The way we do business has changed.
The affects of COVID on the overall business landscape still have yet to fully play out, but we’ve already seen a massive shift to remote work. Organizations of all sizes have been forced to reevaluate their operating procedures, resource allocations, budgets and information technology strategies. One particular type of business has been reaping the benefits, however, and it’s no surprise. Cloud solution providers are all the rage, and for very good reason:
- With more users working from home, shared office spaces aren’t as necessary.
- The huge increase in mobility has increased the need for streamlined, collaborative solutions like Office 365, Microsoft Teams, SharePoint, and other cloud offerings.
- The shift to remote work was a rapid one. Many cloud solutions offer low administrative burden, meaning when crisis hit, a cloud migration was the path of least resistance.
As alluring as the thought of propelling your business into the cloud is, there are many important factors to consider before making the move. While the past year has dispelled any doubt of the cloud’s overall viability, making the leap is just that – a leap. It requires planning and forethought, as not all cloud solutions are created equal.
Understand Where You’re Going
Being such a big step, moving to the cloud can introduce a great deal of uncertainty. It’s important to understand the implications of all the changes before diving in rather than figuring them out afterward.
Questions to ask:
- Which systems are we keeping?
- Which are we eliminating?
- How will things work during and after the change?
- What functionality are we gaining?
- What functionality might we be losing?
- Most importantly, how will the changes be managed and what does user adoption look like?
It’s important to familiarize yourself with the platform you’re choosing to move to. Many offer free trials, but that doesn’t always outline the whole picture – sometimes only the good parts. Additionally, those trials aren’t geared towards your end-users. Understanding how they’ll adapt to the new systems is vitally important. Despite all the preparation you put into your migration, if your end users aren’t prepared, it won’t be a success.
Steps to take:
- Get users on board with the plan early. Explain the benefits, describe the “why”, and get them motivated.
- Encourage users to participate by identifying current pain points, discussing the “nice to haves” that you can include in your plan, and providing feedback along the way.
Excited and involved users will help with your migration, not hinder it.
Identify Your Data
Understanding what types of data you plan to move, and where it will eventually end up, is another vital step in preparing for migration. Make a list of the types of data you have and turn it into an inventory that you use to start doing some cleanup and organization. This alone can save you hours of work once you start your move. The cleaner and more organized your data is before you start, the easier it is to move.
Steps to take:
- Review your data. What do you have? Image files, documents, databases, videos, “home folders”, etc.
- Determine exactly which types of data you intend to migrate. Just because you have it doesn’t mean it should get thrown in. Is it business critical? Should it be archived instead?
- Understand your compliance regulations. Will you be breaking any by storing your data in the cloud? How does your chosen provider handle those regulations?
- Get your data ready. Organize data into a migration-ready state. Locations should be easily movable and have logical directory structures. Decide on good naming conventions, as they may stick with you long after the migration is complete.
Lastly, review your risk tolerance. It may sound far fetched, but disasters happen no matter where you store your data. Data centers catch on fire too. The FBI doesn’t care which servers store what data when they’re performing a raid. What will happen if you are unable to access or retrieve your information online and don’t have physical access to it? What happens to your business if you never gain access to it again?
Identify the Services You Need
Take stock of the services you currently use and identify how you intend to replicate or add to them in the cloud. For some organizations, this might be a simple process. For others, it might be an exercise in ripping the band aid off and starting fresh in the cloud. Also, don’t forget to take a moment and think about the landscape if the need to revert in the future arose.
Steps to take:
- Make a list of all the services you use. Does your cloud provider offer these same services? Identify areas like:
- Email, communication and messaging solutions
- SPAM filtering, security and threat protection
- Office applications and desktop licensing
- Backup solutions
- Phone systems and integrations
- Business intelligence frameworks
- Secure networking
- User identification and authentication
- Identify which users will require which services. This will be vital to understanding your licensing requirements, but will also provide an opportunity to evaluate the criticality of those services. Do your users need the more expensive license, or do they just want it?
- Take stock of legacy applications or services. Can it be moved to the cloud? How will users access it? Is there a software as a service (SaaS) option you can integrate or will you require a separate on-site server?
Do You Have Good Internet?
Always available means always online. Always online means lots of Internet traffic. Whether your business operates from a single physical location, or your users are all remote, a good internet connection will be an absolute must. The least expensive plan your ISP offers likely won’t be enough.
Steps to take:
- Perform a speed test at each work location at different times of day and log the results. Make sure you understand the difference between hardwired speeds and wi-fi speeds.
- Review your ISP’s offerings and costs. Plan to upgrade your Internet service before you start transitioning to the cloud.
- Perform a wireless audit if you have a physical office. Is the signal strong across the office or do you need to install additional access points? Implement these before starting your migration.
Are Your Devices Compatible?
Not all devices are a good fit for the cloud. For instance, computers that don’t have the latest operating system will hold your users back and prevent them from using all the new features you plan to integrate, preventing the project from being successful. Similarly, old iPads, iPhones, and Android devices can throw wrenches into the gears. Do your computers have fast enough processors and solid state disks? Depending on how many older devices you have, you may need to invest in new equipment before getting started.
Steps to take:
- Create a complete inventory of all your computers and devices. Include the devices age, operating system, and warranty status.
- Plan to replace aging devices and upgrade outdated operating systems before starting your move to the cloud.
Understand Your Licensing Needs
The days of buying software once, and letting everyone use it forever, are gone. Subscription costs are the new black. Every business has different requirements, but unless all your users have the exact same job function, it’s likely you’ll require a mix of licensing. Create a licensing chart that maps out what each user will need. This will help you determine what subscriptions to purchase and which users to assign them to.
Steps to take:
- Make a list of all your users and determine what services they will need in the cloud.
- Speak with your MSP or reseller for guidance on the different licenses available.
- If you are a non-profit, determine what donation or NFP options are available to you.
- Create a licensing spreadsheet to determine the mix and costs you’ll incur.
- Take advantage of trials to “kick the tires” on what each license offers compared to your needs.
Understand Your Security and Disaster Recovery Posture
Securing cloud data and securing on-site data are two different ball games. Get informed about how security works with your cloud provider before you make the move. There could be limiting factors that change your decision. You may also need to change or upgrade your on-site security in order to perform the migration successfully. Just as a bank uses an armored truck to move money, you want to make sure your data is protected during your move as well. Will you migrate everything all at once or in phases? What does your security and risk footprint look like during that process? Who is responsible if something goes wrong?
Steps to take:
- Make a complete, separate, on-site and off-site backup of all data you intend to migrate.
- Get an understanding of who will be responsible for which phase of your migration.
- Create a contingency plan before getting started. How will you continue to do business if something goes wrong?
- Establish proper monitoring and logging.
- Create a plan to backup your cloud data before you start the move. Evaluate your recovery time and recovery point objectives, and understand where your backup data will be stored.
Moving to the cloud can be a daunting process for all types of businesses. It’s critically important to plan and prepare ahead of time in order to make your experience a success. Review what will be required from you, your business and your users, to ensure you understand the solution you’re moving to and how it will change the way you do business. At the end of the day, your new services should improve your business, not hinder it.
Capitalize on the resources available to you, including free trials and documentation provided by your selected vendor or service provider. Lean on your MSP or reseller for knowledge and guidance. Prepare detailed inventories of your environment to better understand how your vision will come together in the cloud. Finally, communicate with your end users. Get them involved and excited and they will be critical allies as you work through the transition.
Get in touch when your business is ready to take the leap. Hermetic Networks can provide the knowledge and guidance you need to make your project a success.