Migrating applications, data, and other workloads to the cloud is now commonplace among businesses of all sizes. A 2018 report on cloud computing trends revealed that 92 percent of companies now use public cloud services.
However, cloud migration remains a complex undertaking with several challenges, and getting it right is important. Read on to find out the challenges of cloud migration and ten tips for building a smart cloud migration plan.
Cloud Migration: Benefits and Challenges
Cloud migration means transferring data, apps, and other IT workloads from on-premise data centers to public cloud services. Some motivating factors for moving to the public cloud are:
- Scalability—you can effortlessly adjust the computing resources available to you depending on business need.
- Workforce mobility—staff can access data and business applications anytime, anywhere. Improved workforce mobility facilitates initiatives like working from home and BYOD (bring your own device).
- Cost-effective—capital investment is minimized and operational costs are lower because you pay per resources consumed.
- High availability—most public cloud vendors deliver high uptime with servers, apps, and storage accessible all the time.
There are numerous benefits to cloud migration but it doesn’t come without its challenges and risks, which include:
Using the public cloud means trusting a third-party provider to handle it carefully. Data leaks and breaches are possible, and you need to know if the cloud service provider is doing everything to secure their environment.
Cloud vendor lock-in
There’s always a risk that after you move to the cloud, you find that your chosen provider is incompatible for your business. Exit costs, whether back to an on-premises environment or another vendor, can be astronomical.
Industry and government regulations like PCI DSS and GDPR all determine what data you can store in the cloud. The compliance challenges extend to how you transfer the data and handle its use in public cloud systems.
The cost savings from using the cloud is one of its main draws. However, many organizations don’t accurately calculate the true cost of cloud migration, which can lead to some unwanted surprises in monthly bills and end-of-year accounts.
Tips for Successful Cloud Migration
Here are some tips to address some of the challenges of cloud migration and increase the chances of everything going to plan.
1. Use Cloud Backups
Even though availability is high, cloud systems can fail for a number of reasons, particularly in the immediate migration and post-migration period when configuration and compatibility issues may arise.
For example, you can take advantage of AWS backup capabilities by automating snapshots of EBS storage volumes. These services allow you to choose another cloud region or even your own on-premise systems as the destination for backups.
Whether it’s AWS EBS snapshots or any other type of cloud service, make sure you back up your cloud data to improve your organization’s business continuity strategies.
2. Migrate in Phases
Don’t try to migrate everything all at once. Choose a workload that is not business critical, such as the migration of archived data, and see how this initial migration project goes. It’s likely you’ll learn important lessons either way and improve confidence for migrating more complex or business-critical workloads.
3. Use Automation
As you go deeper into cloud migration, your migration team will notice patterns of tasks and processes they need to do repeatedly. Automating these repetitive tasks can save time and reduce the risk of human error.
Scripts are available that can automate some of the more repetitive tasks like setting up cloud environments for development or testing purposes. There are also various cloud automation tools available from technology companies like IBM and Accenture.
4. Take a Cross-Organization Approach
Recognize that moving to the cloud is a fundamental shift in the way users interact with business apps, in how developers test and code, and how operations manage and maintain hardware and software. Involve everyone from the outset, train people in using the chosen cloud systems, and conduct trial runs of cloud services to familiarize staff with new ways of doing things.
5. Don’t Forget the Network
It’s easy to get bogged down in the complexities of the migration and forget that using the public cloud means connecting to business apps and data over the Internet. Make sure your organization’s current ISP plan provides the necessary Internet speed and bandwidth to cope with cloud use. Consider using the dedicated private network connections that some cloud vendors offer businesses.
6. Understand Application Architecture
Incompatibility issues can occur in the cloud when organizations don’t fully understand application architecture before migrating. Know the resources your apps require, what environment they run in, and what they need to integrate with to function properly.
7. Use the Least Privilege Principle
Many cloud security incidents are caused by improper role-based permissions rather than an inherent lack of cloud security. For example, giving a business user administrative database controls can lead to data leaks. Use the least principle privilege when setting up cloud accounts to give users only the minimum access needed to perform their work.
8. Try Cloud Bursting
Cloud bursting is an attractive use case that limits cloud use to periods when on-premise resources are experiencing high demand. You maintain your on-premises workloads, however, you provision additional public cloud resources as and when you need them.
9. Monitor and Track Outcomes
Monitor your cloud migration to make sure everything is going smoothly. A central dashboard that tracks cloud resource consumption is also useful for seeing how your actual cloud spend aligns with what your organization budgeted for.
Make sure the cloud achieves the level of performance desired for each workload. Right-size cloud servers and monitor for underutilized resources.
10. Embrace the Multi-Cloud
Companies are starting to embrace a multi-cloud approach to reduce vendor lock-in. This strategy embraces migrating workloads to different cloud service providers depending on their suitability.
Whether you start with cloud bursting, a phased migration, or a complete architectural revamp, these tips can help you achieve a smoother migration to the cloud with more of the benefits and fewer pitfalls.