By Mark Kirstein
The current global pandemic has upended business operations in a swift and sweeping manner like never before. Many organizations in India and around the world were caught unprepared to quickly pivot to a fully remote work environment. They have had to scramble to upgrade technology to maintain business continuity company-wide, instead of merely having to support select teams or individuals. Many are turning to cloud services, which are urgently needed.
The cloud services market has already seen strong and steady growth in recent years, reaching $200 billion globally, as more businesses embrace the many benefits the cloud can provide. Amid the current pandemic, Microsoft Teams reported a 70 percent increase in usage, reaching 75 million daily active users. Zoom has reported 300 million daily meeting participants.
While the current crisis will eventually subside, it will change business operations as we currently know them. The “new normal” will look quite different for many companies, with a percentage of employees and roles shifting permanently to remote. In the coming months, shrewd business leaders will invest in cloud services that are advantageous for long-term stability and success, and that go beyond the short-term changes we’ve seen businesses adopt today.
The approach businesses take will differ by company size and industry. Smaller businesses in hard-hit industries, such as travel and entertainment, are likely taking a more cautious approach for IT spending. However, mid-size to large enterprises are being more aggressive. Businesses that need the tools, services and infrastructure in place to enable remote work are accelerating to the cloud so employees can maintain productivity. These organizations are leveraging the cloud to realize the many benefits a cloud environment affords.
Benefits of moving to cloud
Better productivity and employee experience: There are countless benefits for companies that leverage cloud services. The driving factor for many businesses to move to the cloud is to enable remote work for employees by centralizing company data for remote access, allowing the ability to work remotely and collaboratively with co-workers in other locations. Having all information and data in one accessible place allows employees to look at collective insights and analytics, as well as track key performance indicators, which can be leveraged to inform key business decisions.
The cloud also improves the employee experience by automating much of the process of onboarding new employees, making it more seamless and hassle-free. This kind of automation enabled by the cloud allows the IT department more time to be proactive and focus on critical employee needs, such as creating effective training for new technology and strengthening security awareness.
Improved security and data governance: The cloud can offer enhanced security in various ways. Instead of having to rely on multiple servers and desktop hard drives, which can pose a significant risk to companies with regard to compliance and overall liability, the cloud provides a centralized location for files and documents. Additionally, single sign-on is one of the most attractive features of the cloud from an IT standpoint, as it helps improve both security and data governance. Single sign-on allows users to login with a single ID and password to securely access multiple applications across the organization. This allows IT to easily control access to sensitive data by adding or removing employees, or setting role-based permissions from a single location, which minimizes the chance for errors.
The cloud also allows optimized security audits for applications to swiftly identify issues or vulnerabilities. This helps companies detect their biggest security risks and make necessary updates to ensure protection is sustained.
Enhanced cost management and workplace systems: With the centralization of cost management centers within the same cloud portal, organizations have improved visibility into how costs are managed. Simple audits of past software purchases and licenses can determine if software is still being utilized and whether the proper level of licensing is in place. This can enable the company to make decisions that will maximize past investments and eliminate unnecessary spending.
Organizations can also run regular resource assessment tests to make sure resources are either being used effectively or being shut down completely to avoid gratuitous costs. Such system-wide assessment tests can be cumbersome and time-consuming for an on-premises environment, and therefore won’t occur as often as needed.
Many of the applications used throughout an organization now have built-in integrations with major cloud programs like Office 365, enabling streamlined workplace operations. In the cloud, organizations no longer need a senior-level developer to code the integrations with APIs. Streamlined workflows and improved operations monitoring can be achieved with a few simple clicks.
How to ensure successful migration
Plan ahead: There are several steps an organization must take to ensure a migration is successful. Above all else, a successful cloud migration requires planning. Companies need to assess the project scope and timeline before getting started. Planning for a cloud migration is a key opportunity to clean house to avoid migrating data and workloads that are no longer needed, which will help keep cloud costs in check.
There are many ways to approach a migration and companies can consider doing this in stages, starting with what is most mission-critical. For many companies, maintaining lines of communication in the current remote work environment is on the top of the list. In this scenario, migrate mailboxes first to ensure communication can be maintained, and then determine which Teams, groups or other workloads need to be migrated next.
Timing of migration is also important. In the current environment, usage of software, such as SharePoint Online and OneDrive, has increased during daytime peak hours. Schedule migrations during off-peak hours (which are nights and weekends) to ensure the migration doesn’t interfere with employee productivity and allows for swift project execution.
Maintain security and governance, and establish buy-in: Security and governance is critical during any cloud migration. Make sure security processes and protocols are understood and followed, and that security protections and governance infrastructure are appropriately set up and configured. Consider appointing a team member to champion security throughout the migration to ensure there are no lapses or surprises downstream in the migration.
In addition, adopting cloud technologies requires organizational change management. Make sure communication is clear about the goals of the migration and the expected benefits to get everyone on board. Take time to execute an effective enablement and training plan for employees. Companies want to help productivity with the new technology, not hinder it. Enlisting the help of “culture champions” in the organization – or those who will buy in and promote the new technology – can help drive the needed cultural change and adoption of new operating models that will lead to the desired productivity gains.
Anticipate challenges and seek expertise if needed: Problems can occur when companies assume all workloads will operate in the new cloud environment as they did in the old one. This is not always the case. By employing pre-migration assessment tests, companies can have visibility into what the new environment will look like, and many project hurdles can be addressed before the migration begins.
If the company is moving from an on-premises environment, it’s critical to thoroughly decommission the previous infrastructure to avoid paying for resources that are no longer being utilized. Additionally, don’t try to be a hero – enlist help from experts when needed and avoid jumping into the project with lingering uncertainties. It’s imperative for companies to have the right people in place who have done a cloud migration before and understand what needs to happen. There are many components that must be configured and a lot can go wrong if the appropriate processes aren’t followed. Using a good migration tool or hiring an MSP partner to help can alleviate challenges and ensure a smooth migration.
The sudden changes in the business landscape and uncertainties ahead have forced many businesses to act fast, and these conditions make a solid case for businesses to accelerate their move to the cloud. With so much need for business continuity and so many benefits of adopting cloud infrastructure, businesses across India can seize the opportunity to modernize their operations and become well-positioned to weather uncertain market conditions. By fully leveraging cloud services, these organizations can meet their challenges with increased agility and set themselves up for future success.
(The author is the Vice President of Products at BitTitan)
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