Effective Cloud Migration Strategy in Six Simple Steps

In this day and age, cloud computing is increasingly becoming a necessity for gaining an advantage in the highly competitive market environment. Infrastructures are getting bigger and more complicated, and so is the scope of data.

According to the study by Cloud Security Alliance, 69% of companies choose cloud migration to enable further growth and increase the efficiency of the workflow. 

Transition to the cloud gives much-needed flexibility for business operation and availability of the service for users. In addition to this, cloud migration is a great cost-saving measure because you only need to pay for the resources you are actually using.

However, the process of cloud migration is not just pressing “ctrl+a” and dragging everything to the cloud - there is much more nuance to it. Hence, you need to have a perfect cloud migration strategy.

In this article, we will explain: 

  • How to do cloud migration the right way
  • Major requirements of cloud migration
  • What are the main benefits of going cloud 

What is cloud migration?

The term “Cloud migration” describes the process of transitioning business assets hosted on servers inside of the organization to the cloud-based infrastructure. 

Cloud migration may refer to: 

  • Simply moving data into cloud storage - for example, using G-suite with Google Drive to streamline day-to-day operations.  
  • Application migration to the cloud platform to maintain its availability and scalability.
  • Providing continuous integration of the product - adding new elements, fixing existing issues, monitoring the system, etc. 

The main goal of cloud migration is to attain the most effective operational environment for the realization of business goals.

There are two major forms of cloud migration:

  • Cloud migration from internal servers to the cloud platform;
  • cloud-to-cloud migration - like switching from one cloud provider to another;

In both cases,  assets are moving from one place to another.

Cloud Migration Benefits

The value of cloud migration for the company is summarized in three key elements:

Cost - cloud platforms operate on the “pay-as-you-use” model. This model means the company spends only on what it actually uses. This gives a lot of room for maneuvering and allows seamless scaling up or down without overspending in accordance with demand or other factors.

Performance:

  • No downtime - the auto-scaling feature of cloud platforms allows to keep applications available all the time, no matter the workload. This leads to happy customers and effective resource management.
  • The cloud-based environment gives much-needed agility to the workflow. The data is always within a couple of clicks, and this helps to keep everyone on the same page and swiftly react to the changing business landscape. 
  • Continuous Deployment - cloud environments streamline the production pipeline of the product and enables quick and seamless implementation of new features and fixes of the product

Security - cloud-based applications enable wide-scale implementation of security and data loss prevention software to monitor and manage the activity in the system. This allows the management of access to data, keeps sensitive data safe, and keeps an eye on what is going on in the system. 

How to do cloud migration the right way? 6 stage planning checklist

1 Determining the type of migration 

On the surface, the process of cloud migration may seem to be simple. In reality, cloud migration is a complex process that involves multiple moving parts that must remain operable after the transition. Because of this, it is better to know how  you want to migrate beforehand.

The key element in determining the right migration option is in its correlation with the business' requirements. 

The defining factors are:

Performance & Availability

      • Error rate
      • Throughput - the amount of data moved successfully from one place to another in a given time period
      • Availability
      • Apdex - response time based against a set threshold
      • Resource Use - CPU, Memory, etc

Migration and Maintenance Costs 

Data Security

Service-level agreement 

There are three different types of cloud storage:

  • Public cloud - buying space on a cloud provider infrastructure and moving your assets there. 
  • Private cloud - building the cloud infrastructure yourself within a datacenter. 
  • The hybrid cloud combines both types for different purposes based on specific requirements. For example, sensitive data might be on a private cloud, while the application itself is on a public cloud.

In addition to that, you can go with a single cloud or with multiple clouds designed for different purposes. For example:

  • A single cloud means all the assets are located within one cloud provider. 
  • Multi-cloud means the assets are spread across multiple cloud providers. For example, the company may use different cloud providers for different projects, or different elements of their workflow (for example, analytics component on one cloud while machine learning frameworks are on the other provider, etc). This approach is widely used in the enterprise level. 

There are five types of cloud migration. Each of them is designed for different purposes. Let’s go through them one by one

  1. Rehosting - taking the existing data applications and redeploying them on the cloud servers.
  2. Refactoring - involves making some optimizations and changes for the cloud, and employing a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) model. Applications keep their core architecture unchanged but use cloud-based frameworks and tools that allow developers to take advantage of the cloud’s potential.
  3. Replacement migration - in this case, you are migrating data from the existing native application to a third-party vendor-based application. A good example of this approach is switching from custom CRM to Salesforce CRM. 
  4. Revisionist migration - this type of cloud migration involves significant structural changes before the transition. The goal is to make the system able to make full use of cloud services (especially, scaling features). 
  5. Rebuild is even more radical. In this case, you discard the existing code base and write a new one instead. This solution is applied only in those cases where the existing system architecture no longer suits business needs. 

2 Cost estimation

Due to the immense scope of operation, and the sheer quantity of data,  cloud migration requires thorough planning of financial resources. 

It is better to know exactly how much it costs to migrate to cloud beforehand, because the price may shift in an instant. 

Estimations help to structure the sequence of cloud migration and correctly allocate resources according to business priorities.

The cost estimation of cloud migration consists of three stages:

  • Spending on migration preparations
  • Spending on the cloud migration itself
  • Subsequent maintenance spending

The costs themselves are split between the following elements:

  • Staff labor (usually based on the company’s hourly rates)
  • Cloud Bandwidth costs (depends on the cloud provider rates)
  • Ongoing operations in the network

3 Selecting the cloud platform

The purpose of a cloud platform is to provide the cloud environment itself, and also tools for managing or developing various applications. Therefore, the choice of cloud provider depends on multiple factors ranging from the cost to available features. 

The current top cloud providers are 

  • Google Cloud Platform, 
  • Amazon AWS, 
  • Microsoft Azure,
  • IBM Cloud. 

Overall, you need to check for the following things:

Define which business needs require a cloud solution. 

  • Do you need cloud simply as data storage? 
  • Do you need cloud-based CRM and ERP? 
  • Do you need it for machine learning applications and big data analytics? 
  • Take into consideration the expansion of your business' needs over time (more storage space, more tools, etc). 

Check security

These days data security is one of the most important requirements for every facet of the business operation. The cloud platform is no different. Here are the security features:

  • anti-virus detection, 
  • firewall, 
  • routine security checks, 
  • data encryption 
  • user verification protocols

The pricing structure 

  • The key factor is the pay-as-you-go model with extra services on top. The latter is figured in if necessary. For example, you are using Google Cloud and also Google Health API or Google NLP. 
  • Check the hourly, monthly, quarterly, semi-annual, annual charges to find the best fitting option for the cause. For example, it is reasonable to go annual with the storages, while experimental features may go with hourly or monthly rates.
  • Look at per-user charges ($1 monthly or $12 annually per-user)

Check the downtime history.

This aspect is twofold. 

  • Downtime negatively affects business operations and can cause customer frustration and production bottlenecks. 
  • On the other hand, downtime logs serve as a signifier of the provider’s transparency.

Check data import/export features

Check the data access configurations

4 Preliminary audit

While you are figuring out where and how are you going to migrate your data - it is reasonable to go through your business assets, in particular, those which will transition onto the cloud. 

The purpose of the preliminary audit is to inspect data assets and prepare them for the subsequent migration. Aside from migrating data itself, the audit is the most important stage of the entire operation. That’s where the majority of possible issues are rooted.

The thing is: 

  •  assets like databases might be connected to some vital workflow processes and the migration may stall or disrupt them. 
  • there is always a possibility of unknowingly breaching some data during the transition due to oversight. 

Because of this, an audit is an essential requirement.

The key things to keep in mind at this stage are:

  • What data to move first? The migration sequence is usually organized from least to most critical assets. This way you can avoid getting unforeseen consequences and workflow disruption because some databases have moved elsewhere. 
  • How application architecture will change after the migration? The simplest example is database routing. You need to change the route from A to B. In addition to that, you need to make sure that your DLP is handling things properly, and whether the access management layout is intact.
  • How migration to the cloud platform will affect performance? The change of the environment is always a disruption of the workflow at first. The question is to what extent application performance will be affected. There might be a slowdown of data processing or bottlenecks at certain stages of the pipeline (for example, if you have data analytics - you might experience delays in updated stats)
  • Adapt your data security policy for the cloud solution. The primary fields for updates are access management and storage configuration. 

5 Cloud Migration

If done right - cloud migration can happen smoothly and without a hitch. The modern cloud platform has automated tools that do all the dirty work (tools like Azure Migrate, Google Cloud Data Transfer Service and AWS Snowball).

But this doesn’t mean you can turn the thing on and go home. The migration usually involves large quantities of data, and the scope of operation means that this process takes quite some time to get done. Which means, things may happen. 

During the cloud migration operation you need to keep an eye on the following things:

  • Data transferring - data assets vary in size and workload. The question is how much it will cost to transfer the data (see preliminary audit). You can transfer some of it nice and sweet as it is without compressing, while other parts may require some sort of compression. In some cases, you might use temporary storages as a midpoint to reduce the workload.
  • Transfer security - data whilst in the transmission is in one of its most vulnerable states. You know how it goes - secure transmission, backups, and double checks all the way. 

6 Afterward audit 

After all is said and done, you need to perform another audit to be sure that everything went according to the plan and is operating properly. 

In essence, you need to go through your preliminary checklist and verify that each migrated element is intact. This may involve automation to a certain extent. 

Basically, you need to answer the following questions:

  • Did all of the data migrate intact?
  • Is the application working properly?
  • Are the components operating as they should
  • Is the application available for users?

In conclusion

Cloud migration is the next logical step in the development of the business' infrastructure. It enables more consistent and reliable performance, and also opens up possibilities for deeper insights with big data analytics and machine learning algorithms.

This article has shown a cloud migration strategy that will maximize the effort and bring the system to its full potential.

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