4 best practices for sidestepping cloud migration challenges

cloud migrationWhether you’re the head of IT at an enterprise company with 100,000 users, or at an elementary school with 50 users, this much is true: Migrating to the cloud can be a frustrating and stressful undertaking. But it’s one that’s well worth the time and investment. The advantages in moving your environment to the cloud far outweigh any trouble getting there.

But how can you complete a cloud migration without all of the downtime, bugs, and slow user adoption that many organizations experience? The answer is simple, but not always put into practice.

Let’s go through some cloud migration best practices that make the transition less of a headache.

Best Practice: Perform a network assessment, and clean up your environment.

The first step in transitioning to the cloud should be performing a network assessment. Knowing exactly what is in your environment — from the number of mailboxes and applications to the amount of data — is critical to a successful migration. This information will help you determine an accurate timeframe for completion, ensure that you won’t overlook any important applications or add-ons, and make you aware of any changes in license requirements, which can save you money. You can take it one step further by proactively cleaning up your environment after the assessment by deleting unused mailboxes, unnecessary files, and defunct applications.

Best Practice: Plan, plan, and plan some more. Set a timeline, choose a migration type, and test your migration with a pilot group.

Planning is essential to a successful migration. First, establish a timeframe for completing the migration, and the steps involved in moving your organization to the cloud. Do you need the entire workforce migrated in a month, or can a small pilot group test the solution and work out any bugs, even if it takes a few months to complete?

Creating a pilot group can yield valuable feedback and improvements that enable IT to troubleshoot early migration issues before an organization-wide rollout. When selecting a pilot group, choose employees who are visible and carry influence inside your organization. Ideally, they should be power users who will embrace the new technology and support your decision to take the organization in a different direction.

Then, determine how you want the migration to occur. A cutover migration moves all users, data, and applications at once, while a staged plan moves users, data, and applications in batches.

There’s more to consider, too. Which features will be deployed when you go live? Is your workforce capable of handling the migration? How will you train your workforce? Will your organization choose a hybrid approach by integrating on-premises servers with the cloud? These are just a few of the questions you should be asking yourself while planning. If you hit roadblocks or are unsure which method of migration will work, bring in help; professional services organizations are experienced in these migrations and can be a smart investment for your organization.

Best Practice: Monitor the deployment, and troubleshoot in real time.

Once you’ve assessed your environment and mapped out a plan, the next step is the actual migration to the cloud. If your assessment and planning were well developed and executed properly, the deployment should be mostly glitch-free. No doubt you’ll run into a few troubleshooting issues, but if you’re ready to address those issues as they occur, you can avoid any major deployment headaches.

The most important step in the migration is correctly activating the cloud environment. You should always review the activation prompts more than once because (in my experience) fixing even simple typos can prove difficult after you click submit.

If you chose to work with a professional services firm, ensure an internal IT professional shadows the consultant performing the work. Knowledge transfer is an integral part of a professional services deployment, and your IT professionals should be asking as many questions as possible to better understand the new cloud environment.

Best Practice: Provide end-user training, and conduct an administrative review. Don’t forget about asset disposal either.

Just because the migration is done doesn’t mean your work has ceased. Some users will adapt very quickly to the change of working in the cloud, while others will stick with “the old way” and slowly integrate over time. With proper training, the transition will be much smoother for both early adopters and stragglers.

Part of the post-migration plan should be a review of the organization’s policies and rules, ensuring that all applicable data was migrated over correctly. This can be a very daunting task, but an essential one for the security and functionality of your environment. Regularly review and update these policies as work in the cloud expands and changes.

Lastly, organizations have three options for asset disposal: destroy the old hardware securely and properly; sell it on the open market in an attempt to get some ROI; or leave the old hardware in place. Choosing the first two options may be a smart investment, but the choice may be guided by those administrative policies and whether a hybrid migration was completed.

Don’t be afraid of a cloud migration

There are many advantages in adopting a cloud-based solution, but it can be an overwhelming task. Following these best practice recommendations can lead to a successful migration and workforce adoption of the cloud.

Moving to the cloud isn’t a weekend activity. It requires a lot of legwork and thorough planning. Consult with IT professionals that perform these types of migrations on a daily basis for a faster, smoother transition. These third-party experts can be a valuable investment, ensuring your cloud migration goes according to plan and also training your IT staff on the new environment.

Do you have questions about a cloud migration? Leave us a comment below.

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