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Building a Cloud Migration Strategy

Building a Cloud Migration Strategy

When done well, cloud migration offers vast advantages to organizations. Despite approximately 90% of businesses using Cloud to some degree, and almost half storing business critical information in the Cloud, many businesses are still missing out on many of the benefits cloud has to offer. A well planned and executed cloud strategy can help organizations in many ways including:

  • Providing a relatively low-cost replacement for outdated or end-of-life technologies,
  • Creating an inexpensive solution for scaling your technology to handle growing demands,
  • Enhancing security of enterprise systems and data,
  • Maintaining a back-up of your data should your organization face a catastrophic event,
  • Providing robust data and automation to support better decision-making and improved customer experiences,
  • Reducing the manpower costs associated with managing your systems and data, and
  • Better supporting the needs of dispersed workforces.

Just as every organization is different, so should be their cloud migration strategy. There is no one-size-fits-all approach for migrating to the cloud. In this article, we will review common mistakes organizations make when planning a cloud migration and some approaches you can take to ensure a positive outcome.

Common Cloud Migration Mistakes to Avoid

  1. Thinking short term. A faulty migration plan is the number one reason organizations fail to see benefits from their cloud migration strategies. When planning your migration project, think short and long term. Maintaining a legacy system might save some money now by reducing the scope of a migration, but in the long run maintaining these systems outside of your cloud environment can add complexity to your technology infrastructure and impair the performance of your enterprise systems.

  2. Not considering all the costs. Short term thinking can also increase your ongoing costs. Maintaining a hybrid of cloud and locally hosted systems and infrastructure can lead to increased systems management expenses with each environment having different maintenance and support teams – each with their own unique skills and certifications.

  3. Migrating all at once. Moving applications to the cloud can produce substantial benefits. To ensure your migration goes well, take a stepwise approach. When planning your migration, try and identify systems or databases which form a natural dividing line for your cloud migration. Breaking your migration into steps or phases can help ensure each migrated system is deployed, validated, and working properly before the next layer of complexity is added.

  4. Not modernizing applications. Maximizing the ROI of a cloud investment, requires organizations to go beyond just hosting on the cloud. Modernizing applications allows organizations to automate routine processes and systems management functions and reduce ongoing maintenance and management costs.

  5. Choosing the wrong cloud platform. The major cloud service providers are a safe choice, especially when your organization operates in an industry which has strict technology standards that must be met. Other cloud providers may offer attractive pricing but require due diligence to ensure they can perform at the level your business requires.

  6. Sticking with your old technology stack. Organizations often feel more comfortable using a technology stack they have used for years. Cloud migration represents an opportunity to embrace newer technologies which can better equip your organization to meet current and future business needs.

  7. Poor data management. Migrating to the cloud requires rigorous data management to ensure the quality of the data is maintained after the migration. Furthermore, as cloud computing can often introduce substantially more computing power than organizations previously had at their disposal, making new types of analyses, and reporting possible. Faulty data management can compromise an entire cloud migration initiative.

  8. Faulty systems integration. During the pandemic, in the rush to support remote workers, many organizations quickly implemented hybrid cloud solutions which involved migration of some enterprise systems to the cloud which retaining some legacy systems on local infrastructure. These hybrid systems sometimes required complex systems integrations which, if not thoroughly validated, can prove troublesome.

  9. Deficient security. Cloud breaches are occurring at an alarming rate. Most of these breaches were preventable if cloud security best practices had been followed. A thoughtful approach to Cloud migration should include a thoughtful approach to infrastructure, application, and data security.

  10. Failing to automate. Automation can not only positively impact security of your cloud infrastructure, but it can also substantially reduce your ongoing maintenance and management costs. Investing in automation is critical to maximizing ROI from a cloud migration.

7 Steps for a Successful Cloud Migration

  1. Planning. Like any technology project, the first step in cloud migration should be planning. Because of the complexity and many nuances of cloud migration, you may benefit from engaging an experienced cloud advisor early in the process. Having an expert on your side can allow you to better understand the opportunities and benefits that are possible for your business and guide you as to how to invest the resources you have to produce the maximum effect. The cloud migration planning process should methodically review your business, technology stack, and future plans to arrive at an approach that makes sense for you. The process, at minimum, should include the following:

    • Gathering business requirements including challenges with the current tech stack, future business plans, priority enhancements and upgrades, data management requirements, security disaster recovery, and other issues.
    • Create an application upgrade plan which will stipulate the changes that will be made to enterprise applications. Upgrades for cloud migration can be minor such as rehosting and refactoring, or more extensive and involve rebuilding or replacing legacy applications.
    • Develop an infrastructure and architecture plan designed to meet the needs of your application plan and anticipated future business requirements. The plan should also include recommendation of a cloud provider, and consideration of how the cloud infrastructure and applications will be managed after implementation.
    • Data management is important enough that it deserves its own plan. The plan should detail integrations but also measures to ensure and validate data quality for the initial migration and on an ongoing basis.
    • Create a security plan with a mindset that the cloud migration is the opportunity to integrate the latest security best practices, if you have not already done adopted them. Your cloud migration should ideally incorporate concepts like zero trust, encrypting data in use, in transit and at rest, and other strategies to secure your future cloud environment.
    • Develop your financial plan incorporating consideration of the application upgrades, integrations, hosting, and security. In addition, you should be sure to consider the ongoing costs associated with systems administration, updates, future upgrades, and support.
    • Develop a testing plan to ensure the final implemented solution performs and scales as intended.
  2. Proof of Concept. Depending on the scope of your cloud migration, you may want to consider a proof of concept. The proof of concept will simulate the end cloud migration in a virtual environment to allow you to validate the approach, functionality, benefits and budget. For a modest cost, the proof of concept allows you to identify potential issues and adjust your plan before larger investments are made.

  3. Configuration of Cloud Environment. This stage involves setting up the cloud environment including configuring databases, servers, security, and parameters for scaling. This stage should also include preparation for automation of DevOps and systems administration activities.

  4. Data migration. Transferring your data to the cloud environment should be done be done systematically with close attention paid to data quality throughout the process. The data management plan should be strictly followed with all manipulations, cleaning and data integrity checks documented and the overall system validated to ensure the integrity of data for the cloud migration and beyond.

  5. Application migration. During this phase enterprise applications undergo any planned upgrades and then are deployed to the cloud. Extensive systems validation is performed prior to cut-over to the cloud-based applications from the legacy environment to ensure reliable performance.

  6. Systems validation. During the phase, the newly migrated system is rigorously tested and validated according to the test plan, prior to transfer to the production environment.

  7. Launch, optimization, and maintenance. Once the solution is migrated to the production environment, optimization begins. Servers, databases, security systems, applications and other elements are optimized to ensure the cloud solution performs within agreed upon performance parameters. After launch maintenance also begins. This typically includes ongoing system performance monitoring and routine updates. Much of the ongoing maintenance required would ideally have been automated.