot shows some of the more than 100 services offered with the full version of Microsoft Azure:

The next screenshot shows a side-by-side comparison of the free limited Azure Active Directory Service that comes with an Office 365 Subscription vs a normal Microsoft Azure Subscription:

What can I migrate to Microsoft Azure and Office 365?

You can migrate some or all of your local (on-premises) network to Microsoft Azure and Office 365. The following components can be migrated to Azure and Office 365, one component at a time:

User Accounts
User accounts are used by people to sign-in to their computers and access shared resources, such as files and printers

Computer Accounts
Computer accounts are used to ensure that only approved computers are allowed in your organization (on your network)

Microsoft Office
Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote

Shared files and folders
Files shared throughout your organization, typically organized into shared folders and mapped drives

Email
Internal (between users in your organization) and external (between users on the internet) email

Databases
Microsoft SQL, MySQL, and other relational database management systems

Applications
Standard enterprise applications, such as Microsoft SharePoint, and custom in-house applications created and managed by your own developers 

What types of organizations typically migrate to Microsoft Azure and Office 365?

At Harponian, we typically work with four types of organizations:

1. Small organizations, with 10 or less users, typically arranged into a Windows 10 workgroup, who want to migrate completely to Microsoft Azure and Office 365

2. Small to medium organizations, with between 11 to 300 users, typically arranged into a Windows Server domain, who want to migrate one component (users, computers, apps, or services) at a time to Microsoft Azure and Office 365

3. Brand new small to medium organizations, with between 2 to 300 users, setting up a new computer network using Microsoft Azure and Office 365

4. Enterprise organizations, with their own Information Technology departments, in need of training and practice in migrating to Microsoft Azure and Office 365

 

How much will it cost to migrate to Azure?

The cost to migrate to Microsoft Azure is based on two things:

1. What you would like to migrate from your local organization (on-premises) to a Microsoft Azure datacenter

For example, if you have a local (on-premises) Windows Server running Microsoft SQL Server Standard Edition, and you wanted to migrate it to Azure, and you were able to use your existing Windows Server and SQL Server licenses, it would cost you approximately $ 14.60 a month in Microsoft Azure

2. How much assistance you will need in planning, migrating, stabilizing, and maintaining your users, computers, applications, and services on Microsoft Azure

At Harponian, we really appreciate the privilege of assisting small and medium sized organizations of migrating to Microsoft Azure and Office 365. Our rates are very reasonable, and our work is honest, reliable, and guaranteed. We will be happy to provide you a quote for your migration upon request.

 

How long will it take to migrate to Microsoft Azure?

The most time consuming part of migrating any of your organization’s components to Microsoft Office 365 or Azure is the planning. We do not charge you for a basic consultation in which you explain what you would like to migrate. In fact, we have a free Migration Worksheet that you can complete in advance of meeting with us. Upon completing the Migration Worksheet, we can use it to discuss your needs at no cost to you.

Once you decide to use our services, we can go to contract and create a plan for your migration. Once the plan is complete, and we sign off on it, we can perform the actual migration.
For a small business of up to 10 users, the actual migration itself can typically be completed in as little as one day.

 

Where can I find help in migrating to Azure?

At Harponian, we really appreciate the privilege of assisting small and medium sized organizations of migrating to Microsoft Azure and Office 365.

As you have seen on our web site and in our documentation, we like to explain things in plain English, eliminating technobabble, and provide you with clear documentation on what we do.

We are Microsoft Certified Professionals and Microsoft Certified Trainers with decades of experience doing actual production work with most Microsoft products and services. We will be honored to help you with your migration needs.

What are the steps of a typical migration to Microsoft Azure and Office 365?

1. Set up Your Subscriptions
   a. Sign-up for an Office 365 Subscription
   b. Sign-up for an Azure Subscription
   c. Link your Office 365 Subscription to your Azure Subscription
   d. Setup your custom Office 365 Domain (Your_domain@something.com)
   e. Create user accounts for all of your users in Azure Active Directory
   f. Document your Azure Account, Azure Subscription, Office 365 Subscription, and your custom Office 365 Domain

2. Join Your Computers to Azure Active Directory
   a. Ensure all of the computers your users will use are running the Microsoft Windows 10 Creators Update
   b. Upgrade all computers that are not running the Windows 10 Creator’s update

3. Sign-in to Azure Active Directory
   a. Train your users on Office 365, SharePoint, OneDrive, Exchange, and Signing-in to Azure Active Directory
   b. Have your users sign-in on their computers to Azure Active Directory using their new user accounts

4. Configure Office 365 Products and Services

   a. Email
      i. Configure Microsoft Exchange Online
      ii. Configure Microsoft Outlook on each user’s computer to connect to Exchange Online

   b. Messaging
      i. Configure Microsoft Skype for Business
      ii. Train users on how to use Skype Instant Messaging and Online Meetings

   c. Websites
      i. Configure Microsoft SharePoint Online
      ii. Create a SharePoint Intranet and Extranet Site
      iii. Create SharePoint Team Sites

   d. Shared Files and Folders
      i. Configure Microsoft OneDrive for Business file storage for individual users
      ii. Configure SharePoint Team Site shared storage for teams

5. Network File Sharing
   a. Configure Azure Files
   b. Set up File Shares in Microsoft Azure as a replacement for local (on-premises) file servers
   c. On your users’ Windows 10 computers, map network drives to the Azure File Shares

6. SQL, MySQL, and Other Relational Databases
   a. Set up Azure SQL or MySQL Databases, or Azure Virtual Machines running Microsoft SQL or MySQL in Microsoft Azure
   b. Migrate local (on-premises) databases to Azure SQL or MySQL
   c. Connect Microsoft SQL Server Management Studio to Azure SQL
   d. Provide connection strings to connect to SQL or MySQL remotely

7. Additional Azure Services
   a. Virtual Machines
   b. Virtual Networks
   c. Load Balancers
   d. Web or Mobile Apps
   e. Backup, High-Availability, Disaster Recovery
   f. Monitoring
   g. Security
   h. Other Azure services

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