Migrating to Office 365 Part 1: Business Case

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This series of an yet unknown number of blog posts will depict my journey from on-premise services to cloud services. I will describe my situation, the choices I had to make and the issues I’ve encountered. It will be a learning experience I wouldn’t want you to miss out on. Winking smile


I have had a personal Windows Domain for educational purposes for years now. My hypotheses was that by a having a day-by-day environment to upkeep, I would learn important lessons that I could then use in my profession. Ultimately my focus was on Exchange and indeed I have had and transitioned from and to Exchange Server 2003, 2007 and ultimately 2010.

And it worked, I learned a lot from this approach. But as one grows in a technical sense, a single server setup with a limited amount of users and a limited amount of hardware is not reflective of the environments I have to work with or design in my actual work. The educational setup tended too become more and more a production setup, costing time, electrical power and posing risks.

I didn't feel like fixing my own environment after a hard day's of work. It just had to work. Furthermore, I had three computers running 24/7. That costs a lot of power, however I never calculated what an impact my project had on my bill. And as time progressed, hardware tends to need replacement but I was unwilling to reserve a budget for new servers. Yes, I had (on-site only) backups but no immediate plan and resource to implement a replacement server.


So, I decided that had to change. My goals where:

  • reduce administration effort,
  • reduce disaster recovery effort, necessary reservations for new resources
  • reduce power consumption.

The last part was a small challenge as I did not know how much each server was consuming, which is important to know as it in part determines your budget (investing to save or earn money). An educated guess then.

My lab on the floor, the 1U server is not in use.I have two Dell OptiPlex GX270 and according to Dell [PDF], they have a maximum consumption of 115watt. I assumed that they would use this, as they had no modern power reduction technology and standby etc. was not used. The third server is a Dell PowerEdge 830. I could not find power consumption figures, so used the 115watt. It probably uses more, but I don't mind an underestimate. Totaling to about 345watt, which would result in a consumption of about 8 to 9 kWh per day. In the Netherlands that results in an estimated €600 power bill added above other non server power consumption.

This meant my year budget was at least €600! It would be even more if I realistically added reservations for replacement hardware and the cost of maintenance (i.e. My own time), but this amount of money already gives me some room to come up with a solution, doesn't it?

What to replace it with?

One of the OptiPlex boxes  is a firewall/proxy, so I could replace that with a fancy router (for instance a Draytek Vigor 2130n or a Cisco WRVS4400N). I would loose reverse proxy, but that wasn't an issue as I expect to have no servers anymore. Power consumption of modern router with Wi-Fi and a VPN server, is about 10 to 15 watt. Bam! Reduction of 100 watt!

The other OptiPlex box is a server core domain controller, the PowerEdge box my Exchange 2010 and fileserver. So basically, both had to go at the same time. As an Exchange expert, I could and would not go without a fully functional Outlook and Web App: it's what I and my users ( my wife [;)]) are used to. Non negotiable! Which immediately excluded Gmail, Google Apps, Hotmail and any other hosted groupware solution that is not Exchange. So, Office 365?

Exchange is default with all subscriptions and a 25GB mailbox would be more than enough. A location to store personal files would be highly preferable. SharePoint would be more than adequate, you can sync offline with SharePoint Workspaces client or mount the site as a network drive. The latter would mean basically the same user experience as a fileserver.

The P1 subscription has Exchange and SharePoint, with Lync added to it. It is targeted at professionals and small companies (less than 25 users in the Netherlands, 50 in the US). This fits my profile and it's not expensive. One user costs per month €5,25 (in the US USD 6), so in my case this would amount to €10,50 (USD 12) a month and €126 (USD 144) a year. That fits nicely in my €600 euro year budget.

Unfortunately, the P1 subscription doesn't offer Secure access to SharePoint. Authentication is over an encrypted connection, but actual data transfer from and to SharePoint is over plain http. My documents would fly over the internet unencrypted… (why?!?)

The most comparable other subscription would be an E2 subscription, but although I have budget it is €9 per account per month higher. Not attractive for just SSL and perhaps the P1 subscription will someday get secure SharePoint.
Please note that the E subscriptions offer other options such as support and that the deference in pricing is not due to SharePoint with SSL.

In any case, for my personal situation another solution must be found for personal data. Microsoft SkyDrive is encrypted and can be mounted as a network drive (In Word>Save & Send>Save to Web>Save as. Note the location and map the https location as a drive). There are a multitude of other options, but SkyDrive also has Office Web Apps. Still a bit of continuity.


With migrating to Office 365, I would reduce power consumption approximately from 345 to 15watt. I would reduce the risk of data loss, necessary invested time to do maintenance and the (non existent) reservations for hardware replacement would come free for other purposes.

With Office 365 (and SkyDrive) I have mostly the same user experience as I had before, with the added bonus of Lync. The P1 subscription is the best fit, if it weren’t for non-secure SharePoint. Luckily there are enough other options, such as the E2 subscription, but the free of charge SkyDrive is good enough for me.

In the next part I will describe my experiences migrating from On-premises Exchange to Exchange Online within the Office 365 P1 subscription. (read: more tech stuff Winking smile )

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