Taking a hybrid approach to the Microsoft E5 suite

Microsoft's new Office 365 E5 suite includes cloud telephony services, but the software faces some challenges with deployment and business adoption.

Microsoft's Office 365 Enterprise E5 suite is available in the cloud telephony market, but organizations must take...

a serious look at whether the service suits their needs.

Microsoft E5 is attractive for organizations that already have an Office 365 deployment, since it's a bundle that includes Office 365, Exchange, Yammer and analytics tools on top of cloud telephony services. It also gives organizations the opportunity to transition their on-premises investments to the cloud, said Elka Popova, unified communications and collaboration program director at Frost & Sullivan.

Businesses move their telephony services to the cloud for various reasons. Some companies have limited on-premises resources, while others prefer the flexibility of the cloud, Popova said.

"For someone that needs all the components of the E5 bundle, it's a compelling solution," she said.

But for businesses that don't exclusively use Microsoft services, or have already made on-premises investments, E5 becomes less compelling.

"To adopt this services bundle, businesses need to be on the threshold of upgrading all of these capabilities," Popova said.

Microsoft E5's cloud telephony also lacks features available with on-premises telephony services that may be a necessity for certain organizations, such as fax and contact center services.

A hybrid approach to Microsoft E5 can make deploying cloud telephony easier for organizations, as they can have some capabilities on premises and others in the cloud. Smaller organizations are best suited for a full E5 deployment, but larger organizations face hurdles when standardizing on a single vendor.

"It would be very hard to move everyone to this package, mostly because of existing investments in other technologies," Popova said.

John Dunne, chief solutions officer at performance management software provider IR, said many organizations will leverage a hybrid deployment to maintain access to capabilities not yet in the cloud telephony service, and to maintain use of their on-premises infrastructure until their Capex investment fully depreciates.

Organizations that are opening new branch offices or integrating new offices after an acquisition can leverage a hybrid deployment of Microsoft E5.

"It gives you the ability to absorb other organizations or business units much faster and make them part of the way your company does business," Dunne said.

A hybrid strategy can also help organizations slowly roll out a Microsoft E5 cloud telephony deployment, Dunne said. While customer-facing departments continue to rely on on-premises infrastructure, organizations can move internal departments to the cloud. This approach is considered less risky for organizations, as those departments are not mission-critical, Dunne said.

Organizations may also leverage performance management software to support a hybrid E5 deployment.

"People don't think about management until there's an issue," Dunne said. This misstep can put the deployment at risk for a poor user experience, lag in adoption and lack of return on investment.

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