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Microsoft Office 365

Blue Chip Consultants and Microsoft Cloud Services

Posted 1 October 2015 by Kelvin Papp

With Microsoft Office 365 showing a significant uplift in the market, Blue Chip have had to move quickly to ensure our technical staff are fully up to speed with the latest evolutions in Cloud Services. It’s becoming clear that Directors and IT Staff are beginning to develop trust and confidence in the Cloud’s ability to hold at least some of their company data in a secure and efficient way. Microsoft tell us that up to 1000 clients per day are moving some of their data into the Microsoft Cloud, with a significant proportion relating to Office 365 transitions involving the movement of Email, Communication Services, and corporate Data.

For many years now storage has been a key constraint for most companies. There’s a continual need to identify or procure more space to store data and unlike the last decade where we talked gigabytes it’s now common to talk in terms of terabytes – this will continue to evolve. It was perhaps inevitable that in seeking alternate forms of storage, the cloud would “step in” to provide an option for partial or full migrations for storage heavy workloads.

Many were worried that as the cloud matured, the need for experts in particular fields – Exchange, Active Directory etc. would reduce as it would all be magically handled in the cloud via one click wizards and all-inclusive support. The reality is quite different, with many different permutations of on-premise and cloud deployment options available, and a significant level of expertise still required to configure and troubleshoot. In our experience, the need for appropriate skills has increased – with a real need for training in these crossover technologies to ensure everything functions smoothly.

A training challenge for Blue Chip has been the need to provide a hands-on lab environment which (unsurprisingly) exists partially in the cloud. We’ve utilised trial versions of Office 365 to provide the cloud components, alongside Blue Chip’s own Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) facilities; leveraging virtual machines to demonstrate the key deployment scenarios we see in the field. This gave us two key options:

Scenario 1: Office 365 fully in the Cloud

This scenario assumes that all available Office 365 services will be deployed on the Microsoft platform, with our platform supporting Domain Services for the purpose of (optional) automatic user provisioning and password synchronisation only – reflective of the most common deployment we see. Naturally the IaaS element could easily support alternate, non-SaaS capable workloads.

Scenario 2: Hybrid: Cloud and On-Premise/IaaS Hosted

This scenario reflects a more complex deployment, but one in which data can be distributed between Office 365 and an on-premise (or IaaS based) infrastructure. In this topology, ADFS is used to provide a secure authentication bridge between the traditional Active Directory and Office 365 for single sign on (SSO). In addition, Exchange, SharePoint, and Skype for Business workloads can be distributed between the Cloud instances and the local estate to accommodate specific data security or organisational requirements:

Using these configurations, our consultants have been able to establish real world labs in order to learn the most common options, both basic and complex, whilst also leveraging the same platform that many of our customers choose to deploy alongside SaaS services like Office 365 in order to support more traditional workloads. With the number of Office 365 engagements we are undertaking, it’s fair to say that 2015 has proved to be very intensive for our technical department, but equally a period of time which has been highly rewarding and interesting in terms of viewing the progress in the world of Microsoft Cloud and Infrastructure as a Service.

If you're interested in Microsoft Cloud Services from Blue Chip please contact us today.

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