Preparing Microsoft Applications for Transition to Cloud

In my last blog, I wrote about some things you’ll want to consider as you formulate and execute against your cloud strategy. We examined security, management and support issues, and custom and third-party application considerations. But there are 3 additional areas to look at that will impact your placement choices—on-premises, online with Office 365 or a hybrid solution.

You have your choice of options. You may, as the majority of enterprise customers already have, choose a hybrid implementation. But there are things to consider in making the best placement decision.

More things to consider

Backup & Recovery. Access to critical data becomes an issue when that data is in the cloud, and there is uncertainty about RTO/RPO. Disaster recovery (DR) is another thing you’ll need to consider. While Office 365 has reasonably high uptime (99.9%), that’s not the same as having a DR plan in place. And what happens if you can’t access your cloud-based environment, and you need urgent access to email, SharePoint sites or content?

Hardware failures, natural disasters and, most commonly, simple human error can impact service availability. Natively, Office 365 doesn’t really perform daily backups of SharePoint or Exchange data. You’ll rely on the features within each product such as database availability groups, deleted item retention and single item recovery. If you require something more robust, consider a third-party product (for example, Spanning by Dell EMC)—especially if you need to keep a longer history of data.

By staying on-premises, you can just use existing backup tools. A hybrid environment may require multiple tools, but if you employ the right tools, you’ll be able to ensure the same levels of data protection you have now. Current RTO and RPO should drive the requirements. We encourage customers not to compromise on data protection and not to assume that data is safe simply because it is hosted. Whatever your strategy, plan to evaluate and standardize backup, high availability and DR capabilities consistently—whether online, on-premises or in a hybrid environment.

Functional Parity. On-premises features versus Office 365? In making this decision, consider functional parity. Although Microsoft has adopted a cloud-first strategy, there are functional differences between on-premises, cloud and hybrid deployments. Don’t just look at user-facing services, but also consider how you will administer, manage, monitor and automate your environment.

Some features of SharePoint, such as BI and search, have different on-premises capabilities and features than those found in Office 365. In the last year Microsoft launched several new “Office 365 only” services that aren’t available on-premises (Delve, Office Graph, Office 365 Video, Groups, Yammer, and others).

The Skype for Business Online voice feature brings enterprise-grade communications to the cloud. Microsoft is keeping integration tight between cloud hosted and on-premises solutions. We can help you clearly understand these capabilities (and where there are gaps between cloud-based and on-premises solutions) that will help drive the decision on which architecture you adopt.

Migration. Third-party tools, program management and user experience all need to be taken into account. And don’t overlook change management and logistics, as these can be more challenging than the technology migration itself. Look at adding some experienced resources and structure to the project by tracking requirements, risks, and major decisions, as well as managing all of the related initiatives to successfully execute the entire project.

When moving email to the cloud, you are moving more than just messaging data. You are extending your corporate identity and that includes synchronization of your Active Directory using new tools such as Azure Active Directory or Active Directory Federation Services. Azure Active Directory Connect introduces new management agents that simplify complex multi-forest synchronization to a single Office 365 tenant—but this effort will likely require careful planning.

Migration path is also a major issue for SharePoint. You can’t just detach content databases and attach them to your Office 365 tenant. You’ll likely need third-party tools and site-by-site, one-at-a-time migration. Even if fully automated, there are limitations on how quickly you can migrate data, since migration events need to be planned based on application interdependencies. The solution requires a detailed understanding of each application and the value they provide to the business today. Each application should have a clearly defined disposition which may include: retain, modernize, retire, or migrate to the cloud. Our application profiling service is a great way to approach the application disposition issue.

In summary

Migration to Office 365 is here today and a topic of conversation for most organizations today. As you consider which model is best for the business and for each of your applications, you may find that moving to hybrid solutions best suits your needs at this point in time.

Just as deploying any new system on-premises requires planning and effort, expect the same with Office 365. Out-of-the-box capabilities may not be adequate. There is no “easy button” in either case. It’s like deploying a brand new infrastructure with brand new services that may be less flexible than you’re accustomed to. So consider what we’ve just discussed to better inform your decision and begin the journey.

There are no wrong choices, but there are many decisions. You’ll just need to be aware and be prepared to address the challenges you may face on any path you choose. This is where Dell EMC services for Microsoft can help.

Our Advisory for Microsoft Office 365 and related services provide a sound cloud foundation wherever you are in this journey. If you need help executing on your cloud vision, Dell EMC services does this work every day and can help you find the path to success quickly and easily.

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.