This article originially appeared via @Law, online and print editions. By Christopher Stark, September, 2014
Look Before You Leap: Five Challenges to Cloud Migration and How to Overcome Them
You’re not in the IT business. Your time should be dedicated to serving clients, but unfortunately a significant portion of it is spent dealing with IT issues. One way to make sure everyone focuses on appropriate priorities is to embrace the cloud. Dependable, reliable cloud services leverage advanced technology, freeing you to focus on your work without dedicating staff to the myriad of disruptive IT problems – keeping software up-to-date, maintaining licensing fees for software, ensuring hardware is up and running smoothly, or knowing back-up procedures. The benefits of embracing a cloud solution are numerous, but the concerns can often be summarized by one word: FEAR. There is fear that a cloud migration could result in lost data, inadequate data security and reduced productivity due to downtime, not to mention a fear of how your practice will function with the cloud. However, proven cloud solutions create a seamless working environment that will make your job easier with efficient, dependable, manageable services that can scale to fit your needs and budget—don’t let fear stand in the way of increased productivity! Cloud solutions, like most other technological advances, are only as valuable as the productivity they enable. This means that some extra effort will have to be put into the planning phase of the project to ensure a smooth transition, including an assessment, a strategy and a plan to make the cloud work for you and your firm. If your cloud provider isn’t up for this, keep looking. This is about your needs, not theirs. Too often, vendors will mistakenly believe that what worked in the past will also work for a similar client. Relying on precedent to be universally applicable and ignoring differences between customers leads to careless IT problems (that you were trying to avoid) including paying for services you don’t want and potentially don’t need. Before making your leap to the cloud, it is imperative to address these five challenges with your cloud provider and discuss mutually beneficial solutions in order to achieve a successful cloud migration.
- Planning Properly – As with anything else in our world, a cloud solution must start with your people. How many do you have on staff? Where are they located? What computing capabilities do they require to work effectively? A pre-migration assessment will identify the needs of your business, which will be addressed by the cloud. Your cloud provider should do a full, physical inspection of all the hardware and software you currently use. Be sure to discuss how your firm or department is using each of these. Listening to your requirements and goals will be integral in the cloud provider’s plan to meet your needs with the cloud services available. The resulting plan will supply you with an ideal working environment.
- Organization of Data – Now it is time to prepare for the future. Because your data will be organized, stored and accessed through the cloud, you’ll need a strategy to get it there and a method to locate and easily access it on demand. The purpose of moving to the cloud is to make your office more efficient. For instance, it removes several of the tedious or time-consuming aspects of IT (e.g., software updates, licensing agreements, backing up data) from your schedule, freeing up precious time that can be put back into billable hours for your firm. If you have data that is rarely accessed and can be archived, do it. And if there are large files that command abundant space, try to limit how many of those will be moved to the cloud. The price for many cloud solutions is determined in part by how much storage space you need. The less storage required, the more cost-effective the solution will be.
- The Migration Process –The migration process can be tricky because data and applications must be moved from a local server to the cloud. This is particularly important in the legal field, which involves confidentiality and security of data. One way to avoid this associated anxiety is to implement a version of a hybrid cloud with an on-site server that will replicate all data from the cloud, while adding a layer of redundancy and peace of mind. Employing checks and balances throughout the process protect data so that before any file is removed from your local server, the cloud provider has already safely uploaded it to the cloud. To ensure as little downtime and interruption as possible for your business and staff, your cloud provider should conduct the migration after-hours or during weekends.
- User Adoption – No one likes change. Think about the last time you moved. Whether it was residences or offices, there was a time for acclimation and discovery. Moving to the cloud will share many of those same experiences. Thus, it is important to familiarize the staff with what they’ll soon encounter. For instance, saving files to the proper location in the cloud ensures they will be accessible to anyone, anywhere they are working, both now and into the future, but this may require a new process or an alteration to the existing method. Though these steps may seem painful, the benefits of the cloud far outweigh the temporary discomfort.
- Transition/Go Live – The actual transition or day-of “go live” can be the easiest or most difficult day of the entire migration process. This depends on how well you have addressed the first four challenges, as well as how attentive your cloud provider is. The cloud service provider should have staff on-hand the day the migration is completed to walk your staff through new access protocols, demonstrate procedures and explain guidelines. This will help to ensure the adoption of the new environment is smooth and any wrinkles can be easily addressed while employees are aided in adopting the new way of doing business.
Data accessibility is essential to operating in today’s business world and the transition from dependency on local assets to the freedom of the cloud has to be smooth. Once you are in the cloud, it will be possible to work from anywhere as if you are sitting at your desk. You and the staff will be untethered from your desktops; you will be able to access whatever you need, wherever and whenever you need it. The scalability of the cloud will also enable you to quickly and easily adapt to any future IT needs, such as adding new software or integrating mobile devices with little to no disruption. There are challenges to achieving this type of result. The better prepared you are beforehand, the better your migration outcome will be. Afterward, whether at the office, in the courthouse, at a deposition – you will have your full range of capabilities on-hand to handle any situation. Your IT concerns are handled expertly via the cloud, allowing you to consume only the resources needed while you and your staff are back to serving your clients. Bio: Christopher Stark is the president and CEO of Cetrom Information Technology, Inc., an industry-leading provider of custom cloud solutions. Stark founded Cetrom in 2001 based on the premise that there was a smarter, easier way for SMBs to conduct business and now the company maintains an unprecedented track record of zero downtime and near 100% customer retention. (Read more on the full article PDF : 2014-09 @Law)