Migrating to the Cloud
Businesses are increasingly moving to cloud platforms to stay competitive, reduce operational liabilities, and take advantage of advancing technologies. Cloud platforms can provide flexible solutions to a variety of organizational needs provided you consider their benefits and risks carefully.
Cloud migration benefits:
- Reduced infrastructure and operational costs and pay as needed structure
- Increased resource availability and opportunities for globalization
- Scalable and dynamic
- Include built-in tools for managing security and building apps
- Removes single point of failure
- Reduces risk of data loss or downtime
Cloud migration challenges:
- Incompatibility with compliance and regulatory standards
- Increased security risks due to online nature
- Applications and systems may not be compatible with cloud
- Limited control over performance
- Vendor lock-in
- Inaccurate estimation of cost
Tips for Creating a Successful Strategy
Once you’ve decided that a cloud solution could work for you, planning a cloud migration strategy is key. Here are some top considerations and tips for ensuring that your strategy is successful.
#1. Evaluate Current Systems and Workflows
You cannot develop an effective migration strategy if you are unaware of your current infrastructure or needs. Start by evaluating your technology investments. How much have you already spent on hardware and operations, licensing, or support, and where are you in their lifecycle? If you just purchased new servers or signed a support contract, it usually doesn’t make sense to abandon them unless they can be repurposed. Examine your reliance on applications and systems. If you’re already using Software as a Service (SaaS) applications, your migration will be simpler than if you’re using offline and legacy software. Where you are in your business life cycle is important; startups have greater flexibility as they have less data to migrate and fewer systems or workflows that will require redesign. Finally, make sure that you consider the impact of migration on employees and customers. Evaluate volume and frequency of application or data use and the impact migration will have on accessibility and functionality. Anticipate how migration and cloud functionality will affect productivity or income and strategize accordingly.
#2. Select a Cloud Architecture
The type of architecture you choose should depend on your needs and the resources currently available to you.
- Public—Offer scalability, support, and high performance at a typically lower cost. Public clouds have many built-in services and their remote nature allows ease of access and disaster recovery. Keep in mind, network outages will prevent you from accessing data and online accessibility increases opportunities for data theft or breach.
- Private—Offer greater control over data and decreased risk of inaccessibility but often less scalability and greater cost. Private clouds are a good option for high-security data but usually require in-house expertise.
- Hybrid—A combination of public and private clouds that can provide the benefits of both. Frequently applications with high usage or lower data priority will be stored on public clouds and private clouds will be reserved for low usage or high data priority items. Hybrid clouds allow for cloud bursting, use of public cloud resources in times of high use, as a means of reducing cost and increasing accessibility.
#3. Choose a Migration Method
When migrating to the cloud, there are three main methods for transferring your data. The option best suited to your needs will depend on your applications’ portability and performance and you may find that a combination of methods is required.
This method, also called lift-and-shift, is the easiest way to move your data to the cloud because you are simply moving your data, applications, etc. as is. Rehosting allows you to decrease the amount of time it takes to transfer systems at the cost of not being able to make full use of cloud benefits since the applications you move are unlikely to run as efficiently on the cloud as desired. Frequently when businesses choose rehosting, they begin replatforming their key applications from the cloud to regain this lost benefit.
This method involves modifying applications or parts of applications to optimize their cloud functionality. Replatforming requires having good documentation or knowledge of how existing applications work, knowing the impact that modifications will have, and the expertise to modify them. Replatforming is a good choice if you have systems that you can’t or don’t want to completely recreate but that you need to keep using and would like to benefit from some cloud functionality.
This is the most labor-intensive and slowest method but also the one that grants the greatest functionality. Refactoring involves redesigning your applications and services to be cloud-native and allows for more flexibility and scalability. This method is used for applications that your business is reliant on or produces. If an application doesn’t fall into one of these two categories, it will be easier and potentially cheaper to simply purchase replacement software that is already cloud-native.
#4. Consider a Phased Migration
If you are not under time constraints, a phased migration can make the process of moving to the cloud smoother and more effective. You can start by moving databases and web-based applications or those applications that require minimal modification. This will allow you to start enjoying some of the benefits of the cloud immediately while minimizing mistakes caused by haste or a misunderstanding of how to effectively migrate. Starting by replatforming or even refactoring relatively simple components can provide valuable feedback for improving future efforts, reduce the learning curve for performing such modifications, and inform your larger migration strategy. If are operating hardware at differing lifecycle phases, phased migration can ensure that you get full value out of your equipment while reducing future costs.
#5. Address Security Issues
You need to adapt your security measures during and after migration. Any time you transfer data, particularly if you are transferring through an Internet connection, there is an increased risk of loss or interception. You can minimize this risk by using “in-flight” encryption and ensuring that the storage location to which you are transferring data has appropriately restricted access policies applied. Once the migration is complete, “at-rest” encryption should be used and location access and data permissions policies should be monitored and enforced. Most platforms have built-in security features that can be used in combination with your own solutions. Whichever cloud solution you choose, make sure that you are aware of any regulations that might apply to your data, such as HIPAA, PCI-DSS, or GDPR, and verify that your cloud use is compliant.
#6. Plan for Efficient Resource Use
Resource use in cloud environments often refers to the amount of storage, bandwidth, or processing power needed. Migrating to a cloud, if it is public, trades equipment and maintenance costs for subscription and pay for use fees. If your data is maintained wisely, particularly if you are able to make use of cloud-native functionality, this can mean drastically reduced cost. If however, you simply upload all of your data regardless of need or begin running hourly backups of your systems you will quickly find that you’re paying more than you expected. It is often cheaper to use the cloud for active data and applications, and other options such as “cold storage” for backups or archive data.
When considering resource use, you should also consider staff time, particularly that of your IT team. If you were operating a data center that will be eliminated after migration, it may not make sense to have staff roles dedicated to server operations, requiring a rework of your IT roles and responsibilities. You may find that some of your team has the skills and knowledge needed to handle data migration and management but if not, you can outsource the process as there are many third-party solutions. After migration, you will need to decide if you would rather have employees trained in cloud management or continue to use third-party services, and budget accordingly.
#7. Monitor During Migration and Into Production
Migrating to a cloud platform takes a lot of work that you don’t want to go to waste. Verify that data and applications are migrated cleanly and test that they are working as anticipated immediately after transfer. Confirm that you are creating effective access and permission policies and use built-in services, in-house, or third-party applications to monitor and manage these policies moving forward. Compare post-migration metrics to pre-migration ones to verify that you are receiving anticipated benefits. If you have applications that are suddenly underperforming or are consuming more resources than expected, you need to adapt your strategy accordingly. It is important to use the feedback you receive early on to maximize the efficiency of your cloud use moving forward.
Migrating to the cloud can provide numerous benefits to your organization but successful migration requires a clear strategy and extensive consideration of your needs and goals. Cloud use doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing option nor does it have to happen all at once. With careful planning, and consideration of the aspects addressed here, you can guarantee that any migration you do happens smoothly and that your business receives the maximum benefit.