Sys Admin guide to surviving Office 365

Previously I had written a slideshare presentation about surviving as a Sys Admin in a cloud based world… here is more of an opinion piece from what I’ve experienced.

I had a conversation with some friends, colleagues and fellow sys admins this week regarding how Office 365 impacts our roles. Many System Administrators fear that Office 365 will displace them or give them reduced roles in their IT environment. I can see where in some cases this might be true. In the smaller mom and pop shops, Office 365 may be put in and things can just hum along smoothly. Then again, how much support would we be giving these businesses anyways? Those are the places where natively I think Office 365 lines up nicely. They don’t need additional infrastructure, they can keep their email, files and presence in the cloud and the rich clients on their laptop.

What about the larger shops? What becomes of the system administrators in these shops when you move your infrastructure to the cloud? Well, in my view they get busier and things get more complicated for them? at this point you might be asking what am I drinking? What I just said is counter intuitive to everything you might have thought and heard…but really? As a Sys Admin, how much time do you spend these days working on hardware? Hardware is getting more and more specialized, and more and more reliable…What do you think makes Microsoft able to run these massive datacenters?

Why do sys admins get busier and how does it get more complex? I thought the cloud was supposed to simplify things?

You thought wrong in my humble opinion. What do Sys Admins work on day to day in large organizations? They work on helping to make the business run, they setup accounts, they manage compliance, archives, email address changes, Active Directory, Backups, They work with people and most importantly they are experts of how their perspective business runs, and that doesn’t go away with the implementation of Office 365 or any other cloud platform.

Sys Admins need to up their game even more. Yes, they don’t have to worry about as much hardware, but they have to worry about exposing their Active Directory to the outside world to achieve single sign on, they have to understand what features on-premise version of CRM has vs. CRM Online to make the case of migrating or not as fact based as possible. They still have to manage Active Directory accounts, but now they have to also manage everything that lives in Office 365. They will be managing compliance, in-place archiving, space requirements, SSL certificates (internal and external)


I can tell you right now from experience, that these larger environments will be hybrid environments. These companies have huge investments in their Active Directory infrastructures and it’d be terribly disruptive to the company to transition that, it really is the backbone of any company and has been around in it’s current form since Windows 2000. These environments will likely be going hybrid with single sign on to Office 365. Doing this Systems Administrators will now have to manage their IT footprint on-premise and in the cloud with proper routing between the two systems. Issues don’t go away, they now become more complex and there can be more troubleshooting involved.

Fear not fellow Sys Admins, it’s exciting times. There will be change, but that change is fun to learn, it’s exciting and it will expand your world…If you play your cards right, you will become even more valuable to your business because you’ll learn their line of business applications and be involved in business decisions and IT direction.




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