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Should I or not move my resources to a cloud provider?

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Last Modified: 2019-08-30
Should I or not move my resources to a cloud provider?  I would like to get some feedback from others that have done this. We have multiple offices with about 140 employees.

My firm is in the process of getting an assessment done  to give guidance for upgrades and future projects.  What they have come back to us with is to move our on-prem  Exchange and Document Management to the cloud along with our Domain as the initial phase and eventually move aging resources to the cloud when they are in need for the upgrade.
  • Exchange will be Office 365
  • AD will be Azure
  • DMS will be its own cloud service.

I have hesitations on this based on our data footprint as well as the need for performance.  The consultant feels that the cloud model will give everyone ease of mobility as well as remove the need of VDI for remote access.  We currently have 3 offices, but all the data resides in our primary location and the remote office connect back to the primary office.
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Commented:
Cloud + (Connectivity's Resiliency / Redundancy / Reliability)  = Uptime

In my opinion, each office's perception of "cloud uptime" is directly proportional to what you are willing to invest in the resiliency / redundancy / reliability of each office's connection to "whatever your cloud is" (i.e. direct connect to a data center / Internet / etcetera). If it is simply via an Internet connection, some offices may hate you because Internet (or power) is up and down all the time. Most likely, those offices already don't like having servers remote (at HQ) like you may have now.

I would probably take a look at which offices have "better cloud connectivity service" in their area (and better is measure by your own criteria) and do a pilot with them in "the cloud" (if possible) or as closely mimicking "the cloud" as you possibly can.

Anyone else?
Michael B. SmithManaging Consultant
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A DMS is a big deal. How large are the documents? Are they only stored or are they also edited/manipulated and then saved again? What's the total storage requirement? Do you ever get complaints about speed/latency today?

Related, do you properly use email, or is email used as a file transfer mechanism? How large and how often are documents transferred via email? Do you have custom applications using email? Do you have custom transport agents or applications on your email server?

In general, I agree with @N8iveIT that most cloud issues can be dealt with by more bandwidth and resilient bandwidth. But to provide that in a multi-office environment can be surprisingly expensive. You also need to evaluate what you do "custom" and how important that is to your operation - because in the cloud you are at the mercy of the provider. Little customization is possible.
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I'm with Michael; price can become an issue (I'm assuming you're looking at that regardless) but even more so with customization. You are at the mercy of the provider for what you do that is "special" and "special" (1) costs more money and (2) is often overlooked until it is too late then you have to pay the price (which usually wasn't in your final presentation's cost-justification slide) ...

On the other hand, yes, mobility is obviously a reason but, again, do you do "special" or "mysterious" things with apps which may ultimately compromise the promised mobility and ... as was mentioned above but said a little differently "there is markup in mystery" and you will pay the provider for that as well.

All-in-all, it can be a wise, cost-effective solution or it can be a chaotic, job-ending fiasco; just do the research up front, cover almost every base you can and most important *set realistic expectations* as well as communicate, communicate, communicate.
yo_beeDirector of Information Technology
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Commented:
  1. DMS:  We have about 12 TB worth of unstructured data made up of Word, Excel, Powerpoint all constantly being edited and saved.  We deal with large PDF's (1000's of pages).  With that being said there is no policy in place at this time to deal with aging data or duplicate data.  So I bet we can take that 12 TB and trim it up to 3.6 TB.  The speed now if great at our main office where the data is housed, but the remote offices do see latency due to the need to go between the remote and main office.
  2. Exchange: We have currently a 2.5 TB worth of data in my Exchange system.  It is used for file exchanging and we have a 75 MB cap on attachments.  So it would be a decent amount of data.  Like our file system we do not have a policy in place for aging emails or garbage collection.  We do have our Cisco phone system integrated with Exchange server.
  3. In addition to the 12 TB of unstructured data for our DMS we have our eDiscovery system that has multiple MSSQL server (3 TB) as well as the processed documents that are converted to OCR TIFF of tagging and discovery.  This data makes up 18 TB of tiffs, Excel, Word, PST's and PDF's.  This is not part of the recommend phase 1 of migration to the cloud, but it is on the road map.

My concern is performance, security and costs that are not seen until you actually get it up and running.
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Something else occurred to me ... the TOTAL impact of getting out (if the need arises) ...

One more cost often overlooked (which, in my opinion, is equally important as the cost to get in), is a full understanding of "getting out of it", should that need arise. This would involve things like cost, data formats (i.e. USB drives, etcetera), early termination, turn-around times for data (once the termination is agreed upon) ... it is like any other social, economic, or business relationship, going in with no account for / research into how to get out can be very costly.
yo_beeDirector of Information Technology
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Commented:
Something else occurred to me ... the TOTAL impact of getting out (if the need arises) ...

That was one of the questions I asked the consultant and they danced around it and never gave me a definitive answer.  

I was in a security seminar a few years ago and the speaker was talking about ransomware and mentioned that cloud providers are selected ransomware because of the cost it would take to get your data out.
Michael B. SmithManaging Consultant
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I think you will have significant challenges getting good performance "in the cloud" without additional expenditures both in HQ and in your remote offices to significantly enhance bandwidth and resilience.

An Exchange limit of 75 MB is significant - especially when you consider the default is now 25 MB (and was 10 MB just a couple years ago).

I don't know how current Cisco solutions integrate with O365, but they are certainly not native and I suspect they are quite slow.

If I read your answers accurately, then you've got about 30 TB of data. Getting low-latency access to that much data will be VERY expensive.
yo_beeDirector of Information Technology
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Commented:
thank you all for your input and keep your thoughts coming.

Question I have.  Did any of you go through this and regret it or was it all positive.
Simple Geek from the '70s
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Commented:
In house: you manage everything from server purchasing, Backup, installation of software on the servers, Disks Fail, so you need replacement disks and can live with the rebuild process. Salary of someone to manage/monitor the servers. So you have both capex and opex.
in the cloud you have only opex.
In the cloud you purchase only what you need at a particular point in time, In house, you have to purchase enough capacity to handle the peak load.
For instance a tax preparation company, from February to mid April they may need 50 servers, and the rest of the year they can live with 1 server. The scale-up and scale out capabilities of the cloud save them thousands every year.
Same with merchants from Black Friday Week until New Years Day, They cannot predict how much capacity they may need in 1 hour. Again their CAPEX must work on maximum expected demand.. They hope and pray that their demand forecasts are accurate and for a period of time that they have enough capacity.

In the cloud your opex scales up and down as your profit making business deals with peaks and ebbs.
yo_beeDirector of Information Technology
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Commented:
Dave thanks for that angle of insight.  
From my standpoint we are very static when if comes to compute power.  We are more susceptible to data growth based on the type of business my firm does. On top of the amount of data it needs to be viewed fairly quick at times and we are talking about 100's of documents.  Will that be an issue?  
When it comes to managing and monitoring  I have the consultant handle this with their MSP division, so the cost for the employment will not be affected.
AntzsInfrastructure Services
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This is just an example of an on premises solution you may want to go with, if you have concern about the latency when going up to the cloud.
It works something like the cloud, where you pay for opex.  But the hardware is installed on premise.

https://www.hpe.com/us/en/services/it-consumption.html