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Can you deploy Office 365 over legacy IT architecture?

It is no wonder that so many organisations are migrating over to Office 365, with clear user benefits of improved productivity, compatibility and security, as well as the big wins for IT - saving time, money and precious resource.

Still, as organisations move their applications and services to the cloud, many are realising that their 'on-premise' legacy IT architecture was quite understandably not designed for a mobile-enabled, cloud-first world.

» How can you avoid Office 365 latency? Read the Office 365 networking guide

So before deploying Office 365 over legacy IT architecture, it is important to consider the real value of moving to Office 365, as well as the network architecture to avoid the common network latency issues - and a poor user experience.

Deploying Office over legacy IT infrastructures

There are some undeniable benefits of moving to Office 365. To summarise, the important factors and features you need to be aware of when making your decision include:

But a more important consideration is whether you can successfully deploy Office 365 to all users across your organisation, regardless of location - HQ, branch office, or remote/home worker.

The challenges of legacy IT infrastructures


Users always have the latest programs

First and foremost, users will always receive the latest program versions, but don't forget that one of the biggest benefits is that current updates happen automatically, saving your IT team valuable time.

As well as having up-to-date software, accessing Office 365 in the cloud naturally removes the need, complexities and cost for 'on premise' hardware. The Microsoft 'server' will never be down, need updating, or require a hardware re-fresh.

Robust security

Microsoft's online services have been designed with security in mind. Office 365 is ranked as the leader for secure email gateways, meaning no other email provider is offering a more secure platform - with 128-bit SSL/TSL encryption, so if a transmission is intercepted, they won't be able to read it.

There is even the option for you to maintain your own encryption keys so that Microsoft themselves cannot access or interpret your data.

Selected Office 365 security features:

Encrypted email: Keeps all users other than the intended recipient from reading emails.

Data loss prevention: Microsoft's Data Loss Prevention policy gives your organisation the chance to identify, monitor and protect sensitive information from leaving your company.

Back-up and Disaster Recovery: There’s lots of built-in redundancy and back-up to restore your data.

Advanced threat analytics: Analyses your organisation's systems and alerts users to suspicious behaviour on the network, scanning emails for malicious links and attachments.

Users can work from anywhere

Legacy IT systems with 'on prem' hardware make it more difficult to work remotely, or out of hours. With Office 365, your employees can access emails, files and use Office programs from any location on any compatible device, improving productivity, particularly of remote workers, or those who require flexible working.

It is of course particularly beneficial if your business operates across multiple locations and geographies, or if users require frequent travel.

NOTE: Although an assumption might be that poor, or no internet connection can hinder access, several Office 365 plans come with the ability to install full desktop versions of the common Office programs, such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint. If there is no internet connection, you can still use Office 365, which simply syncs your work once connected.

Scalability of Office 365

The simplicity of adding new users to Office 365 should not be underestimated. No need to create accounts on your own infrastructure and install each individual software on a device, as well as not having to purchase additional server capacity, if needed.

Office 365 compatibility

It is possible that your organisation will have a mix of operating systems, and highly likely you will have a wide variety of mobile or tablet devices in use, probably embracing a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) mobile policy.

Office 365 is designed to be compatible with almost all devices and web browsers, working best on Windows 10, but also compatible with Windows 7 and Windows 8, as well as Mac, Windows tablet, Windows phone, iOS devices along with Android devices - as well as working seamlessly with Internet Explorer 11, Microsoft Edge, Chrome, Safari and Firefox.

The challenges of legacy IT architecture

Legacy IT network architectures can present their own challenges - why not just Google 'Office 365 latency'. Many organisations have experienced significant latency, as well as seeing bandwidth usage skyrocket. This clearly does not deliver on the promised benefits.

Read the Office 365 Networking Guide

Microsoft's recommendation - direct internet connection

Microsoft recommends a direct internet connection, by-passing Office 365 traffic through your proxies, rather than backhauling traffic over MPLS.

Additionally, centralised proxies should be avoided - which can introduce latency. Proxies should be located in the local region of the user.

Office 365 bandwidth requirements

When moving to Office 365, it is reasonable to expect a 40% increase in bandwidth consumption. Plus you are likely to see some level of port exhaustion on existing firewalls/proxies. And of course, bandwidth usage will only continue to increase over time, quickly wiping out your bandwidth estimates.

Proxy architecture

Proxies often do not scale well - and were not designed with Office 365 in mind. If a proxy needs to be used, then ensure:

  • Devices are scaled up to cope with SaaS services (both in terms of processing and NAT capability).
  • Avoid centralised proxies - and ensure proxies are in the local region of the client.
  • Avoid unnecessary packet inspection.

Connecting to Office 365 using Zscaler

Zscaler is the world's leading and largest cloud security platform. With direct peering in Microsoft's Azure data centres, Zscaler provides fast (and secure) direct internet breakout to connect to Office 365 (and your other cloud services), to deliver a first-class Office 365 user experience, regardless of location.

Zscaler Office 365 network architecture

And with granular bandwidth control (to both cloud applications and general internet traffic), you can guarantee Office 365 bandwidth to all users - which is why Zscaler is the default choice for enterprises of all sizes looking to migrate to Office 365 (or other large-scale apps, for that matter).

As a Gartner magic quadrant leader for the 7th consecutive year, Zscaler moves your security stack to the cloud, providing fast, secure connections between users and applications - regardless of device, location, or network.

Gartner magic-quadrant secure web gateways 2017

Zscaler not only enables low latency Office 365 connectivity for all users and avoids increasing bandwidth costs, but also provides granular bandwidth visibility and control - as well as enabling enterprises to further unlock the promises of cloud and hybrid network infrastructures.

Which is why Zscaler is the default choice for enterprises of all sizes looking to migrate to Office 365 (or other large-scale apps, for that matter).

Wait, there's more...

With Zscaler, Office 365-enablement is simple. Just 'click to enable' in Zscaler, then perhaps perform some routing optimisation and bandwidth management. That’s it!... at least as far as the network is concerned.

Plus you get all the sizeable benefits of the world's leading cloud security platform, supported by the UK's leading Zscaler partner.

Want to learn more? Read the expert guide...

With Office 365, the challenges of using legacy IT architecture can be easily eliminated.

Read Comtact's Expert Guide to Office 365 Network Architecture for Enterprises (and other large-scale applications).

Or learn from our blog on Solving network latency issues with Office 365 migration.

Deliver LAN-like performance, with full visibility and control of bandwidth usage - even across legacy network architectures. And avoid the common latency complaints with Office 365.

eBook: Network latency & bandwidth issues with Office 365 migration


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About Comtact Ltd.

Comtact Ltd. is a government-approved Cyber Security and IT Managed Service Provider, supporting clients 24x7x365 from our ISO27001-accredited UK Network & Security Operations Centre (NOC/SOC).

And as the UK’s leading Zscaler partner, Comtact Ltd. has extensive expertise in network and security transformation, operating 24/7 from our high security UK NOC/SOC to transform and secure many of the UK’s leading organisations.


Comtact Ltd UK NOC - Zscaler Partner Reseller

With a dedicated in-house team to Zscaler specialists providing 1st and 2nd-line support to clients, Comtact helps dramatically simplify the migration to Office 365 with Zscaler.

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