How Should I Migrate My Business to the Cloud?
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard the buzz around the cloud and are probably aware of the benefits. Maybe you’ve also become aware that some of your competitors have already adopted the cloud.
Now you’ve caught the bug, you’re motivated to make the transition, and you’re uncertain how to migrate to the cloud. Let Framework lay out a recommended roadmap of how to approach migrating your business to the cloud.
How Should I Migrate to the Cloud?
Every situation is different, so each organization’s plan will vary a little from the recommended approach below. Despite the unique situations that may require adjustments to this strategy, it can still be used as a guideline. I’ll explain some of the extenuating circumstances and how they may alter this approach to shed light on how to tailor it to your circumstances. It’s important to note that you should think through your approach, consider your unique circumstances, and then establish a plan upfront.
Before jumping right into a recommended approach to migrate to the cloud, I want to quickly review the major components of office technology.
Key Office Technology Components
Communication and Collaboration Tools
Communications and collaborations tools are your systems or software used for emailing, messaging, phone system capabilities, file sharing, and collaborating.
Line of Business Applications
Line of business applications are the software used by various functions within your organization. These are things like CRMs, ERPs, EHR/EMR, Practice Management Systems, Document Management Systems, Accounting Packages, Time Management Systems, etc.
Computing & Network Infrastructure
Your servers, data storage, computers, and networking equipment are the underlying infrastructure upon which the rest of your technology depends.
Recommended Approach to Migrating to the Cloud
You will need to deviate from the ordering below to some degree based on your circumstances. This would be our approach if there were no other factors justifying alterations.
1. Migrate Your Communication and Collaboration Tools to the Cloud First
Your communications and collaborations tools are the easiest, most turn-key things to move to the cloud. They are also some of the most effective towards realizing the benefits of the cloud such as mobility, risk reduction, business continuity, etc. Migrating them first also sets the stage for less difficult and costly transitions later.
Migrating Your Email and Messaging to the Cloud
If you host your email on servers that you own, especially servers housed onsite, migrate it ASAP. Hosting email on your own server comes with added expense for server infrastructure, licensing, security tools, and added management expense. There are few circumstances where we’d recommend hosting email on your infrastructure, and they typically only apply to large enterprises. Migrating your email to the cloud may require professional consultants, but it’s one of the lower-cost and more turn-key things to migrate to the cloud. We recommend migrating to Microsoft Office 365 or Google G Suite.
Microsoft and Google have many partner organizations that are certified and experienced in migrating email to their platforms so finding assistance won’t be difficult. Microsoft and Google have robust documentation, so if you have IT professionals on staff, depending on their experience, they may be able to accomplish some or all the migration without consultants. On top of that, if you follow our recommendations and adopt Office 365 or G Suite, you may be killing a few birds with one stone. Both are a suite of solutions for email, messaging, voice communications, file sharing, and collaborating.
Migrating Your Phone System to the Cloud
Transitioning to a cloud-based VoIP phone system is not difficult from a customer’s perspective and it is not capital intensive. Assuming you select a good partner that assesses your network, bandwidth, and your needs, the transition should be smooth, and the cloud system provider will handle 95% of the work. Many do not even charge for the labor they invest in bringing you onto their phone systems. You can purchase the telephones inexpensively compared to the cost of an onsite phone system, or you can even forego the upfront investment and rent telephones from the provider or use software phones. Office 365 and G Suite also have voice components that can be added. These platforms are not right for everyone, but they’re worth considering and there are thousands of other vendors for cloud phone systems that can provide the experience highlighted above.
Migrating Your File Sharing and Collaboration to the Cloud
This step varies depending on each organization’s situation. You may adopt subscription-based cloud storage services and software as a service collaboration tools that adequately meet your needs. You may require a more traditional file-server setup in the cloud. Either way, migrating your files or file sharing and collaboration to the cloud is not difficult or complicated. Many vendors that offer these services have user-friendly systems, making adoption easy.
As mentioned earlier, the Office 365 and G Suite platforms offer these capabilities and may be adequate for you. There are also many other options such as AWS, Azure, Dropbox, Egnyte and many more for storage. There are many software as a service platforms for collaboration besides Office 365 and G Suite, such as Slack, GoToMeeting, Monday.com, Salesforce, etc. Depending on your comfort level with technology and your needs, you may need assistance, or you may accomplish this independently. All these services have low subscription costs relative to providing these functions via in-house systems. Moving these to the cloud earlier in your transition removes significant overhead from your environment, reduces risk, and improves business continuity. It offers great bang for your buck!
2. Migrate Your Line of Business Applications to the Cloud Second
Depending on what you’re using now, the complexity of your needs, and your ability to invest time, this portion of the migration to the cloud may be more cumbersome. That is why we recommend addressing the communications and collaborations tools first as those are quicker, cheaper, and create an immediate impact. That said, migrating your applications to the cloud is impactful via simplifying your technology, reducing risk, reducing management overhead, and improving business continuity. Nothing worthwhile is easy. Don’t procrastinate because this appears more intimidating.
Your current application set has an impact on the complexity of this transition. Assuming the application meets your future needs, and the software vendor offers a cloud-version or a turn-key migration to their newer cloud-based solution, this may be easy and inexpensive. The vendor may do the migration for you, leaving you with little to no work or cost. However, if the application doesn’t meet your needs, the current software vendor has no cloud-based offer (which is rare), this will require your time to research, vet, plan, migrate, learn to manage, and fine-tune the solution. You can pay the vendor or a partner consulting firm to lighten the load, but not eliminate it. This step is going to take time and money. You can trade money for convenience or invest more time to save money. Since these applications sit at the heart of your processes and are mission-critical, we recommend engaging professional assistance to some degree. Ideally, the provider of the cloud-based software, or one of their experienced partners, should guide you through this process. If you are willing to pay to save time and ensure a smoother transition, they can help you through it step by step.
3. Migrate Your Computing and Network Infrastructure to the Cloud Third
If you’ve followed our approach, your server may already be nearly unused by now. That doesn’t mean you can unplug it without further thought. Your server may also provide Active Directory services, function as a print server, or other common uses. You may have addressed other server functions when you transitioned your communications and collaborations tools. If not, migrating the remaining server functions (if you still need a ‘server’) is usually low-cost and easy. If you have a very experienced IT staff, they may feel comfortable handling it, or you can pay consultants. It’s not expensive compared to what it would cost to upgrade this with onsite servers.
You can also migrate your computers to the cloud. If you’re not techy, you may be scratching your head. Migrating your computers to the cloud means that you do your computing in the cloud. You still have a tablet, workstation or laptop (or a thin/zero client), but you just use that device as a ‘terminal’ that facilitates a connection to the cloud. In the cloud, your experience looks like a normal computer. When you’re pounding away on your keyboard, the computing is done on the servers and storage in the cloud, not the local computer used for access. Its benefits include reducing risk, reducing management cost, and improving business continuity and mobility. That said, there are plenty of reasons why moving your computers to the cloud may not make sense for you, so don’t assume this needs to be in your plan.
If you were head scratching about migrating computers to the cloud, you’re probably perplexed about moving network infrastructure to the cloud. This is not as mind-blowing as it sounds. What I really mean is to adopt cloud-managed network infrastructure. There are reputable networking manufacturers that have built robust cloud-management platforms to address your firewall, local network, and wireless networking needs. Cisco Meraki is our top choice in these regards but it’s not the only option. Cloud managed network infrastructure is easier to manage so it reduces overhead.
Reasons to Deviate from this Cloud Migration Approach
- Contracts for existing services that are cost-prohibitive to exit currently.
- There are no viable cloud applications (SaaS) to meet your needs. That’s rare nowadays as SaaS is spreading like weeds, but nonetheless, some people will insist it’s an insurmountable hurdle. However, if you’re willing to evolve your processes, you should be able to find a SaaS solution you can productively use.
- You’ve integrated all your systems and applications. Kudos to you! Integration across platforms has tremendous benefits and we recommend it. However, it may add complexity to how you approach your cloud migration plan. Don’t be down on yourself because your integration made this more complicated. It’s a strength, and one I’m sure you want to keep. Just think through all the integrations, consider this as you’re determining the solutions you’ll adopt, and collaborate with your potential new service providers or your consultants to come up with a transition plan. You can bring your integrations along to the cloud!
OUr recommended approach to cloud migrations is to move your communication and collaboration tools first, your line of business applications second, and finally your network and compute infrastructure. There are some common reasons to deviate from this order, such as restrictions on current contracts, lack of viable cloud applications, and integration considerations that may need to be overcome. There are many other unique reasons to deviate from the above approach, so I cannot name all that might apply to you. We would love to help you on this journey. Assessing, planning, migrating, and managing is what we do all day everyday. If you’re interested in exploring this further, contact us!