Migrating your collaboration tools to the cloud is a major decision. There’s no doubt you’ll save money, but it will require extensive time and resources to make the transition. If you’re still using on-premise solutions, the architecture you’ll find in the cloud is different than what you’re used to; you’ll need to do your research before you migrate.
Most businesses migrate to Microsoft 365 or Google’s G Suite. Although there are other tools, these two options have the most to offer in terms of support, usability, and security. Which one is right for you depends on your individual needs.
Choosing the right cloud tools requires an in-depth understanding beyond what you’ll find in a vendor’s printed marketing materials. You’ll need to look under the hood and understand each environment’s architecture.
As with any type of migration, you’ll face potential risks and security limitations. To mitigate these risks, you need a strong cloud migration strategy that includes preparing for unexpected expenses and breakdowns.
If you’re planning on moving your collaboration tools to the cloud, here are some tips for a secure migration:
1. Don’t expect your migration to be smooth
Migrations are never as simple in execution as they are in theory. You’ll need to do a lot of planning, establishing prerequisites, and ironing out bugs. If you’re opting for a hybrid environment, you’ll have to decide which users you’re going to migrate to the cloud.
The migration process won’t be “set it and forget it.” There are too many factors that can throw a wrench in the process:
• If your existing environment has stability issues you can’t resolve prior, you’ll be handling them during your migration.
• Staff who can’t be without email, even temporarily, will complicate the process.
• Your firewalls, proxies, and CAS server setups might be incompatible with a hybrid environment.
• Adhering to policies like HIPAA and GDPR during a migration takes extra precaution.
2. Understand that you’re giving up a portion of control
Using cloud-based tools offers advantages that can’t be beat, but those advantages come at a price: you’re giving up a large portion of control, depending on a third party’s design and decision-making for security. Your cloud migration strategy needs to include identifying potential risks before you select your cloud environment.
Thomas Erl, co-author of Cloud Computing: Concepts, Technology & Architecture (Prentice Hall, 2013) told TechTarget, “Moving our solutions to cloud environments and just expecting to benefit from all the potential advantages won’t work. It’s dangerous to just undertake cloud migrations because cloud environments differ significantly from other environments.”
3. Understand portability limitations
Most public cloud environments are proprietary, which means any architecture you develop to interact with it will need to be specifically designed for that vendor’s environment. Migrating legacy systems to the cloud means spending more time testing integrations to make sure it works as originally intended and keeps data secure.
4. Research how your cloud provider manages security
Virtualized IT resources are shared and, therefore, accessed by a number of other consumers. There’s no way around this. You’ll need to establish a certain level of trust with your cloud provider regarding what security measures they have in place.
Doing your due diligence now can save you from having to pack up and move six months down the road after your data gets stolen because something was overlooked.
5. Office 365 migration tips
Use the Microsoft 365 Deployment Assistant tool
By answering a few simple questions about your existing environment, this free deployment tool will provide you with a checklist to help you deploy your Exchange Server for a variety of scenarios.
Prepare for some setbacks
No migration is perfect, but when you know what could go wrong, setbacks are easier to deal with. In this article, NetworkWorld shares advice from Office 365 migration expert Ed Crowley describing what to prepare for and what could go wrong.
If you’re not sure what to expect during the migration process, here’s a whitepaper describing how one non-profit organization migrated to Microsoft 365.
Microsoft 365 user Active Directory limitations
Microsoft 365 makes it easy to manage user accounts with the Active Directory Synchronization tool, but it only syncs one way. Any changes you make in the cloud won’t sync to your local Active Directory. Any changes you make in the cloud will be overwritten the next time Active Directory syncs. If you need to restrict access for a user, don’t do it in the cloud.
6. Understand the security limitations of collaboration tools
The security limitations that come with using cloud-based tools are significant. Your data, including email, is stored on a server you don’t own or control. If that server gets hacked, your data is at risk – unless it’s encrypted.
While Microsoft Azure Information Protection lets you encrypt files and emails, only recipients with a configured Microsoft email account can access them. Microsoft Office 365 Message Encryption allows non-Microsoft email users to access encrypted content by downloading HTML attachments, but many people may refuse to download these attachments out of fear that they might be part of a phishing attack.
Virtru, on the other hand, bypasses these issues. Virtru users can read emails directly from their inboxes, and non-Virtru users can access emails from a secure web-based reader without having to create a new account, install new software, or download attachments.
Virtru even allows you to revoke and expire access to emails and files after they’ve been sent – something neither Microsoft 365 nor G Suite offers.
Additionally, Virtru’s data protection is simple to configure. While IT administrators need to know PowerShell to configure Exchange, Virtru offers plugins that anyone can download to use once the software is installed on your server or in the cloud.
Most of all, Virtru prevents third parties – including service providers – from accessing your data.