The risk to business continuity and productivity often holds companies back from upgrading and migrating to new software platforms such as Microsoft Office 2007. File links break. Macros go haywire. Spreadsheet formulas stop working. The workplace grinds to a halt. Revenue opportunities are lost. But companies also realize they can’t put off the inevitable forever. Software applications will continually gain improved functionality, and companies will always want to stay on top of the latest technology to remain competitive.
Fortunately, new methods and technologies have emerged that can help the IT staff identify which files and applications may be problematic during an enterprise-wide software migration. By determining which files contain critical information or support important business processes, IT can properly support and protect them. In the end, the company reduces waste, protects itself against compliance breaches and fines, and lowers IT deployment and infrastructure costs.
Identify business-critical files
The first step is to separate the wheat from the chaff. Start by identifying business-critical files. For example, an international power utility recently discovered over two million files existing in duplicate during an enterprise-wide software migration. Of the 15 million files on the enterprise’s servers, only five million had been touched in the 18 months preceding the inventory. Nearly 15 percent of all the files were for applications no longer part of the enterprise’s standard operating environment. And 1.9 million legacy documents, spreadsheets and database files were at risk of malfunctioning upon being upgraded to a new version of desktop software.
So, to better plan and execute a major server consolidation and desktop application upgrade, the three steps at this first stage are to:
1. Identify duplicate files to conserve disk storage space and reduce confusion among users
2. Flag at-risk, business-critical files to make sure they can be converted to function properly when deployed with the new software
3. Identify previously unknown files that tracked key financial data and facilitated compliance with regulatory requirements
Make sure your infrastructure can handle it
Infrastructure determines where company files will be stored and which applications can use them. But as the previous example shows, the nature of files can also influence which IT systems and application software versions a company can deploy.
For example, a major retailer wanted to make its knowledge workers more productive by facilitating collaboration. The company also needed to meet records-retention requirements mandated by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Achieving these goals required the company to implement enterprise content management (ECM) software. But the desired ECM system was based on Microsoft SharePoint-which required Microsoft Office 2007 but the company was using Office 97.
Upgrading wasn’t routine because not all Office 97 files function properly with Office 2007. As a result, this company had to identify which files were critical to the business in order to be included in the ECM system. It also had to take steps to preserve their functionality upon being upgraded to Office 2007. Only then could their goals for greater collaboration and regulatory compliance be realized.
Consolidation, Compatibility, Collaboration and Compliance
Consolidation, compatibility, collaboration and compliance
Consolidation, Compatibility, Collaboration and Compliance are the Four C’s of successful software migrations. Optimizing for each one demands clarity about which files to update, share, ignore, move, archive or delete. Without such clarity, IT projects will deliver less than their potential, cost more than they should and risk failure altogether.
To solve these problems, use file discovery tools and methods to reveal information critical to file management. Some vendors offer software and best practices methodologies to help IT professionals discover what they’re dealing with in terms of files and their business value, as well as their compatibility with desktop software and other infrastructure upgrades. The steps at this phase include:
1. Determine which files have business value to retain, protect, update and migrate
2. Identify which files should be archive and which should be deleted
3. Understand what the standard desktop operating environment needs to look like in order to accommodate business-critical files
4. Run file discovery and conversion tools to automate the process of identifying, analyzing and repairing problematic files
These methodologies and technologies can help make potentially disastrous enterprise-wide software upgrades (such as converting files from the Office 97 suite to function properly with Office 2003 or Office 2007) go off without a hitch. They are also critical to ECM implementations (such as SharePoint), helping IT to identify, determine relevance and migrate files.
Consolidate Platforms and Plan for Disaster Recovery
Consolidate platforms and plan for disaster recovery
Platform consolidation is another beneficial step that relocates files on servers and storage devices. And disaster recovery planning can benefit by classifying files to determine the appropriate data protection strategy. Taking an inventory of the files on company servers tells IT what to keep, what to modernize, what to delete, what to archive and what needs extra attention to work properly in a new environment. The steps at this inventory-taking stage are:
1. Identify where files reside by site, server, file share, path and filename
2. Identify the concentration of files by file type and extension
3. Determine the total storage space devoted to used, unused or duplicate files
4. Identify files that are critical to the business
5. Flag files that are subject to compatibility errors
Similarly, when implementing ECM within your organization, classify files into distinct categories, including production files that need to be functional and always accessible, infrequently used files which need to be retained and available due to regulatory or other factors; files that should be shared, files that may be archived, and files that ought to be deleted.
These new tools and methodologies can help IT managers set criteria, classify files, and make decisions that help manage enterprise content and implement related systems in efficient and effective ways. Identifying vital information about company data files supports compliance, cuts waste and removes implementation risk from IT infrastructure projects. Consequently, IT staffs need to carefully evaluate which conversion tools best fit the needs of their unique data and business processes.
Rob McWalter has been President and CEO of ConverterTechnologysince January 2004. In this role, Rob has helped some of the world’s largest global enterprises across a broad range of vertical markets with file migration planning and implementation projects. Rob has also directed major systems integrators in the use of ConverterTechnology software tools, methods and processes.
Rob has more than 24 years of experience in the high-technology industry, including much success starting and growing companies, undertaking turnarounds, driving product and marketing plans, and building sales and customer care organizations. Previously, Rob held executive and senior management positions at Platypus Technology, Comdisco Inc, NewsEdge Corp and Individual, Inc. He can be reached at [email protected].