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Why IT Migrations Are So Often Underestimated

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When you think of hiring a managed service provider (MSP), you often think of computer and user management, storage capacity, networking and security. These are typical needs of a small to medium businesses (SMBs) with little or in-house IT staff. But there’s far more to outsourcing IT than the basic services, no matter how comprehensive they are.

Take migrations—what does that term include? Most people think of “data migration,” but underestimating what is involved in a “migration” can lead to higher costs, time and effort than expected.

One reason you seek an MSP is because your current IT resources and assets are inadequate for your needs. They may need to be upgraded or replaced, and that requires more than just “moving some data around.” So, when you revamp your infrastructure, what else does “migration” really entail?

New or replacement hardware

If your computing power is insufficient or storage is full or failing, you’ll need to upgrade or replace your servers and desktop equipment. If you simply expand memory or storage, you’ll experience nothing more than a short outage. But if the replacement is caused by age or capacity, you’ll have to migrate all existing data and user profiles to new machines. In some cases, a simple backup-and-restore will do the trick. But if the old and new hardware aren’t compatible, it gets more complicated.

The same is true of network and other infrastructure equipment. You can’t simply yank an old router from a rack, slide in a new one of a different make and model and expect it to work. You should plan for a lot of manual configuration to restore network operations.

Upgrading your software

Anyone with experience running a company knows the software supporting your operation requires periodic maintenance on everything from desktop office tools to invoicing, CRM, ERP and more. It’s pretty straightforward to update your users’ machines to the latest version of MS Office but not so simple to upgrade an enterprise application package.

Enterprise upgrades can introduce new or unrecognized features requiring up-front user training. They also require lengthy project plans, including custom coding to migrate existing functionality and database schemas to the latest version of the platform.

Migrating to a new software application

Even the latest version of vendor software doesn’t always provide the functionality you need. That’s when you evaluate and decide on a competing package. For example, while you might like Open Office, you need to migrate users to Microsoft Office to leverage your new Exchange Server. These applications are quite different, but they use the same file formats, making the switch “easy.”

When moving from one enterprise billing or CRM application to another, though, the underlying data formats and schemas are completely dissimilar. To provide continuity for users and customers, you have to somehow migrate the configurations, data and history from one to the other.

Migrating to the cloud

We talked about efforts required to migrate to new hardware and software. But what if you are replacing your physical infrastructure with a virtual one by moving to the cloud? Using cloud-based infrastructure can provide enormous benefits once you make the switch. However, migrating the physical devices and configurations to mirror a familiar environment take some effort.

Besides moving data from physical to virtual storage (and protecting it), you might be changing from local desktop installations to a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model. Some vendors provide both local and virtual versions of their apps (like MS Office). But if not, you’ll have to make your old application data available to a new, cloud-based app.

Email and other Office productivity apps

Did you know migrating Microsoft Server applications from one major version to the next can be a serious undertaking? Unlike the desktop productivity apps, migrating server applications can be very tedious and technical. This includes (but isn’t limited to) products like Active Directory, Exchange Server and SharePoint. Each of these migrations affects your end users; desktops, too.

Many companies put off these updates until long after the vendor has published one or even more major versions. This delay further complicates data and user migration, requiring more time and expertise to complete them successfully.

Legacy systems and more data migration

Perhaps one of the most difficult and underestimated migrations happens when you retire a legacy system. These systems are often proprietary and “closed,” meaning neither the functionality nor the data conform to any standards. There may not even be a usable data export function. This makes migrating features, data and users to a new vendor application far more difficult.

Don’t underestimate your migration

Most migrations—systems, apps and data—aren’t plug-and-play operations, even if the respective vendors advertise them as such. If you are attempting them on your own, don’t underestimate the time and effort required. Better yet, engage a trusted professional services company to handle everything for you.

Do you have hardware, software, cloud or legacy system migrations in your near future? Schedule a consultation to find out how painless and affordable your migration could be.

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