So you’re interested in moving to a Hosted Desktop service. You’ve heard fellow business owners that have made the move say it’s been a great decision. But like so many things, there’s core groundwork that needs to go in before you reach your Hosted Desktop utopia!

As a seasoned provider of Hosted Desktop, allow us to give you some key insights to the setup and migration process.


Hosted Desktop preparation

Like so many things in life, the key to greatness is in the preparation. An old boss of mine used to cite “The 6 Ps” – Proper Planning Prevents P!ss Poor Performance.

Now 18 years later, I can see how right he was!

Whether it’s some casual DIY, cooking a meal for friends or family or indeed a technical migration project, the devil is in the planning.

A well performing Hosted Desktop service is a marvellous thing. There are many great benefits to be extracted from the service, such as:

  1. Improved staff productivity
  2. Increased data compliance (and subsequent GDPR)
  3. A more predictable capital outlay

To name but a few! However the ability to achieve these benefits, hinges on how well the setup and migration process was carried out by your Hosted Desktop provider.

It doesn’t matter if you have the best performing and most secure Hosted Desktop in the world, if corners were cut during the critical implementation process, you will forever have an underperforming Hosted Desktop service, whether it’s trying to locate lost data, or being stuck with applications that just don’t work as quickly as they should do.

It comes down to the old saying of cr@p in = cr@p out 🙁

Whilst this sounds like a rather negative tone, it’s the truth. We’ve had hindsight from hundreds of business IT users that have fed back on their implementation experience and subsequent service.

The good news is that when done correctly, not only is the setup and migration process a pleasure for the customer, but the service thereafter can operate like clockwork.

More good news is that there are plenty of great Hosted Desktop suppliers out there, that we know first-hand, that do a tremendous job during this key phase.

The most seasoned of providers will know that moving your precious IT systems is a delicate process. For example, we transitioned a customer last week that had 3 old servers on site, which contained all of their data and had been in situ for many years. 

Rather than going in with our size 10s, we prefer to emulate the precision of a surgeon that skillfully and confidently makes the changes required, all the while being sympathetic to the living, breathing organism that is your business.


Key migrations steps

As the old saying goes, to be forewarned is forearmed, therefore allow us to highlight some of the key migration steps that your Hosted Desktop provider will likely undertake:

Initial audit

This phase is the beginning of the technical process of moving you from your existing IT environment to your new Hosted Desktop environment. It should be a non-intrusive task however your new Hosted Desktop provider will require access to your existing computers and servers. 

From this they will be able to carefully check items such as:

  1. Data quantities and locations 
  2. Databases
  3. Internet connection speeds
  4. Internet router models
  5. User accounts
  6. Permissions

Basically, leaving no stone unturned with regards to how your present IT environment is formulated.

From the audit, findings can be collated and reported back to you in the form of a report and, subsequently, a project plan.

This then gives you an opportunity to digest what your provider is intending to set up on your new system, along with data that will be copied.

Crucially it gives you an opportunity to query any elements that do not look right or may have been overlooked.

Carried out correctly, this audit process then paves the way for the next migration agenda items.

Data copy

Perhaps the most crucial part of the setup and migration process and arguably the most important asset to your business; your data.

With many customers for whom we’ve carried out migration projects, we’ve been faced with business data that has been in situ for 10+ years! We may be dealing with data in excess of 6TB (6000GB), which can translate to 5,000,000+ files and folders. The pure logistics of moving that much data can easily boggle the mind!

It’s easy to assume that moving data is a simple process of copying it via a hard disk or similar. But when you’re doing this in the background of a live, working IT system while needing to keep all the data in sync all the way until you switch systems, it becomes much more challenging!

That’s not to say it cannot be done well, and it’s the type of logistical IT challenge many IT professionals thrive upon.

So during the early part of the setup and migration phase, expect your Hosted Desktop provider to commence their methods of securely copying data to your new environment. This ought to cause no impact to your business, which is of course still operating on the very data being duplicated to your new Hosted systems.

Creation of user accounts

User accounts, as you are likely aware, are those that you use to log into your computer to then access your business systems. Such accounts allow you and your staff to log in, and to also administer permissions to data within your company files and folders.

Much like your existing user accounts, your hosting provider will also require that user accounts are created in your new hosting environment.

Do expect them to ask you to clarify the list of user accounts that you require for your staff, including any shared accounts that you might be using for “reception” or “warehouse” for example.

It’s quite possible that your new provider will allow you to keep the same usernames that you’re using on your existing system. However do expect them to generate new passwords and with a likelihood of more complexity and periodic change procedures.

Furthermore they may offer you the option of running a 2-factor authentication product such as Duo.

Creation of VPNs

VPNs are not a new thing; however, they remain a staple with regards to creating a “tunnel” between two physical locations that need to communicate digitally. An example of this is the communication between staff computers, printers and scanners in your office and your new Hosted Desktop system that operates in a data centre.

Effectively the VPN allows your office and your Hosted system to communicate with ease, as if your computers and scanners were sitting in the same building as your Hosted system (which is physically, many miles away). So things like sending a print, would get initiated from your Hosted server, traverse the VPN then pop out of your printer, a couple of moments later.

Scanning, too, is another example, whereby you initiate a scan and within a few moments it’s on your Hosted Desktop.

All the while the VPN ensures that such communication is encrypted and therefore completely protected against any eavesdroppers on the internet.

Whilst it all sounds quite complex, you often don’t require any special technical apparatus within your office to enable your Hosted provider to create the VPN. Most business-grade internet routers have this feature as standard. So your Hosted provider can create this easily and often without needing to affect your internet connection or come on site.

Setup of printers/scanners

Many things have gone from physical to virtual over the years, for example mail (email), servers (cloud servers), assistants (virtual assistants) – but some things have to remain physical. 

100% of our client base still use printers. The majority of that percentage have a scanner of some description too.

Of course, you get all manner of different models and connection types, for example USB, Wi-Fi and Network.

When you have your initial hosting audit take place, your hosting provider will take note of all the printers and scanners that you use within your business. These may be located in your office(s) or with remote workers.

Then as part of the setup and implementation process, these devices will be set up to work in exactly the same manner to which you are used to.

This includes the likes of printers’ names, paper trays, permissions, access codes and many other settings.

The good news is that whilst you and your staff will be working “in the Cloud”, the behaviour of your printing and scanning shouldn’t change at all.

Expect the odd teething issue at first, but that’s all it should be before usual function returns.

Installation and setup of applications

Perhaps one of the trickier elements for your hosting supplier to get right for you.

There are of course many applications out there in the market that companies use, not least some applications that a business might get custom written!

Some businesses need as many as 10 applications to be set up. That’s a lot of application setup to be considered!

For example, an accountancy practice might use: IRIS Accountancy Suite, Sage Payroll, Quickbooks, Virtual Cabinet, Microsoft SQL, Digita, Taxcalc – to name but a few.

In your new hosting platform, these applications will require: installation, licensing, linking up with your historic application data then any custom settings put in place. It sounds straightforward but as you probably know, some applications are complex!

As a consequence, you may find that certain hosting providers have a key industry sector within which they are a specialist. For example, we at Cloud2Me are specialists within the accounting sector therefore we know the key software titles very well (that said we do also host many non-accountancy customers too!).

It’s quite likely your hosting provider will require some input from you during this critical phase. For example, asking you for software vendor login details, data locations and general settings. This is a crucial element, given your business largely operates using these key programs, so it’s worth putting in the effort to collaborate with your Hosted Desktop provider as necessary.

Testing

We’ve heard a few tales of woe over the years with customers that have gone live on their new hosting platform, only to discover lots of problems. The scale of these range from minor printing problems to performance issues that halt all work. It’s the equivalent to moving all your staff into a new office only to find it has no electricity – it’s unusable!

Like any complex piece of infrastructure, a Hosted Desktop platform has many moving parts. It is the sum of these parts which, when fully operational, form a marvellous system. The key point here is, the many moving parts.

At Cloud2Me whenever we place a customer into our managed hosting, there is a key window whereby we get the customer to test, test… then do some more testing. The window is between when the system is built to their specification and the “go-live”.

We’re effectively getting staff to log in for half an hour, to shake the tree and see if they find anything afoot.

We’ll be the first to say that 9 times out of 10, there are a couple of items which show themselves – but this is what we’re after!

From this process we glean two key benefits:

  1. Discovering any problems in a test environment, rather than when the customer is live on the system.
  2. Giving the end users some system familiarity, prior to the go-live.

Be sure to ask your Hosted Desktop provider what testing they have planned for you, prior to the system go-live.


Go live

hosting accountants data heros

People have different terms for this, we refer to it as a “go-live” as, quite simply, it’s the point at which you go live on your new Hosted Desktop platform.

It’s the key moment at which you are cut loose from your previous IT system and sail away in your new vessel – your Hosted Desktop platform.

This day is usually on a Monday, which allows us the weekend to carry out any final data synchronisations and application setup. Furthermore if there are any internet DNS records to be changed, we allow ourselves plenty of time over the weekend for these to take place.

So come “go-live Monday”, hopefully there are no “surprises”. In fact, we like it when staff members refer to it as an anti-climax. Often, we check in with all members of staff, to ask them how they’re getting on, with the stock response being;

Yup, it’s much like the old system albeit it looks slightly different.

This is music to our ears; a testament to a good build phase coupled with a strong testing phase.

Any teething issues are usually mopped up easily and quickly.

You should find that your Hosted Desktop provider is online with you on the day of your go-live, either in person within your office or remotely. Their job that day is to ensure they are at your beck and call for any assistance you and your staff may require.

It’s often a day of all-round relief, when the hard work of the setup and testing is paid back in spades.

Post go-live assistance

After the hundreds of customer go-lives that we’ve been a part of over the years, we’ve often noticed a dead cat bounce. By this we mean that the go-live day can go buttery smooth, but then some teething issues can come out of the woodwork later in the week. 

It’s hard to say exactly why this is, but it’s most likely because staff members are more tolerant of “a new system” on the first day. Then when they quickly forget it’s a new system and start using it properly, they discover a couple of teething issues.

Owing to this, we allocate an engineer (or a couple of engineers depending on customer size), for the whole week to the customer. This ensures that if and when a teething issue arises, it’s promptly resolved.

Our aim is to have the customer ready for our business-as-usual support come the end of their go-live week. 


Summary

As you can see, a migration from your existing IT solution to a Hosted Desktop solution is quite involved, but these need not deter you! 

The right Hosted Desktop provider will not only ensure that any challenging technical aspects are taken of, but that the whole process is seamless providing you with a clear project plan requiring minimal input from you. What’s more, they’ll ensure that there’s no interruption to your service meaning you can concentrate on business as usual.  

If you’re looking to move to a Hosted Desktop service please do get in touch to learn more about the Cloud2Me migration process and best practices. We’d be only too happy to chat through some options with you.

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    Peter Bradley – Director
    Integral Talent

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    Zepho Enterprises

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    Interesting Apps

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