Migrating to the cloud can be beneficial in many ways. For example, it allows for better scalability, cost efficiency, performance, and security. However, it can be a challenge, even leading to excessive waste of resources and work hours. Informed decision-making on what cloud to choose and when and how to migrate can help you get the best out of a cloud solution.
According to the Equinix Global Tech Trends Survey 2021, 68% of businesses continue to move to the cloud to satisfy demands for agility and flexibility post-pandemic. In addition, while more than half (57%) of companies still plan to expand despite the disruption brought by the pandemic, nearly two-thirds (63%) of them plan to invest in cloud infrastructure.
Below we cover factors that can make moving to the cloud a daunting task for different businesses and various migration scenarios. Following this overview are a few tips to help you build a winning cloud migration strategy.
What is cloud migration?
Let’s start with the basics. Cloud migration is the process of moving some or all data center capabilities (e.g., storage, server hosting, and running applications) and, therefore, some or all company data/IT functionality into the data center/data centers of a cloud service provider like AWS, Google, or Azure. Another aspect of cloud migration is when companies move their data and systems from one cloud provider to another.
What is the purpose of cloud migration?
The main purpose of moving to the cloud should be to enhance IT capabilities that serve a company’s core business and eliminate parts that are not essential to it. In practice, this means if you have a custom-made application for car part engineering that sets you apart from your competition, you will not want to discard it for some commonly used cloud applications. However, you might migrate this application to a cloud to better serve peak periods and improve overall performance.
On the other hand, every company uses common applications that its business relies on. Hosting these applications can be a burden. Typically, operating your own e-mail infrastructure, collaboration tools, document storage, or HR services is a part of IT infrastructure that would be better off in someone else’s hands. If you can secure your data in the process.
Your business could benefit from better scalability, cost, digital experience, performance, and security using the cloud. If you choose the right strategy.
Why do organizations migrate to the cloud
Cloud capabilities have advanced significantly over the years. Organizations looking to scale are increasingly prioritizing the process of migrating workloads to the cloud, often driven by a desire to create a more flexible workload environment. Working on various machines in the same environment using the same toolset is an undeniable benefit of cloud migration. By moving to the cloud, you can leverage increased capabilities such as higher stability, better scalability, and disaster recovery while reducing operational needs.
For example, an e-commerce business may experience a dramatic increase in traffic on Black Friday. Most of the time, this company can get by with a small number of servers. However, it needs to accommodate a massive uptick in traffic. They could add more hardware to solve this issue, but this may waste physical space, resources, and money. Better, the company could use a third-party cloud provider to scale computing power up and down according to the business demand.
How should you plan your cloud migration?
First, you should ask yourself: What do I expect from moving to the cloud? What is my business goal? No two companies have the same requirements and capabilities. Therefore building a cloud migration plan is also a very specific and unique process. For example, do you want to establish business continuity by creating redundant backups in the cloud? Or set up a ready-made platform for developing or re-building your app? Do you only require some additional server power during peak business periods? Your needs will determine which cloud service you choose and how it can contribute to your business goals.
Perform an audit beforehand to understand roles and business processes, especially operations, resource usage, and identity management. Once you have formed a clear idea, you should focus on your plan in each phase of your cloud migration process.
Another crucial aspect of cloud migration planning is knowing what data will end up in the cloud and in what form. Sensitive business and personal data should never leave your premises unless you can guarantee that it remains end-to-end encrypted. Mission-critical applications that cannot afford disruption or downtime should also preferably stay on-premises unless you have a direct WAN connection with enough bandwidth.
Building a cloud migration strategy
A plan tells you what steps to take, a strategy tells you which steps are the best. Without a solid cloud migration strategy, organizations may experience operational difficulties, vendor lock-in, security issues, and inflated costs. Conversely, a well-built cloud migration strategy can help you scale up and save you money.
Here are a few tips to help you create a successful cloud migration strategy:
1. Plan ahead in detail
To prepare an executable cloud migration process, you must account for all IT components, understand their interrelations, and critically assess their roles. This allows you to calculate your server and networking resource requirements in the cloud, so you won’t buy more than necessary. To stay on top of things, you can hire specialists who overlook the migration utilizing an application performance management solution (APM).
2. Choose your environment:
Whether you choose public, hybrid, private, or virtual private solutions always depends on your needs and what you set out as a goal in your plan. You can use a multi-cloud approach to avoid vendor lock-in. Each cloud provider offers different advantages. You can use several vendors to find the right fit for your application and workload needs. Suppose you have critical data or applications that need to stay on-premises. In that case, you might go for an on-premises private cloud or move only non-mission-critical parts of your infrastructure to the cloud with the help of a hybrid solution.
3. Plan the migration of your apps:
As mentioned, using an APM is a cloud migration best practice to create a baseline for premigration performance. Prioritizing the migration of your IT components and data is also crucial. Migrating an entire application all at once might not be the best approach. Rather, choose components with the fewest dependencies. Usually, internal services go first, and the outermost ones (those closest to customers) go last.
4. Understand the architecture of your application
Before you migrate your applications to the cloud, make sure you have a deep understanding of their architecture and in which environments they are designed to run. For example, you should account for all components, dependencies in a configuration management database. In addition, known integration issues should be determined ahead of the actual migration.
5. Map how frequently you use data and choose the right data tiers
Companies may hesitate to move to the cloud because of inflated storage costs. Choosing what data to store in the cloud is also a major headache, as is how to move it there. Cloud providers offer different storage plans. If you plan to store large amounts of data in the cloud, you should map your data by frequency of use. You can also use multiple tiers. With proper planning, you can save a lot of money by storing your least used data in the lowest tier and your most frequently used data in the higher tiers.
When migrating your data to the cloud, you can opt for:
- bi-directional syncing between on-premises and cloud databases,
- one-way syncing while only accessing on-premises data right until all data has been migrated
- a cloud migration service from a chosen vendor.
6. Fix performance issues
After you have developed an understanding of your application’s architecture and have mapped your storage, it is time to address any remaining performance issues. Migrating an application to the cloud can be a challenge, even if the application is in good shape. At this step, you should check and tune your application build to ensure that it is healthy and doesn’t suffer from performance issues.
For example, if you have an on-premises memory leak in your application and you are paying according to your resource usage, you can end up spending too much.
7. Review applications, databases, and required components:
Once migration is done, there is a lot left to do. First, tests and monitoring must be completed to see how your applications perform in their new environment. Second, a lot of resource optimization can still be done. Compare your old operational costs (CapEx) with the new cloud-related costs (OpEx), look for hidden costs and ways to optimize. Finally, conduct security monitoring and testing to check for vulnerabilities. Using the cloud always means moving data. Ensure that all information is secured with end-to-end encryption when it’s outside your organization.
8. Check user experience during the pilot phase
Without a successful pilot phase, cloud migration might not reach the production stage. Therefore, it is crucial to provide the end-user with a stable application and smooth experience. Ideally, the migration should be done without the user noticing.
9. Demonstrate the migration has been a success
Demonstrate that moving to the cloud has benefited the company from both the business and the customer perspective. Highlight things like engagement and platform scalability to prove to your colleagues that migrating to the cloud has been a wise choice for your company.
What are the 7 Rs of cloud migration?
Applications can be moved to the cloud in various ways. The seven approaches listed below are the most common. Make sure to find the best fit for your needs:
This is about moving an application or parts of it to modify its architecture by utilizing cloud-native features. Typically, legacy, monolithic on-premises applications can be prepared for the cloud by transforming smaller chunks into microservices. For example: migrating your on-premises Oracle database to the Amazon Aurora PostgreSQL-Compatible Edition.
This is the so-called lift and reshape method, basically a modified version of rehosting. You move your existing application to a cloud platform (runtime, middleware, OS) to obtain optimization, better maintenance, and security. Developers can make minor configurational changes to the apps to better interact with the database and run on manager platforms like Google CloudSQL or Amazon RDS.
Drop and shop – discardyour on-premises IT or move to a new cloud service provider. A typical example of this would be the migration of your customer relationship management (CRM) systems to Salesforce.com
Lift and shift your application without making any changes to its build. The underlying scalable infrastructure (virtualized server capacities) can support your application during peak performances and scale down during regular operation.
This is a hypervisor-level lift and shift, which is possible when your own on-premises infrastructure is already managed by a VMWare Cloud Foundation, for example, that provides VM compatibility, and you will continue to use it for management with the only difference that your VMs and application will now be in one of the service provider’s data centers.
This is the scenario when you keep your application in your source environment for various reasons. For example, it could be that your legacy applications are not ready for the cloud yet and need extensive refactoring. It would be too costly to migrate to the cloud at this stage. Or you rather create a hybrid cloud environment to support ongoing migrations to AWS, for example. This offers benefits of the cloud and can keep the critical workloads and confidential data on-premises.
This refers to decommissioning or removing applications and hardware that your business no longer needs or supports. Which applications will need to be retired, archived for valuable data, and which functionalities can be replaced by another microservice should be decided at the beginning of planning.
What type of cloud deployment should companies use?
Again, this would depend on the nature of your business: where you operate, where your customers are, what type of employee and customer data you handle, and what kind of applications you use (custom-built, standard).
On the one hand, you can move your standard applications like HR, CRM, or e-mail to the public cloud (if possible). Maintaining a complete IT infrastructure for these common services is a burden. However, make sure that strong encryption is enforced for all data.
On the other hand, custom-built applications that set you apart from other companies could be refactored and moved to a private cloud platform.
Distance and data protection regulations are also important factors that might affect your decision. For example, in locations with strict data regulations (e.g., EU, Switzerland, Canada, etc.), you might be obliged to store your data in trusted, well-controlled, local data centers – therefore, public clouds are out of the question.
The cloud offers more flexibility, scalability, and other benefits traditional environments don’t provide. So, if you want your business to succeed, migrating your workloads to the cloud is the right way to go.
However, migration exposes your products to risks like vendor lock-ins and your company to inflated costs that can reduce your revenue or even ruin your business. Without a proper plan, what would seem to be the most logical step to move forward might take you back two steps.
It is also worth noting that there are alternatives to fully transitioning operations to the cloud. For instance, you can leverage secure content collaboration software to work seamlessly and securely across locations. Use content collaboration services to upload and access your files with encryption from any desktop and mobile device, whether on-premises or in the cloud.
Whether you choose a full cloud migration or leverage content collaboration to create a cloud data sharing experience, a well-thought-out cloud migration strategy will help you get the transition right.
This post is an updated and expanded version of our "7 tips for a winning cloud migration strategy" article originally published on June 13, 2019. The last update occured on November 18, 2021 by the Tresorit Team.