Downsides of Cloud: Complexity and Migration

1372478450_157I’ve just spent the last five days migrating my company document store from Microsoft 365 across to Box. It was, to put it frankly, unpleasant and a lesson learned on migration of services from one provider to another.

Don’t take this as a Microsoft bashing blog, I like their products, and I’ve retained some of their Cloud offerings as part of the overall company ICT platform. Sharepoint was just not working for me at all and I needed to get off before I had a minor brain haemorrhage.

Updated 22nd January: Microsoft have been in touch and challenged some of the blog. That is there right. Basically they don’t think I should be having the issues that I’ve seen and have pointed out a factual inaccuracy. First the inaccuracy, you can decouple your MS 365 accounts, i.e. remove elements of one. The article on how to do that is here. 


Secondly, the service that I have migrated from is the MS365 service that has Exchange and SharePoint, whatever it is called. I have ALSO migrated data from whatever the other MS365 service is that is SkyDrive and Office 2013. It would be really helpful if the two were NOT BOTH CALLED MS365. My words are Version one and Version two in the summary. 

Lastly, this is my experience and I am sure that if I dug around I would find that others have had similar. Like I said, its not Microsoft bashing and support have been helpful. 

I’ll keep you updated, and back to the article. 

I had a number of issues, which to Microsoft’s credit, they had tried to work through with me. The two largest issues were the problems with having two Microsoft ID’s and the sync features of both Sharepoint and 365. I had problems with the website after a service upgrade, but support sorted those.

Just like Google mail the sync to a Client (it’s just easier to use a client) with MS365 is patchy, in my experience. That’s what started the kerfuffle. Having unreliable email is just not good enough when you’re in the ICT business, I was finding that the sync between client and MS365 exchange was not reliable. It would go for a couple of hours then suddenly deliver a tonne of email or I’d find email sitting in the outbox days after the fact.

Now, I’m told Google mail is basically the same and that most offerings that may address the issue mean buying dedicated exchange servers, which, for a company my size is not affordable. I would certainly advise larger companies against the bog standard MS365 offering, seriously, you want to look for local installations or dedicated servers. Anything else is possibly going to give you problems.

So I’m stuck with the Exchange stack, but I have been able to throw away the Sharepoint aspect, sadly, another lesson, I can’t decouple that service from my account so I am still paying for it, and Box, even though I am not using it.

Back to the other issue. MS365 comes in different flavours and two of them don’t integrate at an identity management level. So, I have a user name and password for my Office 2013 rental and I have another for my Exchange, Sharepoint, and Website. You can only use one with Windows 8 as a federated identity, so the other constantly badgers you for your password.

The file sync never worked for me either. Something to do with the clash between the two identities perhaps. So that feature that you get with Box, or SkyDrive, or DropBox where you can install the data on your local drive and it replicates up and down didn’t function. Worse, with SkyDrive, it was intermittent. It looked like it was working, but then you’d get to a customer and find that the data wasn’t in the Cloud, it was back home on your laptop…

Anyway, onto the migration. I had 3,000 files in SharePoint, which amounted to just under 1GB of data. I also had about 19GB of other data that was in SkyDrive, as part of the Office 2013 rental.

It took 72 hours to download that 1GB of data to my local drive from Sharepoint. Despite the fact that I have a 130 Mbps connection. That, is around about the same speed as a 28.8k modem (remember those?) Now, that’s nothing to do with my connection because I can download Apple TV HD Movies on the same line at full speed with no problems.

It crashed as well. Twice.

After three days of waiting I started the process of upload to Box, using Box sync. 20GB of files in total. About 12 hours, so around 4 – 5 Mbs. Not bad. Oh, I tested it coming back the other way as well, it was slightly faster, around 8 hours, so 6 – 7Mbps. The service is good, it adds two-factor authentication and has allowed me to dump another Cloud backup service I was using called Mozy. Basically the team syncs between Box and each device so we all have a local copy of the store (encrypted of course) as well as the online version. It takes less than ten minutes for a synced file to reappear everywhere else and it has a basic form of versioning.

But, I’m paying an extra $15 USD a month per user. Less the $7 USD for backup.

So NOW, my Cloud system is getting ugly.

  • BOX manages and syncs, securely, all my company data.
  • I am paying MS365 Version 1.0 for Sharepoint, which I don’t use.
  • I am paying MS365 Version 1.0 for Exchange, which is still not syncing consistently.
  • I am paying MS365 Version 1.0 for a Website, which I have to move because it won’t do what I want, but I’ll have to keep paying for that, as well as the new service.
  • I am paying MS365 Version 2.0 for SkyDrive, which I don’t use.
  • I am paying MS365 Version 2.0 for Office 2013 license, which works fine.
  • Then I am using Asana, ProjectManager.Com, LucidChart, and Harvest Timesheeting.
  • On top of all of that I use at rest and in-flight encryption plus VPN.

Total cost per month? Around $150USD per month.

It’s just as well I know what I’m doing.

Imagine the nightmare of trying to manage Cloud services across a company with 200, or 2000, or 20,000 users and you start to see the strange and ugly complexity that you can end up in without some tight planning. It ain’t that easy.

Right now I’m enamored with Box (yeah yeah) because it just does what I want, when I want, fast, and reliably. 

I worry that I am going to be forever leapfrogging from one Cloud service to another to keep that reliability and new feature offering though, it may be a characteristic of Cloud services that becomes a reality. Pity the 2,000 seat organisation if that is the case.

Speaking of leapfrogging, SpaceMonkey is coming, and I’ll be migrating again…

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