What Influences Your Cloud Strategy for Microsoft Apps?

For most organizations, some form of transition to cloud is inevitable. As you’re defining your cloud strategy, you’ll either choose to adopt, plan for future transition or justify why you’re not doing so. If you’ve decided that this is the time to modernize your messaging and collaboration environment, you’ll want to figure out which approach—on-premises, Office 365, or a hybrid solution—is the right one to achieve your technology, business and organizational objectives.

Who is moving to the public cloud?

Many organizations still rely upon on-premises or hybrid cloud models. While the majority of companies have not yet fully adopted Office 365 for either messaging or collaboration, that will likely change over the next few years. In September 2016 Gartner stated public cloud adoption is expected to near 60% by 2022 (in the next 6 years).

Thankfully, cloud or on-premises is not an “either/or” decision—as the majority of enterprise customers will likely focus on a hybrid implementation. But there are things to consider as you make your placement decision.

Some Key Things to Consider

Security. Unauthorized access is a concern. Corporate email accounts are frequently targeted, and network security may not meet your corporate guidelines, putting HR and employee data at risk. Moving certain employee mailboxes online may work fine, but moving the mailboxes of corporate executives may still pose an unacceptable risk.

We help customers evaluate the basic security controls now available in Office 365 and compare them to your current on-premises solution. It’s not just about authentication of user mail data, but also perimeter security to protect against malware, phishing, ransomware and other threats that are more prevalent than ever today. At a minimum, the solution requires adoption of basic security best practices such as encrypted communication channels, password complexity requirements and multifactor or adaptive authentication solution. As our client organizations look at adopting management tools, monitoring solutions and cloud-access security brokers, Dell EMC consultants are there to help.

SharePoint ecosystems typically leverage rich employee profile data/metadata, typically sourced from Active Directory or an HR system. PII/PHI data is an issue, for example, because it’s so easy to share/upload information with SharePoint, it’s hard to completely prevent people from doing it. So you may not want to host that content in Office 365 because it isn’t encrypted end to end. This data is considered private/sensitive, and organizations often don’t want this data hosted in a public cloud. So the simple resolution is a hybrid cloud implementation, where sensitive data remains on-premises, while other, less sensitive data can be hosted in the cloud.

Management and Support. Lack of control is the issue here. Root cause analysis can be more challenging or beyond your control for cloud-based systems.

Your cloud vendor controls communications, escalations, which version you are using, when features get released (or removed) and when updates are deployed. While this is often a benefit, consider how this may impact critical workloads and other integrations with the platform. Since you don’t control the maintenance schedule, you’ll need to look at the impact on your change management protocol. This is another area where we work with customers to better manage the effect this will have on their systems.

Designing the administration roles and security controls using roles-based access control (RBAC) for each of the services can be a significant endeavor depending on the size and complexity of your organization. There are new day-to-day activities, such as provisioning and de-provisioning users in the cloud—not to mention, determining the appropriate license assignment. This is where a new ecosystem of third-party management tools can definitely save headaches and add value to your deployment. Dell EMC has a significant track record of helping organizations deal with issues like these.

Custom and third-party applications. Before moving anything to the cloud, remember to identify any necessary remediation or replacement of third-party tools which are currently deployed. This requires analysis and planning to ensure the appropriate tools are available in the target infrastructure.

Custom applications are definitely a consideration in your move to Office 365. There are many on-premises, mail-integrated applications that were either not intended for cloud deployment or may be expensive and complex to replace. So a hybrid deployment may provide the bridge you need.

Also, SharePoint is used to run most corporate intranets, which often have dozens of custom widgets and apps in them. Many of those will likely have to be rewritten for Office 365. Not only is that a significant effort, but companies are also concerned that they will lose the ability to customize the experience as much in Office 365 as they can on-premises. It’s critical to consider data sensitivity, control, and the ability to customize each of your applications. The solution is measure twice, cut once. We’ll help you evaluate tools that will facilitate the migration of content, files, associated metadata and permissions into SharePoint. A detailed migration plan will get you there, but only a comprehensive test plan will ensure success.

In Summary

Migration to Office 365 is here today and adoption is growing. But even though Microsoft now delivers many new features first in the cloud, the majority of companies we work with are moving to hybrid solutions.

So consider what we’ve just discussed to better inform your decision and begin the journey. This is where Dell EMC consultants can help. We’re working with customers every day to help them develop cloud strategies and address these and other complex migration issues.

About the Author: Dave Carlson

Dave Carlson is the Global Workforce Transformation Lead responsible for the Americas, EMEA and APJ theaters. In this role he drives globally consistent standards, strategy and thought leadership around VDI & End User Computing, Digital Workplace and Communications & Collaboration solutions for Dell Technologies Consulting Services. Dave has spoken at numerous industry events on topics such as enterprise IT strategy, application portfolio optimization, data center consolidation, cloud computing, end user computing, virtual desktop infrastructure, and application management strategies. He has also been published on the subject of messaging strategy and infrastructure design. Outside of the office, Dave enjoys searching for fresh powder in the mountains, relaxing at the beach and traveling with his family. He resides in New Jersey with his wife and two children.