Today’s guest blogger is Patrick Watson, business development manager at SADA Systems, a global leader in cloud computing and IT consultation, and a Microsoft Gold Certified partner since 2003. Based in Los Angeles, SADA works with hundreds of organizations including commercial enterprises, academic institutions, government offices, and non-profits.
Today, cloud integration accounts for about 90 percent of our business at SADA Systems. We were recently ranked No. 28 among the top 100 cloud services providers (CSPs) worldwide for our deployment of cloud technologies. The opportunities that the cloud presents are extensive.
We’re seeing great momentum for the cloud, and the Microsoft cloud, in particular. The year-over-year growth of our Microsoft cloud practice has doubled over the past two years. Event attendance for both webinars and informative luncheons has been150 percent higher than expected, confirming the great interest in Office 365. By the end of 2012, we had moved more than 5 million email mailboxes to cloud-computing platforms, a large percentage of these to Office 365.
To date, we’ve migrated more than 150 clients to Office 365. Customers often choose Office 365 because of its security and reliability. In addition, many customers are excited about achieving a better-integrated social media presence by incorporating Skype and Yammer.
Office 365 makes it possible for businesses to reduce costs and redirect their resources to areas that drive greater IT value. By adopting Office 365, our clients have greatly reduced their hardware and consulting costs, and some have saved as much as 20 percent in IT labor costs . In addition, chief financial officers have been able to realize their goal of achieving greater IT budget predictability—an important benefit for any organization.
Office 365 also enables companies to be more flexible. For example, companies can easily onboard new employees as they undergo structural changes such as mergers and acquisitions. They can also easily bring remote offices into the IT fold as their business grows and their workforce becomes more distributed.
Preparing for the Move
While the cloud offers many benefits, it’s important for companies to perform their due diligence before making the move. Although cloud migrations have been marketed to be “as simple as a flip of the switch,” the reality is that cloud implementations require careful planning.
SADA Systems has defined methods to ensure that the IT system a company chooses is in alignment with both its technology and business goals. Among the factors a company should consider before moving to the cloud are planning and assessment, training and change management:
Planning and assessment: When moving to the cloud, the first step is always to assess your current IT infrastructure and evaluate which technologies will best meet your organization’s needs. Companies should determine which individual services of Office 365 make the most sense for their organization, and establish a timeline for what workloads they will move to the cloud, when. They should also determine how they will evaluate their move to Office 365.
Training: While many companies that migrate to Office 365 are already familiar with Exchange and Office products, training can be useful to help administrators best leverage the full range of tools available to them. In addition, it can be helpful to train IT staff to understand how new systems, such as anti-spam and anti-virus management features, differ from on-premise versions to ensure users are maximizing the feature set available to them in Office 365. With the new side-by-side installation capabilities of Office 2013, training users on feature updates and differences between versions is effortless.
- Change management: Crisp, clear, and effective communication is essential to any successful migration. Employees sometimes don’t read email—particularly email sent by the IT department. Developing a countdown-oriented communication plan that targets the right audience, using the right media, at the right time, is critical.
Growing Momentum for the Microsoft Cloud
To date, SADA Systems has helped several different types of organizations move to Office 365, including retailers, service providers, and academic institutions. We’ve also seen a lot of interest in Office 365 among financial institutions. This is particularly exciting because it demonstrates how far Office 365 has come in meeting organizations’ most stringent security and compliance requirements.
We recently helped a major national fitness retail chain with more than 10,000 employees move to Office 365. After evaluating multiple cloud solutions, the company decided that Office 365 best met its security needs. We also helped a 2,000 employee IP networking validation company move to Office 365 after a power generator exploded in its datacenter, leaving the company without IT access for almost 48 hours. The company has made a complete move to the cloud, and we continue to help it add new employees to Office 365 each time it acquires a new business.
While we’re already seeing strong interest in Microsoft’s cloud-based service, we expect that interest to intensify even more with the release of Office 2013. By offering both a “cloud first” feature set and an on-premise suite of software, Office 2013 is sure to fill an important gap in the marketplace. Our prediction is that it will spur a whole new class of organizations to embrace the benefits of cloud computing.