There's enormous interest in cloud office systems and it isn’t just from IT departments at larger organisations looking for guidance when it comes to cloud email and communication platforms.
With current estimates expecting the adoption of Office 365 or Google Apps for Work, to more than triple in the next five years, smaller business owners also need to understand the advantages and pitfalls with migration planning and deployment choices.
But preparing for such a move can be a formidable task as business critical systems such as email and calendaring affect everyone in the organisation reaching well beyond just the IT function. Here we focus on some of the more important issues when preparing or considering a move to a cloud office system, based on best practices and lessons learnt.
Subscription and volume based licensing has become a standard operational requirement in most businesses as they grow. This is a necessity because it becomes increasingly difficult to perform software asset management and track license allocation on a per machine basis.
Google licensing is uncomplicated with two options. A single Google Apps for Work license per month is £3.30. This increases to £6.60 per month with the option for unlimited storage and retention policies.
Microsoft licensing policies are complex, with a wider range of products and more complex deployment scenarios. As a starting point for businesses considering the suite of Office applications and hosted email, a single Office 365 Business Premium license is £9.40 per month.
Subscription licensing is ‘software when you need it and where you need it’. This model makes logistical and financial sense when you consider best practice and the operational lifecycle of software over a 2 to 3 year period vs. the immediate gain of retail licensing.
Monthly subscription licensing is a ‘pay-as-you-go’ service. You pay the licensing up front and the license count can be adjusted before the monthly renewal. The annual subscription model is slightly cheaper but it is a paid upfront service which means the amount of licenses can only be adjusted on annual renewal.
MIND THE GAP
Business owners and IT departments considering cloud office platforms must understand the feature gaps between what they are using now and cloud office capabilities to ensure that the target environment meets their business needs.
Google Docs can provide an attractive alternative to the more expensive and complex Microsoft Office products, but there are also feature gaps to consider. For example, users who are comfortable working with Microsoft Office and expect Google Docs to work in the exact same way may be disappointed.
Many businesses already using on-premise user directories will need to factor-in and possibly refine overly complex Active Directory scenarios before attempting a move to the cloud by making upgrades and optimising Active Directory prior to migration. Increasingly, third-party vendors such as OneLogin have options to connect directly to cloud services.
Compliance & Legal
Check with HR and legal for any policies that would impact moving and sharing data in the cloud. For instance, has your business made client commitments to store its data or related data in its own data centers only?
Topology and Capacity
Look at your current network capacity top to bottom and consider future requirements. Additional bandwidth may be required to accommodate increased internet traffic to Google or Microsoft data centers. There may also be a significant reduction or change in traffic patterns into the enterprise data centers or between offices. This is a particular concern for applications with significant bandwidth and latency requirements, such as voice, video and bulk file uploads. User experience is paramount for a successful migration, so if they experience a slowdown in internet access, their perception will be skewed.
You’re considering moving your on-premises servers and user data onto cloud office platforms, so it is important you spend time creating a migration plan for successful deployment. Here are some of the necessary steps to complete your migration plan to cloud services:
- When? Look at external factors such as critical business activities or license restrictions and plan around these to avoid disruption.
- Stop, Start? Change is never easy. Generally, we find that a quick transition is best. For larger offices, this is impractical, requiring a staged transition. Also, initial testing within a pilot group to generate feedback is useful for office-wide buy in to the new platform.
- Can we help? Generally, when it comes to a migration of this kind, your in-house IT team won’t have the experience and capacity for such a large project. An external service provider can either assist with the transition or take complete responsibility.
- Stay or go? The largest part of the project is moving historic email and document data to the new environment. Many businesses insist on moving everything but it’s also a good opportunity for some house-keeping. For example, by capping the amount of data or mailbox size or messages older than 12 months.
- Transmission? Communication is key to any large infrastructure project so your plan must include notifying staff about what is happening and the degree of change they can expect. Strike a balance for the training program and internal communication, offering the briefest of written guides, short videos and in-depth, face-to-face meetings for the groups that need it most. The users must be aware of any outage they might experience and the support possible during the outage.
That's it. Some questions to ask and discuss before considering a move to cloud office services. I’m not claiming that our recommendations are a ‘one-size-fits-all’ bundle, each business is unique and your needs may be quite different. I do, however, encourage you to consider discussing the next steps with a migration expert.
If you'd like to chat about your specific needs, please get in touch. We'll gladly discuss the potential of moving your in-house communication platform to the cloud.