The traditional standards set for workplaces are changing. According to Gallup, 45% of Americans working full-time jobs are working from home either part-time or entirely. With an increasingly decentralized office IT infrastructure, companies have had to pivot to fit their changing workforce. One of the most popular improvements has been the transition to cloud-based hosting.
Cloud platforms allow your company to keep key documents and assets in one place where designated employees can access, edit and collaborate on them together. We're most likely telling you what you already know – there's a good chance you've used platforms like Dropbox or Google Drive in the past.
But planning a barbeque on a Google document or adding graduation photos to a family Dropbox is quite different than migrating all your company's invaluable information. Here, the stakes are much higher.
As the cloud experts you can trust, we've rounded up our top tips for a smooth, successful digital migration for your company.
1. Get Organized
It’s important to have an accurate understanding of your current data and storage applications before researching different platforms or speaking with potential providers. Take the time to carefully identify, extract, clean and organize your assets first.
Make a list: Create a master inventory of the types of data you have and where it lives. Do you have a large bank of contacts saved in Excel spreadsheets? Financial receipts and records? Client presentation PowerPoints that need to be accessible to everyone? Make a note of their data type, size, and location.
Decide what stays and what goes: Next, it’s time to decide what needs to be transferred to the cloud. Do you need every Word document going back to 2012? Are you holding onto old client information that can instead be archived and backed up externally? Being discerning about what you add to the cloud will help you stay organized.
Start scrubbing: If it's been a minute since you've reviewed your contact lists or dug into the recesses of your document folders, now's the time. The healthier and more current your data is, the more successful your business efforts are, inside and out of the cloud.
2. Define Your Needs (and Budget!)
There is a vast number of cloud providers to choose from, and trying to decide which one is right for you without clear requirements will set you up for failure. We recommend having a solidified idea of what you're looking for before jumping into the research.
Ask yourself these questions:
What services do you need? This question is more complex than you might think. Beyond knowing, "I need to store documents and photos," it's essential to understand the type of cloud platform you need. This will help you weed out many of the ones that aren't the right fit almost immediately. The four major platform types include Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), Software as a Service (SaaS), and Functions as a Service (FaaS). Learn more about the qualities of each here.
What style of migration are you looking for? Cloud transitions aren’t one-size-fits-all. A model called “The Six R’s” explains the different strategies cloud providers use to migrate your data. Deciding which strategy you’re interested in depends on factors like your current data storage applications, whether or not they’re compatible with potential platforms or if you need unique solutions to be built into your new cloud. (Your provider won’t expect you to know this answer intimately, but it’s a smart idea to familiarize yourself with these terms!) Learn more about the six R’s here.
How much storage would you need? Not that you'll need to know the answer to the gigabyte. But, if a potential cloud provider is giving you a quote, it's more helpful for them to know you have 8,000 contacts as opposed to "a lot."
How many people need access to your data? 10? 200? Only those in leadership positions? Do you need a platform where you can have tiers of access?
Are you interested in additional features? You could further narrow your search by identifying other offerings you’d like, such as 24/7 customer assistance or free platform training.
What's your maximum monthly or yearly budget? Similar to the service needs question, this will also narrow your list of possible solutions.
3. Find the Perfect Platform
With your ideal platform qualities in mind, now you can search for potential cloud services with confidence.
If you currently have an IT team, that’s the place to start. They’ll most likely have recommendations or favorite cloud platforms they’ve worked within the past. And as your IT team, they’ll also have an intimate understanding of your current infrastructure and applications, which can dictate which service is right for you.
Otherwise, there is a myriad of resources and reviews online that can pinpoint the most popular and reliable platforms on the market.
We suggest the following to get started on research:
And of course, there’s always word of mouth. If you have trusted colleagues or contacts who use a certain cloud platform, consider looking further into their preferred providers.
4. Vet Potential Vendors
It's important to find a provider that works best for your organization's needs. When talking to cloud providers, keep a list of your requirements in hand as they will help prompt questions to ask.
Consider asking these questions as well:
- What does your process look like? How much of the migration is up to our team?
- How familiar are you with our industry? Do you have other clients within the same sector?
- How user-friendly is your service? How long does onboarding training take on average?
- Does your platform experience frequent outages? How long do they last on average?
- Do you back up our data? Would you be able to restore lost data in a timely manner?
- What potential problems could arise in our migration?
- How simple is it to add or subtract cloud coverage?
- What do your customer service offerings look like?
These will spark a more in-depth discussion of your potential cloud platform's capabilities outside of the basics, like pricing tiers and storage capacity. Get more details on vetting potential vendors in our eBook: 7 Questions to Ask a Cloud Service Provider.
5. Back It Up
Here's a step that's always crucial, whether you're performing a data migration or not. Yes, cloud platforms are an extremely useful tool and quality providers spend an untold number of hours ensuring your data is secure as possible. But just like your other online accounts and databases, cloud platforms are fallible.
Be sure to back up your data before your migration. Even the most robust security measures can still have teeny tiny vulnerabilities, and if those are exposed, you'll be glad to have all your data stored externally. We recommend using immutable backups as they safeguard your organization from loss due to natural disasters, user error, and ransomware.
6. Get The Team to Buy In
Old habits die hard. When introducing new technology into an office, you may inevitably have some grumbles of disapproval. But at the root of those grumbles is often anxiety about using a new, unfamiliar program.
Having a fancy new cloud system that the office is uncomfortable using does you no good. That's why asking about a platform's user-friendliness is another crucial question for a potential cloud provider. If your new platform is relatively intuitive, offers more helpful features than previous digital tools, and makes your employees' lives easier, it's much more likely to be a hit.
If offered, you can work with your new cloud service provider to set up onboarding training for your team. This will help ease them into your new system.
7. Don't Set It and Forget It
A high-quality cloud platform will have a strong set of security protections to keep your data safe. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't stay alert and keep an eye out for irregularities.
While it's your cloud provider's job to watch for overarching threats, it's your responsibility to check in and manage the security on your own files. Is anything missing? Are there new users you don't recognize? Encrypted data that doesn't look familiar or shouldn't be locked? We suggest you invest in Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) tools to help you monitor and manage cloud-based threats. Learn more about customer responsibility in public cloud security.
Something that seems small could be a signal to your provider of a more significant issue. And the more consistently you review your files for these issues, the less likely it is that you'll be hit with a devastating cyber-attack.
Let's Get Started
We understand that cloud migration may feel like an overwhelming process. There are several moving parts that all concern the safety and vulnerability of your most important data.
If you feel like you need a hand in this process, Ascend Technologies can help. Our cloud migration experts are here to simplify this process for you and ensure a successful transition. Contact us today to get started.