Automated office suite advances Strategic SaaS

Learn how Strategic SaaS is expanding its cloud presence with the use of an automated office suite.

A roster of in-house email migration experts helped Strategic SaaS establish a cloud presence in infrastructure messaging and unified communications in 2009. Fast growth since then has forced the cloud office productivity services provider to decide: add more staff or adopt automated migration software?

In the end, automation trumped hiring due to the cloud provider's expansion beyond Microsoft-only projects and the cost of doing repetitive tasks with Microsoft veterans.

"Cloud is the way of the future for utility-type IT, such as email, document management, communications, etc.," Frank Johnson-Suglia, co-founder and managing director of Austin, Texas-based Strategic SaaS, said. "We were looking for a more utility-like approach to providing migration services."

Early days with SaaS office suites

Strategic SaaS first provided Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite, then moved to the Microsoft Office 365 suite when it was released in 2010. Choosing 365 was a no-brainer. "There's a humongous base of server-based Microsoft Office users looking to move to off-premises," Johnson-Suglia said. "Uptake of Office 365 has increased as its capabilities became further on par with the enterprise software-based solutions."

Frank Johnson-Suglia Frank Johnson-Suglia

Many 365-related services are in the Strategic SaaS portfolio, including SharePoint Online and Office ProPlus for greater mobile collaboration capabilities and Lync for unified communications. The attraction to Office 365 services are the commonalities in their historical platforms, the way they interoperate and cloud-readiness. "Microsoft's legacy office suites were enterprise-class, server-based technologies. Today, they are available by subscription in a multi-tenant cloud environment," said Johnson-Suglia.

Barriers when migrating office suites to cloud

Microsoft Office 365's diverse ecosystem isn't a complete win for cloud deployments, Johnson-Suglia said. Most companies are moving messaging, collaboration and productivity applications at the same time. Determining how those services interoperate is one challenge. Another is integrating with systems outside of the Microsoft fold, like Salesforce CRM. Integrating Salesforce CRM with the Windows environment that's used to authenticate employees so that they can access CRM services isn't simple.

"Customers are concerned with understanding the gotchas of any email migration, the unknowns, and how to prepare," said Johnson-Suglia. "A customer-facing, automated migration tool can address those issues."

Automating email migration the cloud way

In looking for automated office suite migration tools, Johnson-Suglia sought a product appropriate for his company's move from SMB to large enterprise migrations. Microsoft 365's built-in tools only fit the low end. High cost ruled out tools from large, enterprise migration solution providers such as Quest, recently acquired by Dell. Some smaller cloud office productivity suite providers were too specialized. For example, Binary Tree's sole focus on Lotus Notes was too narrow. BitTitan's breadth of customer base and cloud model hit the sweet spot, as did a track record of 1.5 million mailboxes put on the cloud since 2009. Another fit was MigrationWiz's free trial and starting price of $11.99 per mailbox, with volume discounts.

BitTitan's cloud-only migration scenario was a winner for Strategic SaaS, a born-in-the-cloud company. BitTitan MigrationWiz is accessed and implemented via the company's website, a good fit for the Strategic SaaS remote delivery approach, according to Geeman Yip, CEO of BitTitan. With MigrationWiz, local servers are only needed for Lotus Notes migrations.

Geeman Yip Geeman Yip

In addition to simplifying onboarding to cloud email, BitTitan makes offboarding simple, Yee said. "Your data is no longer held hostage in a holster provider," he said. "We allow you entry into the holster provider via our website. If you're not satisfied, you can actually offboard to another provider or back to your on-premises environments."

MigrationWiz has broad support for many mailbox systems, including Gmail, IMAP, Exchange 2003-2013, POP (Hotmail, Windows Live, etc.), Zimbra and Lotus Notes.  Also, MigrationWiz has native support for most mail platforms, using specialized connectors for each platform. "We welcomed the capability to be able to migrate from those disparate environments," said Johnson-Suglia.

BitTitan's support for many mail systems also presented the most challenging aspect of using MigrationWiz: educating Strategic SaaS developers about how different source environments -- such as Notes or Zimbra -- interact with MigrationWiz's capabilities. "Once we got a number of those types of migrations completed, however, it was easy to replicate the process," said Johnson-Suglia.

BitTitan's Web-based approach improved Stategic SaaS' price competitiveness. "We didn't need highly skilled resources that had tremendous expertise in utilizing a lot of their competitors' tools," Yip said.

Using the highest level of expertise in-house was a good way to establish a high-quality model, Johnson-Suglia said. "Now, we can utilize much cheaper resources to accomplish the same thing with MigrationWiz."

Strategic SaaS' next projects will include adopting BitTitan's User Activation product to automatically find and onboard users and configure mailboxes and Deployment Pro for customizing settings, among other things.

This was first published in July 2014

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Which tools have you used to automate email suite migrations to the cloud: MigrationWiz, SkyKick, Quest, or others? What was good, bad or ugly about your experiences?

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