Office 365 users get 1TB storage boost

IT pros concerned about shrinking cloud storage for Office 365 have gotten a 1TB lifeline from Microsoft. One major city stands to benefit through a 100,000-user migration.

IT pros concerned about paying for more OneDrive cloud storage will appreciate Microsoft's storage increase for Office 365 subscribers.

The aggressive jump in storage follows the same increase to 1TB per user that Microsoft offered Office 365 business users in April.

The upgrade represents Microsoft's bid to convince businesses and consumers to use Office 365, based on requirements for an ever-growing need for more cloud-based storage. Microsoft also made waves this spring by uncoupling OneDrive for Business from Office 365 and SharePoint Online to compete with Dropbox and Box.

Analysts agree Microsoft's strategy makes Office 365 more attractive to existing and potential buyers.

"We're at a point where storage is just a native feature for productivity suites and platforms," said Wes Miller, vice president of research at Directions on Microsoft, an IT consulting organization in Kirkland, Washington. "The price war on storage is destined to motivate businesses and consumers ... to a certain degree."

However, businesses will place more emphasis on meeting other concerns for hosted services.

"Most businesses have larger concerns about hosted services that go far beyond 'How much am I paying per GB or TB?'" Miller said.

Indeed, 1TB of storage is like a cherry on top of a sundae for Office 365 subscribers and customers, including the Los Angeles County government, which will soon be a beneficiary.

Office 365 mature enough for LA

This month, Los Angeles County will begin migrating 100,000 users to Office 365 Government to improve efficiency and collaboration among disparate departments.

A few years ago, Los Angeles County began to consolidate email systems into a single platform. Departments used different applications, including Lotus Notes, Novell GroupWise and Microsoft Outlook, instead of one product, said Richard Sanchez, CIO.

Due to cloud security concerns, the county chose not to adopt Office 365 at that time.

"Office 365 years ago wasn't as robust as it is today," said Sanchez.

The county continued consolidation but began discussions with Microsoft about Office 365's maturity and potential security gaps. The product now offers compliance with government regulations to ensure security works across the service.

In addition, the county was required to comply with Criminal Justice Information System (CJIS) and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) standards.

For the justice and health community, compliance was essential, and the executive leaders were unwilling to consider Office 365 without it, Sanchez said.

Additionally, Microsoft's commitment to building out its data center infrastructure, increased security focus, expanded OneDrive storage, Lync and number of Office licenses per devices for mobile workers all factored into Los Angeles County's decision to adopt Office 365.

Collaboration, mobility seal the deal

With 37 agencies in Los Angeles County, worker collaboration in different departments can be difficult. Since each department used its own applications, sharing data across agencies was especially hard.

For instance, law enforcement agencies need to exchange information, Sanchez said. The sheriff's department was one of the foremost supporters of Office 365, and its 17,000 workers now will be among the first to migrate to the service.

"All departments, whether it's in social services or general government, are looking forward to leveraging [Office 365] to do business and collaborate more efficiently," Sanchez said.

Meanwhile, mobility also played a role in encouraging Office 365 adoption. Workers will be more productive using OneDrive, SharePoint and a mobile device.

"County employees are supporting more mobile users, and the technology is moving us in that direction," said Sanchez. "It's going to be a requirement for many of our employees to use mobile apps," he said. Any future mobile development will support a variety of platforms, including Windows, Android and iOS devices.

The difficult migration process

Migrating 100,000 users to Office 365 is a massive and daunting task, and negotiating licensing is a convoluted challenge. Los Angeles County had to convert several Enterprise Agreements and Client Access Licenses into a subscription service.

Establishing Active Directories and government processes all agencies can live with will be a challenge, said Sanchez, especially with unique requirements for each law enforcement and health agency.

Training workers at small to midsize departments on Office 365 represents another hurdle. These departments must learn how to use products beyond the standard Office productivity applications such as Lync, OneDrive and SharePoint.

How Los Angeles County will deal with Microsoft's rapid enhancement cadence is another question, because it's an issue smaller agencies are not accustomed to, Sanchez said. "It will be good for the county to maintain a degree of currency within departments," he said.

Barring any major disruptions, Sanchez expects the project be finished within a year.

Los Angeles County expects to save about $2.5 million when the project is completed, said Sanchez. Since different county departments maintain their own storage, infrastructure, equipment and licensing, the figure is actually conservative, he said. Office 365 runs over Los Angeles County's own private cloud, and Sanchez expects that should bring costs down even further. 

En Pointe Technologies, a Microsoft solution provider in Gardena, California, will support the migration for the next five years. The contract was worth $72 million in licensing revenue and is one of Microsoft's largest Office 365 government-project wins this year.

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