A guide to successful Microsoft 365 cloud adoption with ShareGate

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In our years working with clients, we’ve amassed tons of information about what makes for successful Microsoft 365 cloud adoption. This series brings you insights for your own cloud migration based on our learnings.

At ShareGate, we want you to get the most out of your Microsoft 365 investment. We want you to be confident in your rollout and help you empower your users to explore Teams and SharePoint the right way.

That’s why we’ve built a complete Microsoft 365 management solution for you. ShareGate provides everything you need to migrate and manage your content, understand your inventory, clean up and govern your tenant, control permissions, and guide people to use the right tools the right way in one simple, affordable multi-tool built to aid you with implementing a cloud adoption framework.

We’ve helped thousands of customers with their cloud strategies in Microsoft 365. In those migrations, we’ve learned there’s a lot you need to do. Digital transformation can be scary, but a cloud-first strategy can streamline operations for every organization.

This article will show you how to drive cloud adoption successfully with Microsoft 365. It serves as a guide on using ShareGate to solve common issues that arise along the way, making your journey to the cloud smoother and your Microsoft 365 environment easier to manage once you get there. Ready?

Microsoft 365 cloud adoption framework: an ongoing, cyclical process

One of the most important things to know is that migration is only part of a successful Microsoft 365 deployment. Microsoft 365 adoption isn’t a narrative with a clear beginning and end.

Getting the most out of your Microsoft 365 investment requires a well-defined cloud strategy that incorporates the principles of cloud computing and consistent IT efforts before, during, and after your migration. You’ll also find the cloud adoption journey to be ongoing and cyclical. However, with the right cloud adoption strategies, you can kickstart your digital transformation quickly and seamlessly.

While every organization will have its own Microsoft 365 adoption journey, certain stages should be part of every successful cloud adoption strategy. In our work with customers, we’ve identified the following main stages that hold true for most organizations:

  • Planning
  • Migration
  • Modernization
  • Administration
  • Team creation
  • Lifecycle management
  • Security and compliance
  • Mergers and acquisitions

Navigating the dynamic stages of a cloud adoption strategy

Is there a proper order for those stages? Well, not really. This is because user adoption of new tools is ongoing, governance policies should be reviewed regularly to account for unknown risks, and management processes can be improved and streamlined to save time.

Given this, most organizations will jump in and out of these stages as they progress or have new concerns to address in their journey when taking full advantage of cloud-native systems.

If this all seems a bit overwhelming, rest assured that every stage of your Microsoft 365 adoption journey is easier with ShareGate. We’re here to help you enhance cloud adoption and use tools like Microsoft Teams to increase productivity from day one. It also makes monitoring and securing your environment easier while saving time on administrative tasks.

Wherever you are in terms of your cloud readiness, ShareGate provides you with tools to simplify your Microsoft 365 cloud adoption process.

What are the benefits of a cloud migration strategy?

While your journey to the cloud probably won’t be linear, if you’re at the beginning, you’ll start by developing a cloud migration strategy, which provides the underpinning for all the stages in your journey. Organizations that start with a solid cloud migration strategy enjoy significant benefits from looking at their journey more holistically and comprehensively. Here are a few cloud benefits:

Better accessibility

Without cloud providers, the massive shift to remote and hybrid work environments we’ve seen in the past few years would not have been possible. Cloud service providers make business-critical applications accessible virtually anywhere, enabling employees to be productive from home, in the office, or on the road. 

Better digital experiences

Cloud technologies significantly improve performance and end-user experience because cloud service providers scale easily in response to higher demands, such as streaming data, to ensure continuous delivery. Applications and websites on remote servers hosted in the cloud can run on the “edge” at a data center in locations closer to end users, reducing the network latency people might otherwise experience, such as slow page loads.

Cloud computing = Scalability

When you use cloud services to host your applications and data, you’re no longer limited by the size of your private cloud or on-premises servers. With a pay-as-you-go operating model, the cloud services offer an automated agile operating model, allowing you to scale cost-effectively as your business needs change.

Cost savings

Cloud technology can produce significant cost savings for most businesses. As the amount of data your organization collects grows, the server space you need to store it also increases. So, cloud storage eliminates server sprawl and its associated costs. Cloud investment removes the cost of replacing legacy systems as IT architectures become outdated and the need to maintain and keep that infrastructure secure.

Easier IT management with cloud services

Cloud service providers use the most modern technologies regarding servers and storage. In a cloud computing infrastructure, IT teams no longer have to plan for the next technology refresh or upgrade of a server’s memory or operating system. Instead, they can focus on solving more complex problems and create innovative business solutions to support key business outcomes.

Better security

While working in cloud infrastructures can introduce new risks, security measures in public and private cloud environments are typically even more robust than traditional on-premises setups, where all the work required to keep servers secure falls to IT teams. In contrast, with cloud adoption, organizations can leverage their cloud service providers’ built-in security features, use automation to their advantage when establishing cloud security guardrails, and apply a wide range of well-established best practices to keep their cloud environments secure.

Developing a cloud migration strategy is a must

Given the inherent complexity of cloud migrations, developing a strategy before you begin is critical to identifying any issues you’re likely to encounter so you can develop a plan for addressing them. Working with ShareGate can help make your journey to the cloud much smoother in three major ways: 

  • Comprehensive migration planning: Planning for a migration can be intimidating, but it doesn’t need to be. ShareGate offers features that enable organizations to plan a comprehensive cloud migration strategy with tools to assess the existing IT environment, identify dependencies, and prioritize migration tasks. With ShareGate, you can create a detailed roadmap, define migration goals, and allocate appropriate resources to ensure a smooth and successful migration to the cloud.
  • Customized migration approaches: Different applications and datasets often have unique requirements for migrating them to the cloud. This is why ShareGate supports different migration approaches tailored to different workloads. Whether it’s a lift-and-shift migration, rearchitecting, or a hybrid cloud approach, ShareGate provides the necessary tools and guidance, along with an intuitive, easy-to-use UI to help users choose the best migration strategy for each workload, application, or dataset and execute it effectively.
  • Risk mitigation and optimization: Probably the most intimidating thing about migration is the fear of data loss and downtime. ShareGate helps you avoid surprises by guiding you through the entire process, providing insights, recommendations, and pre-migration checks to help you identify potential issues and ensure compatibility with your target cloud environment. ShareGate also helps you optimize the migration process by identifying opportunities for improving system performance and reducing costs through better resource utilization.

Benefits of a successful cloud strategy

The importance of a comprehensive cloud migration strategy can’t be overstated. If you start migrating your data to the cloud without devoting enough time and attention to your cloud strategy, you’ll lose out on many of these benefits.

This is because each application and dataset can have different requirements and, as such, may require a different migration approach. To avoid the ugly specter of having to move one or more of your applications back out of the cloud and onto your on-premises servers, you’ll want to invest the time needed upfront in developing your cloud adoption strategy.

Your cloud adoption strategy and the different migration strategy types depend on solid planning efforts, but this is a topic for another article. For now, let’s turn our attention to some challenges you might encounter throughout your journey if you don’t have a solid cloud strategy to start with.

What are common cloud adoption challenges?

While developing a cloud migration strategy helps you determine the “how” of your migration, you must also determine the “what.”  Rather than jumping in with both feet and trying to shift every workload to the public cloud, organizations need to approach their migration with clear intentions regarding what needs to be migrated and why. Cloud migration projects often require infrastructure, operations, and development teams to work collaboratively to achieve a successful migration.​​​​​​​

Deciding what, when, and how to migrate

Not all data is created equal. As you begin to plan, you will find some documents and files that are less important than others. In our next article in this series, we discuss different migration strategies you can use based on your decisions about handling your critical data and other types of data regarding what to migrate and when. For now, check these three basic tips that can help you prepare for a smooth migration and successfully drive adoption:

  • Be ready to collaborate—More often than not, migrations involve many stakeholders. So, it’s safe to say that you’ll spend a lot of time collaborating with the different teams in your organization during the planning phase to figure all this out.
  • Phase your migration—You’ll probably find it much more challenging to try to migrate everything at once. So, during your planning, you should consider migrating your data and workloads to cloud services in phases. This way, if something goes wrong, it won’t impact your entire operation.
  • Start small—By migrating a few applications at a time, maybe starting with those less critical to your business, you can roll your application back more quickly with minimal downtime and ensure business continuity.

Data security

Since data breaches can be catastrophic for an organization, data security should be a big concern when considering a move to cloud services. Generally speaking, cloud services secure the infrastructure, but it’s your responsibility to secure your data and workloads.

It’s mission-critical to manage the security of your data in transit and at rest both during and after your migration. So be sure your migration strategy addresses the methods for ensuring this and your security policies and best practices before you move your very first file.

Best practices for a cloud adoption strategy

There are a number of best practices that can make developing and implementing a cloud adoption strategy easier:  

Define clear objectives

People in different areas of your business usually have different ideas about what they want or expect to achieve with a cloud migration. This is why it’s important to ​​​​​​​work with stakeholders to identify and align specific goals and outcomes for your migration to meet your organization’s ​​​​​​​business objectives and priorities. Achieving this alignment and ensuring all stakeholders have a shared understanding of the expected benefits makes planning effective cloud adoption strategies easier. 

Conduct a comprehensive assessment

Once you’ve established the specific goals and outcomes you need to achieve with your cloud migration, it’s time to assess your current IT environment, including its ​​​​​​​applications, data, and infrastructure. This is where you analyze all the ​​​​​​​dependencies and performance requirements of your system, along with any security considerations to determine what needs to be replicated in your cloud environment. Often, some workloads and content don’t need to be migrated, so you’ll need to determine which are suitable for migration and prioritize them based on their business value. 

Develop a phased migration plan

Whether you’re planning a relatively simple migration or one that’s highly complex, breaking the migration process down into phases or by workloads can make it much more orderly and manageable.

When developing a phased migration plan, ​​​​​​​prioritize critical workloads and consider dependencies between applications to ensure that once migrated, everything works as expected. It’s also important to factor any time needed to ​​​​​​​reconfigure or refactor applications into your plan.

Implement a robust security and governance framework

By now, you’re probably well aware of many security risks and regulations associated with cloud environments. This is why you need to develop a strong governance framework with clear policies for data protection, access controls, and compliance.

To keep your environment secure and ensure continuous compliance management, you’ll need to ​​​​​​​establish monitoring and auditing mechanisms and ​​​​​​​implement provisioning and management processes to control user permissions.

Optimize costs and resource utilization

Many organizations migrate to the public cloud to reduce the costs of maintaining on-premises infrastructure or handle any overflow using a hybrid cloud adoption strategy.

To fully achieve the anticipated cost savings, it’s important to regularly ​​​​​​​monitor and analyze your cloud resource utilization and leverage automation tools for resource provisioning, scaling, and de-provisioning. Examples include ​​​​​​​reserved instances, spot instances, and resource rightsizing for cost optimization.

Prioritize end-user adoption and training

To get the biggest ROI on your move to the cloud, your end users need to understand the tools and resources available. They also need to know how to work and collaborate securely in a cloud environment.

To maximize your organization’s productivity gains and keep your environment secure, develop a comprehensive training program to show your end users how to take advantage of cloud access and tools to communicate and collaborate more effectively and securely. Also, be prepared to ​​​​​​​provide ongoing support and resources to facilitate user adoption and address any concerns that might arise.  

Continuously monitor and optimize

In the IT world, the only constant is change. It’s important to ​​​​regularly review and refine your cloud strategies based on your organization’s evolving needs and business strategy. You can also expect other changes once you’re operating in the cloud. Cloud computing trends and new opportunities offered by your cloud providers can help you further optimize your environment.

To take advantage of new features available from your cloud providers and keep up with the changes in your business, ensure that you routinely monitor your system’s cost metrics, performance, and security.

On-prem data to SharePoint Online

Now that Microsoft has ended its support for SharePoint 2013, many organizations are starting to think about how they’re going to handle migrating their on-premises systems to the cloud. Knowing that a cloud migration offers scalable cloud storage and a ton of new cloud capabilities will be a good thing for your organization doesn’t make it any less intimidating. 

Here at ShareGate, we’ve made it our mission to take the worry out of cloud migrations and have made moving to a cloud infrastructure easier and less stressful for thousands of organizations.

How STIHL used ShareGate for a seamless and secure cloud migration

Take STIHL, for example. As a global operation with thousands of users and terabytes of data to migrate from on-premises data center to SharePoint Online, STHIL faced a highly complex migration rife with little room for error.    

Initially, STIHL considered Microsoft 365’s migration tool but quickly realized it wouldn’t get the individualized support needed to ensure a successful migration. The company also evaluated other tools but found most lacked the flexibility to ensure reliable content migration and accurate permissions transfer. With such a large and complex migration, STIHL’s stakes were pretty high.

From reporting to migration with ShareGate

STIHL was already using ShareGate in its SharePoint 2013 environment for standardized reporting and to generate permissions reports. Having been impressed with ShareGate’s support, STIHL decided to leverage ShareGate’s migration tool to facilitate the process.

With ShareGate’s help, ​​​​​​​STIHL was able to successfully transfer 12 TB of data, a total of 1,500 site collections, from on-premises storage to SharePoint Online, using ShareGate to ensure an efficient migration and a seamless, accurate transfer of all permissions without any loss.

“We moved over 1,500 site collections with several broken inheritances and an uncountable number of groups and users nested. Getting 100% reliability was the biggest benefit we could ask for.” – Constanze Pretzler, Senior Inhouse Consultant for Digital Collaboration, STIHL

The first step into your Microsoft 365 cloud adoption journey

Now that you have a framework for understanding the non-linear nature of the Microsoft 365 cloud adoption journey and the benefits and challenges you can expect, we turn our attention to the planning phase in our next article to build a solid Microsoft 365 migration strategy.

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