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  • Donald MacLeay

Closing the Office for Good: Part 2

Is it time to close the office and go 100% cloud?


Is it time to close the office and go 100% cloud?

A lot of offices are sitting empty with staff working from home. This has led many managers to ask themselves: “How much that expensive office was needed in the first place?” In many cases, the answer is that it is not. Telecommuting has become cost effective.

So, what happens to the server and workstations and their data?

This is called “migration to the cloud” and most of the descriptions are full of buzzwords and sales jargon. Simply put, email, calendars, software and files should be hosted with an online service.

There are two main providers. Microsoft and Google.

If you have not started yet, I tend to suggest Microsoft O365, but Google is not a bad option. Each has its own positives and negatives. If your organization is already using one to a major extent, that may be the way to go. There is a big difference between just using the email and using the data and apps. I find that it is a little harder to securely manage files using Google Apps and Drive. In both cases, staff is going to have to learn a new way to use files and new security practices will be needed.


Let’s imagine a small law firm of 10 users. All we do is open briefs and stored documents, mostly PDFs, and send a lot of email. For this client we will imagine that we are starting with an old fashioned hosted email and website and a Microsoft file server. During the pandemic folk have been using their office desktop remotely and most staff does not come in.


Setting Up a New Home for Your Data

As an example, we are going to use Office 365 with SharePoint as the new "home" location for your data.


Migrating Email to Office 365

Once the email is moved and we are getting people used to their new Office 365 accounts expect some conflicts with prior setups of Microsoft products. This needs to be done in one fell swoop over a weekend. At the same time, we can make sure that users have rights to use Microsoft Office Apps. In this case, mostly Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Maybe somebody in management has a small Access database of the clients and their related contacts.

Our QuickBooks runs locally and we import the time tracking into QuickBooks when we d our invoices. Outlook.com will work fine, but local Outlook apps might be connected to a prior setup or a setup having nothing to do with your company. One should expect problems to crop up for a few weeks.

After the Microsoft accounts are sorted out, we can add the SharePoint option.

Setting up Share Point for Sharing Documents


A test document share can be set up and we can teach the users how to use it before we move the reference data. A bit of outreach to all of the users goes a long way here.

When management feels that they are ready, documents can be moved to shared document libraries that can be made to follow the logic and security rights of the file share that the users already know. This sounds easy, but there are some configuration differences between how a Microsoft Server shares and displays documents and the way Microsoft SharePoint does the same thing.

By “moving documents to SharePoint” we mean copying them up to the cloud and then making the server copy unavailable. We keep all the data! Nothing is perfect, and we may need to go back and find something for a user.


Note that this process can be done a bit at a time. Sometimes the data store is too large to move all at once, so one can move one folder and tell staff to look for it only in SharePoint. Usually data copying is done over weekends where the users can be without the data in question.


This example does not show it, but there may be some other elements in such a migration. In the case of our own company, we have a job/time tracking app we use in the cloud. Our QuickBooks runs locally and we import the time tracking into QuickBooks when we d our invoices. When we move to SharePoint, we will have to find a way to reconcile that. The time tracking company offers an import tool for QuickBooks on line that we will consider when we do that. We also use Exchange, so our Outlooks shows shared “public” folders containing such information as back client emails that will have to be configured in the new O365 formats.

When we are done the server could be used as a device to backup information in the cloud, that can be your Office 365 and SharePoint, but also the QuickBooks on line, Sales Force, your website and everything else you would not want to loose control of.


Read last week's article to ask yourself if you should move your office server to your home office.


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Given the current Coronavirus (COVID-19) concerns many offices are thinking to have some or many of their staff working from the outside.


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