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12 Considerations when migrating your Email to the Cloud

There is a good chance that you will change email systems at some point. Especially with many companies migrating to Office 365 or Gmail at the moment. Email migration can be a difficult process, but in the end it can make your organization better. And if management is requesting the change, you will make them happy too.

In fact, while more and more businesses are moving their IT infrastructure to the cloud, many are doing so for the first time. Without previous data migration experience, businesses today are left unsure where to start and unaware of the full process. Migrating mail without an informed approach and a clear path is a daunting task, and can get expensive and time consuming, not to mention stressful. How can migration occur without business interruption? What pre-migration planning is required? How can you be sure that all email has been migrated? And even the migration is a success, how do you get your users on board with the new product?

However, with the right tools and support, migrating mail between commercial mail systems is a painless process for IT staff, managers and end users.

And if you are planning an email migration, here are some important things your company should consider:

  • Costs – How much will the email migration and new email system cost your company?

  • Data preservation – There could be a possibility that you lose data during the migration.

  • How long will the email migration take? – Email migrations can be very time-consuming.

  • Downtime – email system downtime when migrating

  • Directory migration – when migrating email systems, you may need to migrate your directory

  • Email archiving – Archiving helps ensure regulatory compliance, helps you better manage and protect your data, and can help in the migration process.

But what are the benefits and risks of cloud migration?

Potential benefits of cloud migration

There are many problems that moving to the cloud can solve. Here are some typical scenarios that will benefit from cloud migration.

  • Your application is experiencing increased traffic and it’s becoming difficult to scale resources on the fly to meet the increasing demand.

  • You need to reduce operational costs while increasing the effectiveness of IT processes.

  • Your clients require fast application implementation and deployment and thus want to focus more on development while reducing infrastructure overhead.

  • Your clients want to expand their business geographically, but you suspect that setting up a multi-region infrastructure – with all the associated maintenance, time, human, and error control effort – is going to be a challenge.

  • It’s becoming more difficult and expensive to keep up with your growing storage needs.

  • You’d like to build a widely distributed development team. Cloud computing environments allow remotely located employees to access applications and work via the internet.

  • You need to establish a disaster recovery system but setting it up for an entire data center could double the cost. It would also require a complex disaster recovery plan. Cloud disaster recovery systems can be implemented much more quickly and give you much better control over your resources.

  • Tracking and upgrading underlying server software is a time consuming, yet an essential process that requires periodic and sometimes immediate upgrades. In some cases, a cloud provider will take care of this automatically. Some cloud computing models similarly handle many administrative tasks such as database backup, software upgrades, and periodic maintenance.

  • Capex to Opex: Cloud computing shifts IT expenditure to a pay-as-you-go model, which is an attractive benefit, especially for startups.

Potential risks of cloud migration

While your specific environment will determine the risks that apply to you, there are some general drawbacks associated with cloud migrations that you will want to consider.

  • If your application stores and retrieves very sensitive data, you might not be able to maintain it in the cloud. Similarly, compliance requirements could also limit your choices.

  • If your existing setup is meeting your needs, doesn’t demand much maintenance, scaling, and availability, and your customers are all happy, why mess with it?

  • If some of the technology you currently rely on is proprietary, you may not be legally able to deploy it to the cloud.

  • Some operations might suffer from added latency when using cloud applications over the internet.

  • If your hardware is controlled by someone else, you might lose some transparency and control when debugging performance issues.

  • Noisy “neighbors” can occasionally make themselves “heard” through shared resources.

  • Your particular application design and architecture might not completely follow distributed cloud architectures, and therefore may require some amount of modification before moving them to the cloud.

  • Cloud platform or vendor lock-in: Once in, it might be difficult to leave or move between platforms.

  • Downtime. It happens to everyone, but you might not want to feel like your availability is controlled by someone else.

In addition, there are many factors which need to be taken into account when moving enterprise applications to a cloud environment. Some are obvious, while others are not. Below are a few guidelines to consider when undertaking application migration to the cloud.

#1: Data migration and archiving

The three questions you should ask when moving email to the cloud are “Do I need to move all my existing email? Do my users need them all? Will the messages I already have fill my new cloud mailboxes before I even start new messages?”

We recommend managing your email archive separately from your email data. The availability of on-premise archiving will allow you to track your migration while maintaining access to historical data for all users. You also need to take bandwidth into consideration. After all, transferring multiple terabytes of data over a one-megabit connection will be a time-consuming challenge.

#2: Accessibility, integration and collaboration

Organizations often discover application dependencies too late in the process of migrating workloads, resulting in unplanned outages and limited functionality to systems while these dependencies are addressed. Understanding the relationships between applications is critical to planning the sequence and manner in which cloud migrations occur. Can the application exist on the cloud in isolation while other systems are migrated?

Therefore, integration saves a lot of time. This is why you should consider an open architecture cloud email platform. It not only supports a variety of mobile devices but can also be integrated with third-party or custom applications. Think social media integration, unified communications, and other value-added services that are aligned with your business functions.

With an open architecture platform, your employees will be able to access various applications without leaving the messaging interface. No more additional steps of copying and sharing information across different applications. Just make sure both online and offline access are available to ensure utmost collaboration.

#3: SLA and security standard

Many cloud providers offer a 99 percent guaranteed service level agreement (SLA). This is great, but you also need to ask them how long it would take for them to fix issues if they occurred. If they take days to fix problems, that SLA is meaningless. You need to understand the level of management support included with the service as well as their response time.

You should also find out whether your chosen cloud email solution provides physical and access-control security standards. Find out what encryption and other data protection capabilities are provided. Does it provide tools for performing e-discovery? Is the archive accessible to any e-discovery tools you may already be using?

#4: Service provider mobility

When you think you’ve found the right cloud provider, be certain that its performance will remain steady and pricing won’t increase. You might want to move to another cloud provider in the future, so be safe and not sorry. Ask your provider about bandwidth, migration time frames, data formats and interoperability of the solution.

#5: Total cost of moving email to the cloud

As with any technology, it’s imperative to make sure you’re able to allocate your capital to other unexpected expenses that may arise. To that end, keep in mind the operating expenses for administration, storage, and bandwidth costs of your cloud email solution.

#6: Resource usage versus availability

Many times the minimum specifications for an application far exceeds the actual usage profile of the organization. Minimum specifications represent a general operating window defined by a software vendor with no consideration of the particular use case. In these situations, it's possible to gain significant efficiencies in architecting the appropriate cloud environment. However, the inverse may be true, and the right cloud environment needs to be chosen to match the availability and resource utilization requirements.

It's important to review CPU resource patterns in order to cost-effectively deliver the required availability. Organizations often overlook log-on storms in virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and application publishing services; these will cause user dissatisfaction if not taken into consideration when architecting the environment.

#7: Licensing

Is the application licensed per VM, per core, or for total infrastructure footprint? This can have massive cost implications. If the licensing model requires that all available resources be taken into account even if not allocated to the client, licensing costs will increase if migrated to a public-cloud platform. Similarly, if the application licensing is based per core and the cloud provider does not offer the ability to configure your cloud environment per core, this will have an adverse impact on your licensing cost.

#8: Existing access mechanisms

Consider how users currently access their applications and how this will have to change after migration. During planning, it’s important to think about the how the expected user experience might be affected and how to best prepare users. Will there be IP addresses or DNS entries that will need to be updated as part of the migration that will affect end users? Is it possible to migrate groups of users at a time, or is a big-bang approach the only feasible option? Will users need to authenticate to connect to the service, or will they leverage a WAN or MPLS network?

#9: Security

Along with networking, organizations need to carefully look at the implementation of security policies to ensure that the required level of security is adequately met. Certain concessions may be required to relax policies, or cede responsibility for particular areas to the cloud-service provider. Alternatively, workarounds can include integration of virtual or physical appliances that complement the cloud architecture and meet compliance demands.

#10: IT service management (ITSM)

Maintenance and change window procedures, service desk alignment, and a general review of ITSM processes ensure that while more elements of the environment are outsourced, policies and processes align to the requirements of the organization. Finger pointing when things go wrong is a consequence of unclear expectations.

#11: Replication

Data protection requirements, the manner and the frequency in which replication occurs, and aligning the recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO) of applications to their business criticality, also influence architectural designs. Source the appropriate solutions to provide the necessary levels of data transfer in terms of capacity and costs.

#12: Application architecture

Organizations should review each application architecture not only for a compatibility view, but to support optimization of the cloud platform. Monolithic systems make it difficult to scale efficiently and respond quickly, thereby removing the cloud’s agility benefits. Reviewing the application architecture ensures that migration of these applications to a cloud environment is the right decision.

Moving production applications to the cloud requires careful thought and an openness to the re-architecture of not only the application space, but surrounding processes and policies. Various providers may recommend a cloud-only approach, but this may not always be the best solution for all your applications. A careful design that accounts for all IT environment factors and business outcomes may instead yield a hybrid solution.

Many businesses are finding that an infrastructure that delivers cloud at the core, but is flexible to continue to cater for some workloads on physical infrastructure is the best solution.

Want to migrate your email to the Cloud? Click the green button below to contact us today!

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