Moving your files and folders to the cloud offers a lot of advantages: lower cost, access from anywhere, scalability and better collaboration for starters. But you can also end up losing a lot of the tools and features you’ve depended on to keep documents organized and your team running smoothly.
Key Questions Before Migrating Files to the Cloud
Take some time to understand the must-have features for your team before you make the switch to cloud file storage, and you’ll find that enthusiasm and adoption are a lot higher. To help you, we’ve put together a list of key questions to ask yourself and your organization before making the switch. If you check off the things on this list, then you’ll have a solution that lets you take full advantage of the cloud without sacrificing the management tools. I’m not saying all these things will apply to you, but you’ll likely see some things worth noting in your own plans.
1. How Do I Get Everything into the Cloud?
Even If you’ve only got a few files, you’ll want to make sure everything can be moved with a minimum of headaches. For larger file systems, you’ll want to migrate your architecture or clone it, then be able to manipulate permissions, names, metadata and other attributes during the process.
You may need to use a third-party migration tool to get your data from your on-premise system to the cloud. Take this into account when planning, and do a thorough inventory of your assets beforehand — make sure you know what has to move and where it should go.
2. Is There a Better Way to Manage File Permissions?
You need tools to make sure files don’t get deleted, shared or altered by the wrong people. Some documents might be confidential (contracts, HR records), while others are essential to keeping things running (price sheets, inventory). As your user and file counts grow, you’ll find the need for an easy way to create, remove and edit permissions. This can get really tricky when you start dealing with multiple devices and distributed teams. Look for a system that gives you a birds-eye view and some type of super-admin ownership.
3. Who is Going to Need Access?
Does any of this sound familiar?: contractors need everything for a month and then they are gone, partners need access to one doc for one week, every employee has HR paperwork that only an HR manager should be able to access, an so on.
If you’ve got a lot of different roles and responsibilities in your organization, then you want a system that lets you manage everyone’s access without depending on individuals to share responsibly or having to constantly check who is or isn’t allowed to see something. Look for a system that gives you flexible, but granular control over permissions and an easy way to keep track.
4. How Easy is it to Find Stuff?
We’re all accustomed to typing a few words in a search bar and easily finding what we want. You can thank Google for raising the expectations of users. Now it’s up to you to make file search effective and user-friendly.
Search needs to be thorough enough to find items across thousands (or millions) of documents, flexible enough to let you refine your queries, and smart enough to know what’s relevant.
- Good file search saves time and creates happy users.
- Bad file search costs time and leads to nasty emails to admins.
Ask yourself: How easy will it be to make file search user-acceptable: How quickly can you get setup? How much configuration is required? How much customization will you be able to do?
5. How Do I Handle New Users?
You ever start a new job or join a project team and then have to wait for access to the files, or have to beg someone to send you a link? You ever have to repeatedly send the same file because people keep losing it?
If you answered “no”, then I envy you. If you answered “yes”, then you know being able to quickly push folders, files and permissions to users is a great thing.
Find a system that lets you cut back on paper (or link) wrangling. Ideally, there is a way for you deploy files and folders without sending countless emails or passing around a thumb drive.
6. Can Everything Go in One Place?
This relates to #1 & #3. Word, PowerPoint and Excel might be the bulk of your assets, but you also need to think about photos, videos, and all the other file extensions from .ai to .xml. A good cloud file server will accept files in a wide range of formats and not compromise their integrity or portability.
If you work with media regularly, then you also want a file server that lets you preview files without needing to download. Viewing image files or streaming video without additional software will save users time, and could save you money on software licenses.
The more accommodating your file server is of different file formats, the less likely you are to need another storage option in place.
7. Will it Check for Viruses?
Some people can’t say no to pop-ups for free IPads or emails from Nigerian princes. This leads to infected files being passed around your organization. A cloud file server can improve virus protection and reduce infections by scanning files before they are downloaded. Users get a warning that a file is infected and then the file is blocked from being downloaded or shared. Instead of having a virus run through a department, you get to stop the infection early.
If your team has trouble keeping its virus definitions up-to-date (or have no idea what they are), then you want a cloud file server that will scan and detect.
8. Can I Connect to Our Other Software?
Don’t trade an on-premise silo for a web one. Look for a system that can connect to other business tools and lets you take advantage of all the knowledge you’ve got stored in your file system. There aren’t any systems that will connect to everything out of the box, but vendors should have tools for building the connections, or be able to identify replacements.
This is where APIs and integrations come in. APIs are code sets or libraries designed to let external programs extract and pass information. Integrations are pre-built tools for this. Ask vendors what systems they can connect to, and if they can create custom scripts or new integrations. A company with a good set of APIs will be better equipped to help you integrate your new cloud platform with your other technologies.
9. How Can We Work Better Together?
The cloud should mean the ability to work from anywhere, with anyone, at anytime. Choose a system that lets you easily share files and edit them as a team. Real-time collaboration in the cloud and the ability to work on the go can make your organization more agile and more innovative. Don’t miss out..
10. Will it Scale? Or, How Locked-in Will I Be?
When people say scale, they usually mean “get bigger”. That’s important and what we all want, but you also need to think about how you handle exits from the organization. Look for a solution that lets you be flexible with licenses and easily manage users. You want the ability to scale up or down with as few headaches and sunk costs as possible.
11. Is There Help When I Need It?
This isn’t really a “feature”, but good support is essential. Make sure you can reach an actual person when things go wrong. It’s also good if they have a team to walk you through your needs and decisions before you buy.
Technology companies often want you to be self-service. That’s fine for most situations — as long as they have a good FAQ and documentation. But make sure someone will be there to answer the phone and share screens when you’ve exhausted other options.
Bonus: What Else Matters?
I’m sure you’ve already thought of some things I missed. That’s good. It means you’re starting to think the whole migration through. Document your ideas and questions and use them to build your own list of things that matter.