Guest Column | May 4, 2020

How To Accelerate A Move To The Cloud In Response To COVID-19

By Frank Suglia, BitTitan

Coronavirus COVID-19

Millions of people around the world have been forced to isolate in their homes amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and a flood of professionals are being asked to conduct work remotely for the foreseeable future. This sudden and sweeping change is illustrated by the skyrocketing usage of Microsoft Teams, a cloud-based chat and collaboration tool that saw 12 million new users daily between March 11 to March 18.

While many organizations have embraced the cloud and were largely equipped to adjust to the crisis, some organizations were ill-prepared to switch to a remote workforce and have been unable to quickly mobilize a plan for achieving this on a large scale. This includes not only companies that have yet to embrace the cloud, but many others, including mid- to large-size organizations that have limited teams set up for remote work, such as sales or IT, but not the entire company. Their remote-enabled workers represent a fraction of their entire workforce that now needs remote work capabilities. Many require an urgent change to their operations to maintain business continuity and may be overwhelmed by the task at hand, leading people to wonder: Is it too late for these companies to adapt? How quickly can a cloud migration happen?

Fortunately, cloud services can be implementedfaster than many business decision-makers may be aware. Managed service providers (MSPs) can play a critical role in helping organizations adapt, and urgent requests for help are surging, with some MSPs reporting that service requests in March have been 300 percent higher than the previous month.

Considerations For MSPs In The Current Environment

There are several things for MSPs to consider when approaching migrations in the current environment. Getting communication channels up and running within the company and with its customers is critical, so working with companies to first implement email and workplace collaboration solutions like Teams is a good approach. Once a mechanism for remote communication is established, these companies can figure out what else must be moved to the cloud and communicate how to get this done while working remotely.

The increased number of people suddenly working from home has led to increased usage of cloud-based software, straining bandwidth and causing limited daytime throughput. For this reason, migrations must take place during off-peak hours, which are evenings and weekends. Not only will the increased bandwidth during off-peak hours speed up the migration process, it also will minimize the possibility for complications with file transfer, safeguard data integrity and security, and diminish disruption to the customer.

Many organizations will wonder how much time a migration requires and how soon employees can begin working remotely. The good news is getting a company set up with basic remote communications capacities, such as cloud-based email, is surprisingly fast. As with all parts of cloud migration, much of this depends on the size of the company. For a small business, migrating email for an entire workforce can be done in a day. Up to about 1,000 people can be up and running with basics like email, Teams, Skype, Zoom, and other cloud-based collaboration software within a day. Larger organizations can expect to complete a similar migration over a weekend. Some of this will depend on the size of the individual mailboxes and the role of the users. For instance, users such as video producers or graphic designers tend to have larger email files, which may take a bit longer to migrate.

When To Adjust The Playbook

Some best practices don’t hold up in the current environment. While traditionally it would be recommended to choose a solution based on longer-term planning, the current situation may require companies to address pressing needs with short-term fixes, then shift to long-term planning as a second step.

For example, many companies, including schools, need video capabilities. Getting these organizations set up with Zoom first, because of its simple interface and easy learning curve, may be pragmatic. Then, when the time is right, they can migrate to a comprehensive solution like Teams. Because Teams is complex and boasts many features, a training plan must be in place so customers can become quickly acclimated.

Either way, companies should make a long-term plan for implementing the right technology that will meet a broader set of needs and better position the organization for future remote work.

Migrating Data With Remote IT Teams

Like many other workforces operating amid the current pandemic, IT teams and MSPs are working remotely given social distancing mandates. Fortunately, much of their work requires little to no on-site presence. Many cloud-based migration tools allow migration management from a remote location. In limited cases, such as businesses running Lotus Notes, some on-site work may be required even with the best tools. But in general, the process can largely be accomplished remotely and MSPs can help companies evaluate their environments to determine what is needed and the best tools for the job.

Tips For Companies Moving On-Premises Workflows To The Cloud

Companies must have the right people in place who have done a migration before and understand what needs to happen. Many components must be connected and a lot can go wrong if processes aren’t followed. Using a good migration tool or hiring an MSP partner to help can ensure a smooth migration.

Planning is essential. Know what you are going to migrate and look at the project holistically before you start. Begin migrating what is easy and most critical, like email for communications, then figure out what workloads need to be migrated next.

There are many ways to approach a migration and it doesn’t have to involve the whole company at once. Migrations can happen by group or department in stages. However, if companies choose this approach, it increases the complexity and they should hire an MSP partner to help. Ultimately, this decision comes back to planning and what the company wants to accomplish.

Tips For Success Once In The Cloud

While using new applications can be daunting, companies should encourage their users not to be afraid and help them get started right away. Modern cloud software typically has user-friendly interfaces that are intuitive and have a quick learning curve for common tasks. Companies can encourage users to seek out answers online; YouTube is a great tool for discovering how specific features work in cloud software.

But this is not a replacement for proper user training and ongoing support for more complex issues. Companies that have partnered with an MSP can lean on them for remote training and support services to fill the gap in bandwidth and expertise on their in-house IT teams.

Once the migration to the cloud is underway, companies can look forward to the long-term benefits of a cloud environment, including reduced hardware maintenance costs and expenditures. Cloud technology also frees IT staff from managing resources, such as servers, connections, bandwidth, and VPNs, and allows them to shift focus to higher-value work, like supporting the people using the technology.

Disruptions to routines and workflows are difficult, but resources and solutions are available to companies that need them. Cloud solutions can help business operations sooner than many people know, and MSPs can help companies navigate the uncertainty ahead, setting the company up for long-term success.

About The Author

By Frank Suglia is director of global technical sales for BitTitan.