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Migrate to the cloud SaaS checklist

by Ragini Salampure

This year has accelerated the migration of many organizations to the cloud.  Businesses were quickly forced into providing resources to remote employees now working from home.  Providing all required data, services, and collaboration tools to remote employees with only on-premises tools and technologies was not feasible for many businesses.  

It has led to a mass migration of on-premises resources to cloud Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) environments.  However, there is no magic “easy button” for businesses to migrate all their business-critical data to the cloud.  Organizations must plan accordingly and follow best practices in migrating data to the cloud to be successful.  This post will consider a “migrate to the cloud SaaS checklist” to ensure your cloud SaaS migration goes as planned.

Rushed cloud migrations can lead to serious issues


There is no question that businesses were scrambling earlier this year to provide remote workers access as quickly as possible.  Almost overnight, companies were shifting to remote work for the majority of their workforce.  IT teams started scrambling to provide resources that were needed by remote workers.  Cloud migrations moved quickly to the top of the priority list as IT teams, and business leaders struggled to provide the agility, scalability, and collaboration tools required to support remote work.

Many organizations may have quickly migrated at least a portion of their data and services to cloud environments without proper planning.  Organizations may have migrated data to the cloud and left their data, both unprotected and improperly secured.  With the tremendous increase in cyberattacks this year since the beginning of the pandemic, organizations have shifted to prioritizing their data’s security quickly.  In addition to the possibility of security issues and data loss, organizations may have opened themselves up to compliance violations by not correctly planning their cloud migration.

Migrate to the cloud SaaS checklist


Organizations have many different ways to plan their migrations to the cloud.  As with any complex IT infrastructure change, proper planning on the front end can avoid tremendous challenges and problems during and after cloud migration.  What are the essential points for organizations to consider when planning their data migration to cloud SaaS environments to bolster their remote work capabilities?    

  1. Decide what type of migration you will use
  2. Identity users and resources you need to migrate
  3. Decide what cloud services are needed
  4. Authentication configuration and single-sign-on (SSO)
  5. Establish your disaster recovery solution
  6. Role-based access control (RBAC)
  7. Cybersecurity tools for visibility and control
  8. Mobile Device Management (MDM)
  9. Data sharing
  10. Ransomware protection

1.  Decide what type of migration you will use


Cloud service providers have many ways to get your data into their environments, including Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions.  Your organization will have to decide from the start what type of migration to use in transitioning from on-premises to the cloud environment.  There are various types of cloud migration processes to consider.  These include:

  • Cutover migration – Think of this migration as “flipping a switch” that cuts data over on-premises access to cloud access.  Generally, all users migrated to the cloud in this type of migration are relocated in the same maintenance period or cutover.  
  • Staged migration – Staged migrations may mean different things depending on the documentation you refer to or the cloud SaaS environment you are targeting.  It generally refers to migrating users in “batches” to migrate some users to the cloud before other users.  However, the general goal is to migrate all users to the cloud SaaS environment.
  • Hybrid migration – A hybrid migration is one where some users and resources will exist in the cloud or cloud SaaS environments. However, there will always be a portion of users or resources that will exist on-premises.  

Depending on which model your business chooses, services accessed, and other business-critical requirements, different types of migrations will work for different business needs.  It is essential to understand the differences between these migration types and the right fit for your business.  

2.  Identity users and resources you need to migrate


It is essential when looking at the cloud SaaS migration checklist to identify the users and services that need migrating.  Suppose the purpose of cloud migration is to bolster the capabilities of remote workers.  In that case, remote users may be the first or only users you migrate to cloud SaaS environments.  Also, what services or other resources are currently housed on-premises and need migrating?

Due to compliance or other reasons such as application performance, there may be resources that may need to stay on-premises.  There may be other resources that are especially beneficial to move to cloud environments.  These may include organization email services and file storage.  These are generally two of the favored candidates for cloud migration and are typically among the first that organizations migrate to the cloud.    

3.  Decide what cloud services are needed


Your business may decide to migrate an existing service to the cloud, such as email or file storage.  However, other services may not exist on-premises that cloud SaaS environments offer.  These may include powerful collaboration functionality, such as is provided in Microsoft Teams.  When an organization decides to migrate to the cloud, it is best to determine which services and solutions are initially needed.  Businesses may add others later as the needs of the business evolve.  It helps to understand the layout of cloud infrastructure and understand which services need to be backed up and secured.  

4.  Authentication configuration and single-sign-on (SSO)


One of the first basic requirements for cloud migration is determining how your users will authenticate.  Most businesses want to keep authentication as seamless as possible and allow users to use the same password across both on-premises and cloud environments.  It generally cuts down on the helpdesk burden dealing with account password issues later.  Most cloud SaaS solutions provide a way to synchronize end-user passwords from on-premises Active Directory environments to the cloud directory service.  Most cloud service providers offer different synchronization models that allow choosing which directory is the “source of truth” for the organization.

Single Sign-On (SSO) is a mode of authentication that provides the most seamless end-user experience but is generally the most difficult to configure.  With SSO, an end-user who logs in to an on-premises workstation can seamlessly access cloud resources without logging in separately to the cloud environment.  Implementing two-factor authentication on top of SSO is highly recommended as this makes your login security exponentially stronger.  It makes it much more difficult for an attacker to compromise accounts when two-factor authentication is enabled.  

5.  Establish your disaster recovery solution


A colossal mistake an organization can make with cloud migration is failing to establish a disaster recovery solution as soon as production data resides in the cloud environment.  The moment that production data lives in the cloud, you need to be prepared to back up that data.  Nothing can mar a cloud migration more than data loss in the process.  Keeping in mind that cloud service providers such as Amazon, Google, and Microsoft all have a shared responsibility model for your data in the cloud.  It means you have a responsibility to perform data backups.  Ultimately, the CSP is not responsible for you losing data.  

When establishing data backups of your cloud environment, you want to abide by the 3-2-1 backup best practice methodology to ensure your data is safe in the cloud.  Using a cloud-to-cloud backup solution is the best approach to quickly and effectively backing up your cloud SaaS data.  Look for a cloud-to-cloud backup solution that provides granularity where your data is stored.  You do not want to have all of your “eggs in one basket” with your production and backup data housed in the same cloud environment.  

6.  Role-based access control (RBAC)


It is best practice from a security perspective to configure access to cloud resources based on an employee’s role.  Often, too, IT operations may overprovision a user’s permissions to make access easier.  However, this can lead to potential data loss at the hands of the end-user who may have more access than truly needed, or at the hands of an attacker who compromises an account with overprovisioned permissions.  Configuring permissions based on a business role helps provide proper security for the user to access resources.  It leads to just enough access but not overprovisioning.

As part of the cloud SaaS migration checklist, planning and documenting which users need access to which cloud resources helps ensure permissions are configured correctly from the outset. It also helps ensure proper security is used to protect business-critical data.   

7.  Cybersecurity tools for visibility and control


Many businesses struggle when migrating to cloud SaaS to maintain visibility and control over their data.  Cloud environments are vastly different than on-premises.  IT operations may be relatively inexperienced in managing cloud SaaS environments. They may find themselves challenged using the native tools that often do not provide the functionality needed to properly secure and maintain visibility to cloud data access and sharing.

Cloud SaaS makes it easy to share data, both inside and outside the organization.  A user can easily share a vast amount of sensitive business data stored in the cloud with someone outside the organization with a few simple clicks, even from a mobile device.  It is an essential part of your overall cloud migration checklist to understand what cybersecurity tools can ensure your cloud data is secure.

Most will want to bolster their cloud security with a third-party solution that can significantly extend the built-in cloud SaaS tools available.  Cybercriminals are doing everything they can to take advantage of the disruption brought about by the global pandemic.  They are increasingly setting their sights on cloud environments since many businesses are using cloud services, especially this year.      

8.  Mobile Device Management (MDM)   


One of the tremendous capabilities afforded by cloud SaaS environments is using mobile devices across all platform services.  Both Google Workspace and Microsoft 365 provide excellent mobile device capabilities across the suite of products offered in both solutions.  As you plan your migration to a cloud SaaS environment, be sure to consider the use of mobile devices and how you will manage these.  When mobile devices access business data, they become a target for an attack.  Also, your business needs to consider how you handle lost or stolen devices as well. 

9.  Data sharing


Data sharing is made exceptionally easy within modern cloud SaaS environments.  Data can be shared both internally and externally with others outside your business.  From a security perspective, it is vital to consider how you will control data sharing.  Sensitive data could inadvertently be shared outside, leading to a data leak.  An unscrupulous employee may intentionally share data outside the sanctioned environment.  You want to maintain the visibility of shared data that can expose data in a way that can seriously damage your business.  It is crucial to have data controls and tools in place in your cloud SaaS environment as you migrate data to have visibility from “day 0.”  

10.  Ransomware protection


Arguably one of the most dangerous risks to your business today is ransomware.  Attackers are increasingly using ransomware to compromise data and force ransom payment.  Cloud environments are not immune to ransomware and must be protected.  With the vast amounts of data, users, and services spread across a typical cloud SaaS environment, it is no longer feasible to perform manual security operations to protect your environment from ransomware and other threats.

Businesses are increasingly turning to automation in the realm of security.  Automated security mechanisms can pay large dividends in the protection these afford from ransomware.  Leveraging an automated response to ransomware attacks limits the amount of data affected and dramatically reduces the impact on business continuity.  While both Google and Microsoft provide limited built-in ransomware detection capabilities, these still rely on many manual processes to be effective.  When minutes and even seconds count to stop ransomware, you do not want to rely on manual intervention to protect your data.  

SpinOne provides the missing element to your cloud SaaS migration


There are many well-known benefits to migrating services and data to cloud SaaS environments.  However, it seems as though many businesses stumble when it comes to security and data protection for cloud-hosted data for remote employees.  Many do not fully understand what does migrate data mean and what challenges are involved? Even with data that has already been migrated to cloud SaaS like G Suite, you may think there would be no further need to migrate your data.  However, in answering the question, why migrate G Suite data, there are many reasons why you may want to do this, including off boarding employees.

SpinOne is a solution that provides all of the necessary capabilities that help businesses meet the challenge of both security and backups in the cloud.  It delivers a full suite of tools that allow companies to protect and backup their business-critical data in cloud SaaS environments.  Features include:

  • Automated backups
  • Third-party apps control
  • Insider threats detection
  • Data sharing control
  • Data migration between cloud SaaS accounts
  • Ransomware protection

Using SpinOne, businesses can migrate to the cloud with confidence, knowing they have the cybersecurity tools and protection needed for this year’s challenges and those in 2021.

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