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“The cloud” is now a dominant way of setting up your company’s data and collaborations. At its most basic level, the cloud means someone else’s computer is holding your data or applications. Usually, it’s a big cloud provider like Microsoft, Google, or Amazon. Setting your operations up this way has a lot of advantages, but it can cost more than hosting everything yourself (depending on how you use it). Having access to your data and communications from anywhere in the world is a huge plus and relying on a large or innovative player in the cloud space can bolster your security as well. In today’s post, we’ll show you some important things to consider when migrating to the cloud.

1) Planning Ahead

The most important thing you can do when you subscribe to a cloud provider is plan ahead for what you’ll be using it for. By having a clear adoption plan, you can figure out the best workflows for your company and save yourself and your IT team a lot of headaches. You’ll want to space everything out over time and have multiple goals and milestones to achieve along the way.

While every company and every use case is different, you can imagine what a mess it would be to open a cloud account and immediately dump the contents of multiple workstations or servers onto the cloud storage. It could be like getting a new desk and simply dumping the old drawers into a new drawer. If you start migrating services over to cloud providers, you can make sure they work by making one change at a time, instead of changing all of the workflows at the same time and dealing with a greater amount of complexity.

2) Having Multiple Internet Connections

With your new cloud services, you can access your data and applications anywhere where you have an internet connection… that is, until there’s an internet outage. The only solution to an outage is to get a second internet connection on your premises. The goal here is to keep your cloud services accessible at all times, since not having access will be more impactful on your daily operations once your data is in the cloud.

You can calculate the return on investment for a second internet connection by looking at typical losses for an outage, or bringing work activities to a standstill, and knowing how many outages occur in your area per year. This will let you know exactly how costly outages are, and give you an idea of how much you can save by not being affected by them.

3) Streamlining your Backups

Since you already need a backup offsite (that is, if you’ve properly implemented your backups), using the cloud for your production copy—your data as you use it—reconfigures your backup plan. If you need, per the 3-2-1 rule (three copies of your data, with one of them off site), then being cloud-first takes care of the off-site and production copies in one. This configuration makes it so that you can write two backups locally (in two different storage media) and keep your production copy in the cloud.

A consideration here for your backup plan is its timing. Having a cloud-first orientation means that you’ll likely be pulling data down from the cloud to back it up. These local backups might take more time to restore if you need to roll back to them, since they might need to be re-uploaded to the cloud, instead of copied on your local network. Every use case will be different but it’s important to keep your Recovery Time Objective (RTO) in mind when changing how your backups are implemented.

4) Security and Authentication

One of the most important aspects of any cloud-based solution is its security. By trusting a company to host your data or apps on their platform, you’re relying on them to provide up-to-par security and relying on their authentication system to make sure that your data is protected. This can be a good thing with larger companies, since they have a lot invested in securing their platform; it can also lead to bad things sometimes.

Multi-factor authentication is a must for today’s security landscape. It’s hard to keep a whole organization from having little slip-ups in spotting phishing attacks and keeping login credentials secure. If you’re already set up with an MFA provider like Duo, it can integrate with your Microsoft 365 or Google Workspace logins, so you can authenticate in one place. That helps your employees keep their identification strong by not having multiple methods to log in to everything.

Another aspect of securing your data is to make sure that you have the best monitoring and data retention policies possible for your company. Cloud products can have complex sets of options for logging and retaining, so you need to be thorough in setting up the platform. For Microsoft 365, for instance, you have to specifically enable logging, recycling, and archiving. There are default lengths for data retention (deleted files are available for 30 days), but you’ll want to be realistic about your organization’s use cases and how much storage to devote to keeping deleted files. This is especially important to consider when you have record-keeping requirements for insurance or regulatory purposes.

5) Get your Team on Board

When switching to the cloud, it can be hard for users to adjust to a new way of authenticating their identity or accessing their data. Security is a team effort and you want the most buy-in that you can get from your employees. Educate them on the features that help them be more efficient and show them that it gives them more flexibility for access. Have best practices established to keep your data secure and let your employees know that better accessibility comes with the need for attention to detail when it comes to security.

-Written by Derek Jeppsen on Behalf of Sean Goss and Crown Computers Team