We recently published a post, 6 Considerations When Moving Desktops to the Cloud, that discussed the most important factors to consider once a firm decides that cloud is the right decision. The next step is ensuring that the implementation goes smoothly.
If you’re a business owner or operations manager and you’re responsible for your firm’s IT, chances are that cloud is on your mind, and rightfully so. Over the past 10 years, many pieces to business IT have become available as cloud options. Cloud inherently has so many benefits including simplicity, security, reliability, and accessibility. When you have a system in the cloud, you can (usually) stop thinking about hardware, backups, and clunky remote access systems, allowing you to focus more on your clients and growing your business. But cloud also brings with it a whole new set of challenges. Having done hundreds of cloud migrations for our clients, including email, data storage, backups, and even moving entire IT infrastructures to the cloud (including desktops and servers), we’ve developed a 5-step guide to help ensure success.
- Needs Analysis. The partner you choose to work with is just as important as what technology you choose. When evaluating cloud options make sure you first develop a detailed list of what you need, why you are considering making a change, when the change should happen, and what factors will determine a successful project. Too often we see clients get starstruck by a fancy sales pitch, cool demo, or other “sizzle” features (that at the end of the day do not really matter to them), only to get sold on a system that ultimately does not fit their needs. Unfortunately, by the time they discover the mistake they’ve made, it is often very complex and expensive to turn back to the old solution. Before you embark on any IT change, be sure you know where and why you want to do it to ensure you get there properly.
- Vendor Selection. The larger the project and the more critical the new cloud system will be to your business, the more important it is that you pick the right vendor. Systems such as software, remote applications, or desktops, and anything else that’s more complex than your basic email, file sharing, or VoIP phone service, involve support; and good support requires a relationship with a vendor who cares about your business, not one where you are simply an account number. Often times cloud services may be provided by one vendor and then supported by another (sometimes as separate entities, sometimes in a reseller/white label fashion). It is vital to make sure you know all the parties involved and have a relationship with your vendor – not just the salespeople, but the support staff as well. Remember that once you sign a contract, your sales rep often moves on and you’re now in the hands of support.
- Connectivity. The more you have in the cloud, the more important your connection to the internet becomes. Any cloud service that involves real-time data transmission, such as VoIP phones, remote applications or desktops, or video, requires a solid connection with low latency and no congestion. Many internet providers claim “up to” certain speeds, meaning that they are oversubscribing their networks and your actual available bandwidth will fluctuate based on hundreds of other users in your area. Dedicated bandwidth is often the best solution and well worth the small price increase. Furthermore, internet connections can go down for any number of reasons, and there is never a guaranteed repair time. If you do not want to be without access to your cloud services, be certain that you have a backup internet line from a different provider and your network is configured for automatic failover.
- Implementation. The more important a cloud migration is for your business, the more likely the system is complex, feature-rich, widely used within the company, and will be enduring. It is of utmost importance not to rush a migration. Assign a project champion within your company, ensure the vendor has a project manager on their side as well, and be certain to plan out all details including security, data conversion, proof of concept, and be prepared for training. Test everything before going live – do not accept excuses such as, “that’s never a problem, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.” Once you make the switch, employees in the company still need to get their work done and will not be able to wait for the development team to roll out fixes.
- Support. Getting buy in from the staff is never easy. Be sure they understand what is happening, when, and why the company is making the change. Ensure they are aware of the benefits to them and have plenty of resources available for support immediately after the migration, including FAQ documents, training videos, in-person or online training, and let them know who they can go to for any questions they may have. Remind them that the first day or two may be bumpy, but there are true benefits to this change and there is a light at the end of the tunnel – and you’ll make sure they get to that light quickly.
At Tabush Group we’ve developed our implementations around this structure and have continued to follow it for many years. Each time we complete a project, we refine it a bit more and this has ensured success not only in the cloud migrations we’ve done for clients, but also for our own internal IT projects.
To read about some of our client implementations, check out our client success stories.