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A guide to Cloud Productivity Suites


Introduction

In the traditional office I.T environment, there are often a varied collection of PC’s and Macs of different configurations and power. There is also different software; different Operating Systems, different versions of Microsoft Office, collaboration by emailing multiple versions of a Word document. This article looks at moving productivity to the Cloud.

So, what is needed is a unified, consistent productivity suite that can be deployed and updated instantly across the I.T network: welcome to the Cloud.

This article references Cloud Productivity Suites, both Microsoft Office 365 and Google’s G Suite as productivity tools. An article covering Email, Calendar, Contacts, Video Conferencing (Skype for 365, and Hangouts for Google) will follow.

A definition of Cloud Productivity Suites

In order for an office to function, users need access to applications including Word Processing, Spreadsheets, and Presentation software.

Cloud Productivity Suites offer all the traditional tools, but with enhanced collaboration, security, and flexibility.

What is SaaS?

SaaS stands for Software-as-a-Service. Productivity products such as Microsoft 365 and Google’s G Suite, are accessed via a web browser such as Internet Explorer or Google Chrome.

Because SaaS solutions are accessed from a remote server, not from the local computer, the user experience is fast, secure, and very reliable.

Security

Trusting your new SaaS solution has to include a strategic security game plan, trusting your vendor, 2-Step Verification, and the option of a USB FIDO U2F dongle.

The advantage of the Cloud, is that documents created using a SaaS solution are automatically encrypted on creation or editing. Microsoft 365 and Google’s G Suite, both conform to international security organisations such including ISO 27001 and ISO 27017, and are regularly audited.

2-Step Verification helps keep your account secure by requiring a second method of authentication, normally asked for when signing in with a new device to your Cloud account. The code that is sent to your second method of authentication can be email, phone, or an authenticator app.

Another method of 2-Step Verification, other than software, is to use a physical USB stick that has to be inserted into the computer in order to login to the Cloud software, known as a USB FIDO U2F dongle.

Mobile devices

A great aspect to a SaaS solution, is the seamless integration with mobile devices, such as Smartphones and Tablets.

Compatibility with viewing and editing your documents include; Apple iOS devices, Android devices, Blackberry devices (legacy support), and Windows Phone (legacy support).

Dependant on the device, MDM or Mobile Device Management, allows remote wipe, remote lock, enforce password protection, and data and device encryption, amongst other functionality.

Savings, and system requirements needed to move to the Cloud

Along with collaboration, mobility, security, and flexibility, a SaaS solution can also lower; license savings, support savings, and hardware savings.

SaaS solutions are typically far cheaper than a traditional model, both in Capex and Opex.

The consistency of the Cloud platform, in that everyone is using exactly the same software, negates user problems of sharing documents created in different versions of the productivity application.

The minimum requirement for a SaaS solution is that a PC or Mac, can run the most recent version of a modern browser, such as Microsoft Internet Explorer or Google Chrome.

Operating Systems that support Office 365 are currently Windows 10, Windows 8.1, Windows 8, Windows 7 Service Pack 1. Hardware support for a PC needed is an Intel Pentium 4 processor or later that’s SSE2 capable.

Mac users need OS X Mavericks 10.9 or later.

To use Chrome on Linux, you’ll need 64-bit Ubuntu 14.04+, Debian 8+, openSUSE 13.3+, or Fedora Linux 24+, an Intel Pentium 4 processor or later that’s SSE2 capable.

How to execute a successful migration to a SaaS solution

Typically, migrating to the Cloud, involves a chain of processes and engagement with C level, senior stake holders, I.T, and the Project Planner. The employment of an external company who have managed similar Cloud migration projects, is highly recommended.

Training and Change Management, has also to be factored into the plan.

Once the project has been signed off, the normal order of a Cloud migration project is to begin with the I.T department. This allows the I.T department to become familiar with the migration process, and functionality of the SaaS solution, so they can help with support.

A time of coexistence of the legacy system and the new Cloud platform is then advised. Cloud champions at the next stage should be engaged and receive detailed training. Finally, ‘Go Live’; the full role out, with training, support, and floor walking by the champions.

An overview of G Suite

G Suite is Google’s Cloud Productivity Suite. The suite contains a number of productivity tools, including; Drive (file management), Docs (word processing), Sheets (spreadsheet), and Slides (presentation).

An overview of Office 365

Microsoft Office 365 contains the apps you would expect, OneDrive (file management), Word (word processing), Excel (spreadsheet), and PowerPoint (presentation).

Conclusion

The migration from a tried and trusted legacy system to something very new, will take something of a leap of faith.

Both Microsoft Office 365 and Google G Suite offer similar productivity applications.

After deciding to move to the Cloud, with all the advantages it presents, then the next decision is which platform to invest in.

If users are used to, and comfortable with Microsoft Office, it maybe that 365 will offer the least friction in the migration and adoption process. However, if you are keen to try a new direction, and a new way of working, then G Suite may be a better option.

Google came relatively late to the Cloud party, but are making speedy inroads, backed by their huge financial resources. Google also have a very competitive edge on pricing.

Moving to the Cloud offers enormous benefits, the question is, is your business ready to get ahead in the Cloud?

 

Will Green is a Cloud Consultant, Cloud Journalist and Cloud Architect.
He has worked on some of the biggest Cloud roll-outs both in the UK and Europe, including John Lewis, ITV, Waitrose, National Express and many others. Will has extensive experience working with senior stake holders to deliver successful Cloud projects for Google, Microsoft and Apple.

Posted: 2018-01-15
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