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Tips and tricks for migrating to the cloud

Over the past few years we’ve worked with numerous organisations in helping them make the move to the cloud (including managing the migration of our own email to Office 365, which you can read about here), right from helping them to define their cloud strategy through to executing the migration. There’s no substitute for experience, as they say, and we’ve learned a lot of valuable lessons along the way. We thought some of these lessons, tips and tricks, might come in handy.

What is Office 365?

Office 365 is a suite of Microsoft technologies delivered on a per-user subscription basis. It provides organisations with unprecedented flexibility and the ability to move some or all of their different workloads to the cloud.

At Office 365’s core is productivity – comprising the Microsoft Office suite; then there are the specialty Office products, like Project and Visio. Then there’s collaboration – comprising SharePoint. Dynamics CRM Online is closely associated with Office 365, but not a part of it – although with the ever-increasing convergence of technologies it may well be brought into the fold in the future.

For a number of organisations, Office 365 is the ideal stepping stone for a move to the cloud. It gives them the opportunity to consume a service, just like we subscribe to cable television services or mobile telecommunication services – it’s a no-brainer and it just works.


The challenges

Part of the challenge for organisations in coming to terms with the cloud as a proposition lies in knowing where their data resides. There’s a definite comfort factor in keeping your information close, and certain organisations also have strict rules around data sovereignty, which – at this point in time, at least – excludes them from considering cloud services as a feasible option.

Another challenge can be from an IT manager’s perspective, especially when they have carefully constructed their IT environment and a move to the cloud can be perceived as a threat to this. A move to Office 365 can often be more of a financial decision than a technology one.  From a CFO’s perspective it’s simple. Essentially it’s just like hiring a car: there are no minimum subscription terms and you can terminate whenever you want.


Look who is using the cloud

The benefits

Cost efficiency. By moving to an operational expenditure model, you know exactly what you’re getting, what you’re paying for and when you are paying for it.   

Simplicity. A move to the cloud reduces the requirement for hardware, simplifies licensing, and lessens the need for specific dedicated IT resources to keep systems ticking over.   It’s a service that just works and you simply subscribe to it.

It frees up your IT resources to do more valuable things. Rather than focusing on things like keeping the lights on, upskilling team members and maintaining hardware, IT teams can dedicate time and energy to a more strategic IT focus, looking at opportunities in the here and now and finding ways to remain competitive.

Currency. Technology is changing constantly, and cloud services enable your organisation to stay at the forefront of technology without having to think about, plan for or make additional investments in upgrades. With Office 365 you do get the latest and greatest. But there is a proviso here: Upgrades need to be made within a 12-month window, which can sometimes prove problematic for some organisations.

Capacity. Consider your traditional on-site mailbox limits, usually around 2-5GB. With Office 365, each mailbox has a 50GB allocation.

It just works. Office 365 is a global service backed by Microsoft, with guaranteed service levels (and significant financial penalties for Microsoft if these are not met).

It gets better. With the convergence of technology and with Microsoft making constant incremental improvements to its cloud offerings, the services on offer will get better, more comprehensive, and represent even greater value for money.

You get an enterprise grade solution at a consumer price. Take, for example, the cost of an organisation setting up its own disaster recovery capability, which is as good as writing a blank cheque. With Office 365, it’s all part of the service.

Accessibility. Because your information is in the cloud, you can access it from  Any device, anywhere.

It’s greener. This is one of the typically hidden or less frequently measured benefits. Think of the energy you save by getting rid of servers and coolers, just for starters.


Tips and tricks

If this sounds like it could benefit your organisation, where should you start? Below are some tips and tricks about what to do next and what you should watch out for.

Set up a (free) trial. People ask us how it will perform. We can give you an idea based on our own experience, but –like anything – the best thing is always to see for yourself.   

Beware of any potential ‘knock-on’ effects. An example of this could be in moving from SharePoint (often dubbed the Swiss army knife of technology solutions) to SharePoint Online. If you’re using some of SharePoint’s advanced features, beware that there could be knock-on effects, and similarly for any other advanced functionality you’re looking to move cloud-wards.   

Review your internet connection. Any cloud service is heavily reliant on your internet connection. Before you commit to the cloud, review your internet connection and know your data caps. Ultimately, to get the best experience, you need the best internet connection you can get.

Think up. Remember your data cap and be aware that you will have a higher level of international traffic.

Things take fractionally longer – by milliseconds.  The first time you log in, you notice those milliseconds. The third time you log in, it’s the new normal.

If there’s an issue, you can’t just go and talk to your boss. The good thing is that, from our own experience, the issues are few and far between.

Be prepared to experience a new look and feel. If your organisation is running relatively recent product versions on premise, you’re not in for many surprises, as Microsoft’s UI changes between versions are relatively subtle. If you’ve been used to older product versions, you may need to set aside a small amount of time to orient yourself. It’s like getting used to a new bus route – it just takes a couple of goes and then you forget there was ever an old way of doing things (or getting somewhere).

Before migrating, get your house in order. This is a big one, and it’s a common sticking point for lots of organisations. Know your data (where it is, what it is), and make sure it’s clean. As with anything: rubbish in, rubbish out. Another incentive for doing this, beyond helping your organisation to avoid difficulties and complications down the track, is that the more space you consume, the more you pay. By removing unnecessary data, you’re not paying for what you don’t actually need.

It’s a great opportunity to review how you work and what you need; and what informational assets (and detritus) your organisation has, and where it lives. Two simple questions come in handy here: How important is it? How often do I use it?

It’s not all or nothing. Office 365 may suit some pockets of your organisation, or certain work tasks but not others. You can keep some people working on premise, and head others to the cloud, and likewise for different functions across your organisation.

Don’t compare apples with oranges. With cloud-based services, you cannot make comparisons based on price alone. There are other solutions that look to do a similar thing at a lower cost. If cost is your main driver, be realistic about the fact that you are not going to get the same level of functionality and service.

Be prepared for your migration to take longer than you think it might. One thing we’ve learned from the migrations we have done for organisations is that while we can give you an estimate, and however much we would like be absolutely definitive with timeframes, there are far too many variables (an unforeseen large-scale internet-based event anywhere in the world, for example) that are out of our control for us to be able to do this.

The devil is in the detail. So check the fine print. Make sure you know exactly what each aspect of the service entails.


Once you get up and running, you’ll never look back: running cloud services such as Office 365 becomes seamless – for your users and your IT team – while offering long-term economic and productivity benefits.

If you’d like to know more about what a move to the cloud entails, we’re always more than happy to talk you through the many options and things to consider. Email lester.young@intergen.co.nz.

Posted by: Lester Young, Infrastructure Consultant | 03 October 2013

Tags: Cloud, Office 365, Microsoft Office, software as a service

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