cloud security

Journey to the Cloud

Category : | | Posted : Dec 9, 2020

Currently, how you conduct business, take care of your technology needs and go about your personal life may often change due to the pandemic. During the spring, many business leaders shifted quickly to remote work environments. Others continue to consider making that change. Despite the direction your business took as a result of the pandemic, moving to the cloud isn’t simply a trend — it’s the way of the future.

Smart Dolphins has taken this journey and assisted many local businesses in the move away from in-house server(s) to a purely cloud environment. These moves have provided many benefits.

Three stages of the cloud journey

Moving from an in-house environment to the cloud takes time and lots of planning. You must assess where everything is, where it needs to go, and then formulate a way to get from point A to point B while trying to avoid the bumps along the way. You simply cannot turn everything off and then pop it into the cloud. There are intermediary steps required as you will be running in a mixed environment for a while. Sometimes businesses use specialized or old software where a cloud option is not yet available which may require one to purchase and then upgrade version(s). And in some cases, it will just require running virtual machines in Azure.

Stage 1: The first stage to get things out of the office environment is to get everything you currently have cleaned up and organized. Much like moving to a new house, you need to get rid of the junk, put all the data and information you want to keep into organized groupings and make lists of what you have, what they do, what it requires and where it’s going to. Doing this will make ‘the move’ much easier.

Stage 2: During stage 2, you will need to figure out priorities as some services, data and systems will be more important and less interruption tolerant than others. This often means moving some things before others or even having both in-house and cloud running in parallel. Smart Dolphins often recommends setting up new services either first or last depending on the organization’s dependency on them. As an example, we will create the Azure tenant and migrate email into Office 365 first, because most of the other 365 services depend on a minimum Azure user accounts or licensed services. Then, we’ll work through the process service-by-service, moving not just the services but, permissions, access methods and security. And once services are in the cloud you need to back them up!

Cloud services may offer greater uptime and redundancy but that does not mean its resilient to loss and destruction. Email, SharePoint, Teams, OneDrive data all needs to be backed up preferably in a system outside of your tenant. The reason for this is so that if your Azure/365 gets broken into, your backups at least are most likely still safe, much like backing up your server to another machine and having an offsite copy.

Stage 3: The last stage of migrating to the cloud involves your endpoints, here there be dragons!

There are a few different approaches to managing the journey at this stage but there is a lot more to consider in a remote working environment. You must ask, what device will your employees be working on from home? What about other work from home needs, like desks, chairs, webcams, monitors, printers etc.? And how will users interact with the data?

Think about what information the staff is going to be accessing, any legal requirements (can your staff print this at home?), what about the computer they are accessing it from, or where they are accessing it from, is it home? Starbucks? A warm sandy beach in Mexico?

In a perfect world, your employees would work from home on managed devices and use them in a dedicated place. This way you can ensure the following:

  • Restrictions so only their work user account can login to the computer.
  • MFA should already protect all their online accounts .
  • The computer is setup with Intune and RMM for antivirus, patching, configuration, maintenance, device encryption and data loss prevention.
  • Restrictions limiting access to business data and activities.

This will make things as secure as reasonably possible and because the machine is cloud managed and encrypted access is protected even if the device is lost.

By the way, staff working from home, on their family computer is a big risk. With malicious emails, websites, apps from uncontrolled sources, like personal accounts, kids web browsing and downloads. The best opportunity to do it right is to set both a behavioural policy on what is not acceptable on work resources. Set up layered protection to make sure everything from the keyboard to the service in the cloud are as secure as possible.

Ultimately, the move to the cloud is a journey that will take time and planning. We recommend that you talk to us about your plan to ensure a smooth transition and ongoing guidance.

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