Migrating To Cloud Services: the very concept of cloud migration is comprehensive and has no clear boundaries. Many companies, attracted by the benefits of the cloud, proceed with extreme caution or make mistakes due to their inability to limit the phenomenon, to channel cloud migration into a well-designed path, or, even more commonly, due to the need for dedicated skills.
Cloud migration: more possibilities, more strategies
As anticipated, cloud migration has several meanings. Here are some:
- The first step that every enterprise should face, and is facing, is the migration to cloud services. The goal is to ensure that the IT services based on the business (email, collaboration services, file servers, intranet…) are no longer provided by the internal infrastructure but use cloud services offered in SaaS (Software as a Service).
The most common examples are the migration to Microsoft 365 or Google Workspace, but the whole SaaS universe is included. Depending on the company’s business, companies may decide to take advantage of cloud services for:
- Communications (Unified Communications as a service, UCaaS) ;
- The customer experience (Contact Center as-a-service, CCaaS);
- Business process management (Enterprise Resource Planning, ERP);
- Departmental software such as HR systems, physical space management systems (resource booking, desk, meeting room, etc.), CRM, WMS for logistics, and much more.
- A different project is adopting cloud infrastructure (Infrastructure-as-a-service, or IaaS) instead of its physical systems (servers and storage systems). The main difference with the previous case is that here the company is provided with only the infrastructure (virtual machines, storage, network), which must be managed by dedicated personnel. In contrast, in the case of SaaS, the cloud provider provides both the infrastructure and the ‘application. The main benefits of using the cloud for infrastructure resources are its virtually infinite scalability and the absence of initial investments in favor of a cost model linked to the concrete use of resources.
- Usually, enterprise-level companies migrate their internally developed applications to the cloud. Apart from simple lift-and-shift scenarios, i.e., repositioning the application in the cloud without changes to the architecture and code, most companies use the path to modernize their applications, i.e., redesigning them based on advanced technologies and innovation, making them cloud-native.
As mentioned, most companies are investing in the first hypothesis of migration to the cloud, namely that of services, emphasizing email, productivity tools, collaboration, and file and document repositories.
Why adopt cloud services
The reasons that drive companies towards the adoption of cloud services are different. The service provider, usually an international vendor with a world-class cloud infrastructure and a highly talented developer team, ensures the resiliency of the hardware and software. By combining infrastructure and application, the cloud service wins over the traditional model in terms of resilience (uptime) and scalability, in addition to the fact that neither the hardware nor the services (software) undergo the phenomenon of obsolescence and are constantly updated. Finally, as anticipated, the whole cloud world has the benefit of not requiring courageous investments (CapEx).
How to migrate to cloud services: clichés and mistakes not to be made.
In 2023, enterprises were no longer wondering whether to move to cloud services but how to do it.
In the last decade, the concept that SaaS systems reduce the complexity of implementation to the limit of allowing a do-it-yourself adoption has passed. If all this is true in very narrow departmental areas, for example, when introducing a room booking system that only existed the day before, a core phenomenon such as email migration to the cloud does not always meet the necessary specialized skills in the company. Despite email (think Gmail) being the textbook example of a SaaS service, all of this.
The absence of dedicated skills, even within IT divisions, leads to the most common mistakes: thinking that a cloud service can be configured in zero time, that it does not need specialist skills, and, far from secondary, that it must be managed over time, i.e., that it “works” regardless of everything. In reality, although the cloud provider guarantees product updates, ensuring that it is exploited to the fullest, always aligned with company policies, and guarantees security and performance is an ongoing task.
The central role of the MSP in cloud migration
To successfully plan and execute a cloud migration, relying on an experienced Managed Service Provider is essential. Its role is different from yesterday’s (where the core business was the maintenance of the customer’s physical infrastructure), but it is certainly no less central. As an example, consider migrating to Microsoft 365, which assumes you need to:
- Domain consolidation and implementation of a corporate identity and authentication service, such as Azure AD;
- Migrate dozens or hundreds of inboxes to the cloud. If the source system is based on the POP protocol, the emails are present on the physical machines of the employees for an additional level of complexity. It is then necessary to plan and execute the switch-off, configure the new clients, and manage the change in the best possible way, to make it as transparent and with the lowest possible impact.
- Migration of the file server to a cloud service such as SharePoint and contextual creation of a modern intranet. This is the most complex activity among those mentioned since, in many companies, the file server structure results from successive revisions, integrations, and modifications to manage the moment’s needs.
- The advantage of file server migration over other services, such as email, is that you can do things in a phased manner. We then proceed to a complex mapping of all the existing resources and folders. We use the migration to improve their structure, make it efficient, and apply the right access privileges. The latter operation is also essential for compliance with various regulatory systems, including the segregation of duties and the ubiquitous GDPR.
Although based on SaaS cloud services, the above businesses can only be managed with proper skills. Their impact on business operations is too great to afford the risks.
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