How to move your business to the cloud
With the Covid19 outbreak, organizations worldwide were put to the test overnight: they needed to continue business as usual while their employees, clients, and partners found themselves isolated and working from home.
The Pandemic has signified the importance of cloud enabled infrastructure. While the benefits of cloud are clear, I appreciate that migrating existing work cultures to new platforms and solutions is a complex and time-consuming effort. Today I am going to share my experience with this paradigm shift, using the example and learnings of Arekibo.
How did it all start?
I can say that Arekibo’s transition to the cloud began its final phase back in 2016. The shift from on premises to the cloud was pretty much a logical consequence of our work on Azure, and it took a couple of years to implement. During our early days on Azure, we started provisioning smaller environments and familiarizing ourselves with the various components.
Over time we gained proficiency and, as we built our confidence, started provisioning larger and larger environments with more complex integrations. Back in 2016 I prepared a roadmap with all the required steps to consolidate all our properties from our various providers to Microsoft’s services.
Primarily the changes were focused on few key aspects, which we then broke into 4 phases:
- Foundation (authentication)
- Cloud services (Azure)
- Productivity (Office 365)
- Management (Devops)
Phase 1 - Integrate the foundations
The first step required integration between our on-premise components and the Azure Domain Services: this is the foundation that allows all the other integrations, and it required careful planning from the beginning.
For this to be successful, it was crucial to make the transition seamless to end users (AKA the staff) to ensure business continuity. Thankfully, all the testing and planning helped make implementing everything fairly quick, without major issues (that I recall!) and with only a couple of minor changes to day-to-day operations.
Phase 2 - Consolidate hosting infrastructure
Phase two consisted of consolidating our hosting infrastructure from various providers to Azure. This stage was more time consuming than the previous: this phase was started on its own but ended up running in parallel with phase 3. It took approximately a year and a half to complete because it required communication and coordination with every single client. The effort was significant, but the result was very satisfactory for both us and our customers; they were all migrated to a state-of-the-art platform with no service interruptions.
Phase 3 - Improved workflow with Office 365
In terms of office productivity, the real turning point was the migration from Google Mail Services to a fully integrated Office 365 ecosystem. This happened over a few weeks in 2018, and the staff have since had plenty of time to discover the various products and their pros & cons.
This phase was very interesting for most of us because we were literally “checking out” these products. It was clear from day one that the O365 platform was much better suited for our needs. The star player of all apps is definitely MS Teams. At the time, Teams was still in its infancy and had few rough edges, but MS had already communicated their plans to replace Skype with it, and we decided to adopt it as internal communication tool.
A few of our staff members would occasionally work remotely for various reasons, so in early 2019 we also decided to consolidate our phone system into MS Teams: both VOIP and internal communications are channeled through the same tool. Besides making sense at the time, this definitely turned out to be a very good choice in the long run: when the Covid19 emergency began, the staff were able to maintain their line extensions while working from home and on their mobile phones.
Phase 4 - Integrating more services
DevOps is the latest addition to the family, and it has proven invaluable in terms of quality of life for, pretty much, the entire team. The learning curve was a bit steeper than expected, but the end result has paid back our efforts.
All deployments were now delivered by Microsoft tools, so we do not need to rely on physical presence on site nor on manual efforts.
Cloud-enabled during Covid19
Thanks to this setup, when COVID-19 began its worldwide spree, Luke (our Head of Operations) and I were pretty much in a position or allowing everybody to work from home overnight. In fact, that’s how it happened.
At the time, Italy was two weeks ahead on the pandemic, so we anticipated the restrictions coming to Ireland soon. Since staff well-being is always priority number one in Arekibo, the management made the call well before the lockdown was announced by the government and the transition was smooth enough.
Most of the staff were already supplied with laptops, however a few others were not, and this was an issue. Providing the while team with hardware was the most difficult part to organize, given the short time span and the general retail panic that ensued from the pandemic which of course, had a knock-on effect on deliveries.
The two weeks head start however allowed us to fill this gap, so by the day we decided to work from home completely we were ready, and all staff had all the tools required for their home office.
The arsenal of cloud tools we have at our disposal now allow us to work pretty much from anywhere in the world with a very high degree of awareness of what’s going on across the board.
Talking about digital future - is cloud the way to go?
Definitely, yes. I still hear many companies voicing their concerns about the cloud and the risks that it comes with it. Some are skeptical, specifically on the security side of things (and wrongly so, but more on this in a future blog), but I really challenge anyone to argue that, had a similar pandemic happened 10-15 years ago, things wouldn’t have been way worse for everyone. The cloud is not a miracle that is going to solve the world’s problems, but it helps by mitigating some of the damage and improving our life. Picture if remote work on this scale had not been possible in this instance. Just saying…
If you have more questions for Matt and are considering moving your business to the cloud, contact us today.