Over the past two months, we’ve explored the topic of moving to the cloud through the lenses of key considerations before you make the decision to move as well as migration best practices once you’ve decided the cloud is right for your business. Today we conclude our “Talking Cloud” series with a discussion about what needs to be done once your data and users are in the cloud – because migration is truly only half the battle.
While moving to the cloud takes away the burden and expenses associated with maintaining on-premises infrastructure, there is still much to be done to ensure your new cloud assets are properly managed. Governance, compliance, as well as user adoption and productivity are still key concepts that will need to be taken into account to maximize your cloud investment and ensure it’s an asset to your business – not a hindrance.
Once again, we’ve gathered a team of AvePoint experts speaking from the CEO, compliance officer, CIO, and IT pro perspectives to draw from their experience and share what you need to know to make the best of your new cloud infrastructure.
Meet our experts:
Dr. Tianyi (TJ) Jiang: AvePoint Co-CEO and Co-Founder, offers a CEO perspective. TJ oversees product strategy and business development for AvePoint’s global businesses, and is one of the main architects in guiding AvePoint’s evolution to become a collaboration enabler. A recipient of Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year award in New Jersey in 2010, TJ received both B.S. and Masters in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Cornell University, and a Master of Philosophy and PhD in Data Mining from Department of Information Systems, Operations Management, and Statistics, Stern School of Business, New York University.
Dana Simberkoff: AvePoint Chief Compliance and Risk Officer, offers a compliance perspective. Dana is responsible for executive level consulting, research and analytical support on current and upcoming industry trends, technology, standards, best practices, concepts and solutions for risk management and compliance. Dana holds a bachelor of arts from Dartmouth College and a juris doctorate from Suffolk University Law School.
John Peluso: AvePoint VP of Product Management, offers a CIO perspective. With more than 17 years of experience helping organizations understand how they can drive secure collaboration and business productivity through an effective use of technology, John has held both technical and business management roles, resulting in a deep understanding of the priorities and concerns of both sides of the organization. John holds Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer and Microsoft Certified Trainer certifications.
Shyam Oza: AvePoint Senior Product Manager, offers an IT pro perspective. Shyam works directly with global organizations – many of which are in the Fortune 500 – on crafting new deployment strategies utilizing hybrid and cloud environments with Microsoft technologies. His expertise and passion for being at the leading edge of new application delivery models, including mobile and social, has garnered him speaking opportunities throughout the country. Shyam studied Information Systems, specializing in Communications and Command and Control at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.
Once you’re in the cloud, what’s next?
John Peluso (JP): The fortunate – or unfortunate – reality is that you probably already know what you’re in for, because users still do the same things when they collaborate in the cloud as they do on premises. They still have problems understanding permissions. They still create content all over the place. So managing that cloud architecture from a user and content perspective is going to be about the same as what you already know in terms of management, governance, and compliance. You are also going to want to think about the underlying cloud platform itself. For example, do you have the tools and the expertise to manage a tenant in Office 365 as well as understand the licensing and how that works? There is a lot to consider. Some of it is new, and some of it is the same issues you dealt with on premises.
Shyam Oza (SO): In addition to understanding who has access to which content, it is also important to understand service level agreements (SLAs) for content that has been deleted. Service providers like Microsoft do have SLAs, but we know organizations don’t always have requirements that match those SLAs. They may have long-term retention or reporting requirements where they need to store audit data for two or three years or even more. They may have also data availability SLAs that are very aggressive. Maybe you have recovery times of 30 minutes or an hour, for instance. What’s really important to understand is the series of tools and solutions available to you as an IT pro to help manage that online environment
While you have achieved some level of success by completing the migration, true success is when your end users start to adopt and use the platform. In order to do that, you really need a lot of information – especially if you work for a large or geographically distributed organizations. How are you going to keep tabs on new users? Are they using the sites you set up? Are they creating wiki sites? Are they are sharing content on OneDrive for business? Or are they stuck still only using Exchange? You’ll want insights into all of these facets so you can make agile decisions with your cloud environment.
Dana Simberkoff (DS): Once you’re in the cloud, you need to think about how you are going to actually manage compliance of the data in the new system. You have created your policies in terms of what’s staying on premises what goes in the cloud, and now you need to act on those polices while proving that data is where it should be.
One of the ways to do that is to scan, tag, classify, redact, encrypt, or move data in the cloud to make sure that it does not reside where it should not be. So if you’ve created a policy that says, for example, HR data is not allowed in the cloud and somebody inadvertently places that type of information in the cloud, then you need the ability to block that content, encrypt it, redact it, or flag it to warn administrators that somebody is violating a policy in order to take appropriate remedial action.
How do you facilitate successful technology adoption in the cloud?
Dr. Tianyi (TJ) Jiang: The key to successful adoption is really a combination of people, processes, and technology. You should have key advocates and evangelists to drive adoption and showcase how this technology can make the business better and faster.
You also need to take into account change management. This part of the process actually occurs during the migration. So that your end users know what’s coming, make sure they are well trained on the new cloud paradigm. They can now access information much more flexibly on a platform that is highly scalable. The downside of that ease of scalability could be that you do not anticipate the costs associated with revving up, revving down, bandwidth, and storage. This is where you should think about how to control the volume of data that you have and where that data is located. With cloud providers, pricing models can vary greatly. At AvePoint, we can help you flexibly locate your data across different providers to optimize costs so that you get the best value out of collaboration in the cloud.
JP: If you are spending less time managing the infrastructure of your cloud environment – which you should be – you now have more time to focus on sustainable user adoption. Successful user adoption is reliant upon good system governance. How was the system intended to be used, and are users actually using it that way? You had an excuse back when you were running around fighting fires just trying to keep a service up from an infrastructure perspective. You were busy, and you never had time for higher level initiatives like adoption. But now that you’re in the cloud, adoption and governance are areas where you can focus your time.
SO: Even though you may be on Exchange Online in the cloud, you still don’t want email to be the primary method of communication within your organization. You want to encourage end users to use new platforms that have been made available to them by moving to the cloud. While Yammer and Lync or Skype facilitate conversations, one of the things Office 365 is lacking natively is a set of tools to report on user adoption. You can build fun campaigns or challenges to increase user adoption. For instance, the first person to make a thousand Yammer posts wins a prize or gets a certificate. You can create these kinds of fun activities, but you don’t really know where to target them if you don’t know where the adoption problems exist.
In the cloud, tasks like data center management, data center security, and upgrades fade away and become an afterthought, but there are still important user management challenges to consider. For instance, if you have a lot of users or even temporary workers that are leaving your organization and coming in, who is managing those identities? Who is managing the licenses? Who is making sure that somebody doesn’t have accesses after they have left the organization?
At the same time, it can be difficult to tell if documents are being created and uploaded in the right places – so it helps to have a set of tools that can monitor, tag, and classify content to make sure it sits in the right team site. When you think about the cloud, it’s easy to forget about the basics of the content lifecycle. If you think about OneDrive, for example, you have unlimited storage. It’s a great place for end users to upload documents, and you can also have site collections and team sites that scale according to your needs.
The issue is what happens when the content becomes stale. The business needs to be able to classify content, tag it, and mark it for archival or deletion. More importantly, when the content is marked to be taken offline, what happens to it? Is it just deleted? Is it put in storage? If so, is that storage on premises or in the cloud? These are decisions that organizations are going to have to make, and they should do so proactively. It’s really important to tackle these kinds of problems now before Office 365 balloons out of control and you run into problems with content sprawling across your cloud deployment, which will ultimately make the environment more difficult for users to navigate.
DS: From a compliance perspective, one of ways you can assess the success of cloud adoption is around how you are actually measuring up against the policies that you created. So providing technology solutions that allow you to monitor compliance and measure how effective your business users are doing at complying with your policies is very useful. You should both monitor how technology is being used and then how people are faring against the rules you’ve created.
Polices should be flexible because they need to reflect reality, and if you’re making it harder for people to do their jobs, they will find a way around your security controls. So measuring, benchmarking, monitoring, and having flexibility in your policies is important. At the same time, understanding a day in the life of your business user and why they do what they do will help you measure the effectiveness of your compliance and cloud programs.
How does AvePoint help with management challenges in the cloud?
TJ: At AvePoint, after providing migration solutions for thousands of customers from on premises, to hybrid, to cloud environments, what we see is that once customers are in the cloud, they need to overcome the fallacy that there is no more need to worry about the security, failover, or corruption of data. They still need to have processes in place for archiving, disaster recovery, and user management. Those are continuous pain points that our Microsoft Azure-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform AvePoint Online Services addresses, and it’s currently supporting 3 million Office 365 users today. We’re enabling organizations to better manage permissions, security, provisioning, and more on Office 365. With our tools, customers are able to deliver enterprise-grade SLAs for their data and collaboration environments in the cloud.
JP: If you look at Office 365, it has individual but integrated services that you can utilize as you need them. You have one place to register all the users that are going to use that service, and then you can just determine what specific services those users are accessing. We took the same approach with AvePoint Online Services. It’s one platform to manage the governance, compliance, and management of your Office 365 environment. There is one place to register and one place to access any of the specific services that you need.
Because the AvePoint Online Services architecture is hosted on Azure, we are in the same data centers as the Office 365 deployments that we manage. This makes the tool very useful for customers who want optimal performance when they are archiving, backing up, or moving content from one location to another. Another thing that Azure service gives us is the ability to scale infinitely to support the level and types of customers that may be using our service at any particular time.
DS: AvePoint not only manages the compliance of your data in the cloud, but also the compliance of that same data as it moves from an on premises environment to your cloud stores and across all systems, whether they’re file shares, websites, databases, instant messaging systems, or social systems. We provide a unified compliance program that manages all of your data wherever it may be.
More on Cloud Management
Want to hear more from our team? Check out our Spotlight on the Cloud resource series to see this exclusive interview video and other materials on management that will help your organization make the right decisions when it comes to navigating the cloud.
Visit our website to learn how our solutions help you smoothly transition to the cloud while ensuring your data is effectively managed, well governed, secure, and compliant wherever it resides.
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