How to Master Azure Change

The business IT services industry is changing at a breakneck pace, but there are times in time when significant changes impact our customers at a fundamental level.

Some recent changes in computing include moving from a few computers in the office to a network of connected computers; add Internet access; switch from tape backups to image-based backups; Wireless; powerful cell phones; and host a server somewhere other than your office.

The ability to move from a central server for all company data and programs to on-demand files in cloud programs has been available for some time, but the culmination of Microsoft R&D and the pandemic has accelerated changes and needs. Add to that the expectation that everything is always available, and you can feel the ground moving.

Ready or not, your workforce uses personal devices to stay connected during and after work. If you don’t provide the roadmap and implementation structure, they will look for ad hoc tools to meet their needs and you will lose control of your data.

If you have everything on your server right now, hosted or physical, and need to solve the “remote access” dilemma, here are three steps you will take in the coming months.

1. If you’re not already on Microsoft 365, take the plunge. It integrates email, Teams for on-demand communications and meetings, and SharePoint and OneDrive for accessing documents from anywhere. We continue to see customers paying for email from one provider and then purchasing other services for meetings and shared files. Don’t forget to add cloud-to-cloud backups and deploy multi-factor authentication.


        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        

2. Do some planning. Review the file types on your server and the folder structure. For folders, think in terms of groups, who has access, and categories. There are a few “gotchas” so be sure to include an expert in this planning. For sensitive documents, folders can be organized to limit who has access to which folders.

OneDrive is like “My Documents”. When your staff saves documents to their local My Documents, those files are not part of the server backup. Moving My Documents to OneDrive continues to keep them under user control, but also allows them to be included in the cloud-to-cloud backup service.

3. Now let’s look at what’s left on the server. In many cases, this is accounting software or industry-specific software. This software requires a server operating system (OS), so it is not a candidate for the M365 offer. This software and data is moved to Azure hosting. In the Azure environment, you can use a username and password to access your Microsoft account and Azure server seamlessly.

Many companies have server operating systems that need to be upgraded or older than optimizing M365 services. The good news is that the Azure hosting platform is optimized for the M365 product line. To top it off, obtaining replacement servers is extremely difficult and the capital investment of hardware and software can be prohibitive.

Is it a lot of changes? Yes. Does it take some getting used to? Yes.

This is a technological change and it is not going away. We were heading in that direction anyway; add the job changes and supply chain disruptions due to the pandemic, and it all accelerated. It’s time to dig.

• Catherine Wendt is president of Syscon, Inc. in Hinsdale.

Martin E. Berry