CLOUD COMPUTING

Comprehensive Guide To Cloud Migration

Learn the ins and outs of cloud migration, the benefits and challenges of moving to the cloud, and how to create a successful migration strategy for your organization.

For most organizations, cloud migration is a critical step in modernizing their business operations. Whether you’re a concert venue selling e-tickets or an online grocery store managing orders and deliveries, it’s unsustainable to remain wholly in a legacy environment, relying on outdated infrastructure that can be costly, inefficient, and next-to-impossible to manage, update, and scale.

When done right, moving to the cloud enables companies to keep pace with competitors and meet the demands of connected customers. How? By making the most of IT assets to reduce costs, maximize agility and performance, and accelerate digital transformation.

The question is no longer to migrate or not to migrate, but how best to migrate. Migrating data to the cloud isn’t a one-size-fits-all task, but rather a process that looks different for every organization.

What is cloud migration?

Put simply, cloud migration is the process of moving an organization’s applications, data, and workloads from legacy infrastructures to the cloud.

Instead of storing and running data from on-premise servers, a company’s computing assets are stored with an off-premise cloud provider—and made accessible via internet connection. This turns computing and data storage from a capital expense into an operational one with the potential to cut costs, drive efficiency, and further digital transformation.

Why you should consider cloud migration

Moving to the cloud is more than an operational shift: it’s an essential strategic step for any business looking to stay agile and competitive in the digital age. With the recent and significant increase in digital transactions, as well as the acceleration of remote work, digitally enhanced products and services are driving growth across industries.

Organizations need to adapt quickly to meet the demands of the rapidly evolving digital landscape. With cloud, your business can adopt new technologies without delay—preventing loss of momentum when your industry innovates or customer demand shifts.

Cloud’s built-in resilience and security measures safeguard your data, eliminating downtime and data loss. Moving to the cloud can also free up your IT personnel from constantly overseeing on-premise infrastructure and instead give them more time to focus on goals central to your business growth.

In short, migrating data to the cloud transforms your business from one that operated well in the past to one that forges full speed ahead into the future.

Benefits of migrating to the cloud

Here are some tangible benefits you’ll experience after an infrastructure migration to cloud:

  • LOWER COSTS - Cloud removes capital expenditures and can reduce operational expenses through pay-for-what-you-use models.
  • SECURITY - Constant updates to cloud infrastructure and technology—along with built-in government and industry compliance measures—keep data environments highly secure.
  • SCALIBILITY AND FLEXIBILITY - Cloud leverages virtualization to let you rapidly scale usage up or down. You can also easily customize applications to fit your business needs.
  • BUSINESS AGILITY - Cloud solution architecture simplifies internal IT processes through automation, making it easier for organizations to innovate, modernize, and accelerate applications to market.
  • ACCESS TO THIRD-PARTY EXPERTISE - Working with expert cloud providers gives your organization specialized support with modernization projects and frees up your internal resources.

All in all, the cloud benefits organizations that want to ensure their data infrastructure is up to date, strategically aligned with business objectives, and optimized for long-term success.

Challenges in the process of cloud migration

Migrating data to the cloud is a more complex process than simply shifting applications from legacy data centers to virtual servers. Workloads operate differently in the cloud than in on-premise data centers and require a different approach.

To migrate with eyes wide open, keep in mind these common challenges:

  • BUDGETING FOR CLOUD COSTS - While cloud can help businesses cut expenses long term, failing to budget appropriately or plan strategically for your migration can leave you facing unexpected costs.
  • OPTIMIZING APPLICATIONS FOR THE CLOUD - Some applications move to the cloud easily while others might call for a redesign before migration. Knowing which are ready and which need tinkering can save you significant time, money, and effort.
  • ASSIGINING WORKLOADS TO THE RIGHT CLOUD - There are various cloud types, all with different benefits and value-adding components. A successful migration relies on understanding your options—and knowing the specific requirements of your applications and workloads so you can assign each to the right cloud. For example, not all applications are meant for public cloud. Some data, like that which is subjected to strict residency requirements, is better suited to private cloud.
  • GETTING THE GREEN LIGHT INTERNALLY - Ensure key stakeholders across your organization are on the same page prior to migration for a smooth transition to cloud.

Sufficient planning—along with the right expert partner to guide your migration journey—will help you avoid common cloud migration mistakes.

Step-by-step guide for how to migrate

As we’ve said, moving to the cloud is not a one-size-fits-all process. Your cloud migration plan will depend on your specific workloads, applications, and business objectives. Meticulous planning helps ensure your critical data moves to the cloud efficiently—and with minimal impact on your daily operations.

Follow these steps to determine the what, why, when, where, and how of your cloud migration plan.

Step 1. Identify business objectives, expected outcomes, and a migration budget

Get clear on exactly why you want to migrate. Do you want to reduce costs? Improve productivity? Drive innovation? Enhance security? Knowing your objectives before migrating will ensure you choose the best path forward.

Along with defining your reasons for moving to the cloud, establish measures of success and ROI goals at the outset. To develop helpful KPIs, audit your existing environment’s metrics around compute needs, performance output, response times, and other factors important to business operations. That way, you can clearly evaluate progress and make any necessary adjustments during migration.

Once you’ve taken stock of your existing environment, zeroed in on KPIs, and established ROI goals, work with stakeholders to set an ideal budget for your migration.

Step 2. Assess your existing data environment

Before migrating, take stock of your existing data infrastructure. Whether you enlist internal IT resources or a cloud service provider to conduct the evaluation, be sure to assess the data you’re migrating, its current format and location, its ideal format post-migration, and any risks posed by migration.

Step 3. Choose the right cloud environment(s)

There are many pathways to the cloud and journeys within it. To reap the transformative benefits of cloud migration, it’s critical to choose the right cloud environment to host your workloads and applications.

Your cloud environment will consist of one or more deployment models, infrastructures, and services. Let’s break down these categories to understand the difference.

Deployment models:

  • PRIVATE CLOUD - Ideal for businesses with strict security or compliance requirements, a private cloud serves a single customer and can be operated from a company’s data center or outsourced to a managed private cloud service provider. It’s a great choice for businesses with applications that demand dedicated IT infrastructure.
  • PUBLIC CLOUD - Hosted by a third-party provider like Microsoft Azure, AWS or Google via the public internet, public cloud offers global scalability; high resiliency, redundancy, and flexibility; and disaster-recovery options. Public cloud customers share computing resources with multiple customers, or “tenants,” and generally pay only for what they use—a pricing model that benefits budget-conscious organizations.

Infrastructures:

  • ON-PREMISE - This is the traditional model, where a company’s IT department operates hardware and software applications hosted on-site.
  • COLOCATION - In this model, a third-party data center houses a company’s servers and other IT devices. While the customer owns the servers, they use the specialized provider’s building, power, connectivity, and security services.
  • HOSTING - This is when a vendor provides the data center, power and cooling, security, servers, and storage. With hosting, managed service providers monitor your infrastructure, network, operating systems, hypervisors, and databases—while offering customers predictable costs, customization, and control over their data assets.
  • CONNECTIVITY - This provides a high-performing and secure connection between multiple clouds, data centers, and users—helping customers move data efficiently and securely, and to achieve low latency.

Services:

  • SOFTWARE AS A SERVICE (SAAS) - Most businesses start their cloud journey with SaaS, which eliminates the need to manage software applications in house. SaaS applications are normally run through a web browser and offer companies ready-to-use, cloud-based application software on demand. Well-known examples include Microsoft 365, Salesforce, and DocuSign.
  • PLATFORM AS A SERVICE (PAAS) - vendors provide platforms for developers to build custom applications without having to code or manage their own infrastructure. The vendor maintains and manages the infrastructure, while the customer manages the applications they create. Examples of PaaS include Microsoft Azure and AWS Lambda.
  • INFRASTRUCTURE AS A SERVICE (IAAS) - IaaS provides the backend infrastructure for running applications in the cloud—acting as a kind of virtual data center. Examples of such infrastructure include physical and virtual servers, storage and networking, and operating systems. While third-party IaaS vendors control customers’ hard drives, servers, networking, and other infrastructure, customers can access and manage their IaaS platform through a virtual dashboard.

It’s likely that the best data environment for your business will be some combination of two or more deployment models, infrastructures, and services. Most organizations today use a hybrid or multi-cloud strategy to maximize their flexibility and agility and maintain a competitive advantage.

  • HYBRID SOLUTIONS - A hybrid cloud strategy enlists a combination of different cloud deployments, such as public and private, and often includes on-premise infrastructure as well. With hybrid, companies can place workloads on the clouds best suited to them, allowing for greater customization, flexibility, and overall benefit.
  • MULTI-CLOUD SOLUTIONS - Multi-cloud is a version of hybrid cloud in which a company uses two or more cloud vendors from the same type of cloud deployment, such as two or more public clouds or two or more private clouds.

Before migrating, determine whether your organization has the expertise to sift through complexities and choose the right cloud environment for your business. If not, you’ll likely want to partner with a cloud managed service provider to ensure a successful migration and post-migration journey.

Step 4: Map out your migration

After you’ve developed a cloud migration strategy, you’re ready to plan the details of your migration. As you design your migration plan and timeline, it can be helpful to create a checklist to ensure you remember essential steps throughout the process.

While your data assets will determine your precise approach to migration, a basic migration checklist includes the following steps:

  • Take stock of your data assets
  • Name your migration objectives and KPIs
  • Find the right partner to help you plan and manage your migration
  • Categorize workloads and applications in terms of size, complexity, data sensitivity, and mission-critical operations
  • Decide which workloads will move to which clouds, and which will be retained or retired
  • Choose cloud providers well-suited to these workloads
  • Conduct a migration cost assessment and share with key stakeholders
  • Prioritize the workloads and applications you want to migrate first
  • Create a detailed outline for the migration timeline
  • Formulate a migration security plan
  • Relay to stakeholders what to expect during and after migration
  • Initiate the migration
  • Check in with your migration team to monitor progress

Remember to back up all your data before migrating. Not only will this protect your data, it will provide you peace of mind throughout the migration.

Step 5: Migrate

Most organizations migrate to the cloud in a series of moves, rather than all at once. One common strategy is to try out non-critical applications first, see how they perform, learn from any mistakes, and apply that knowledge to more critical applications to mitigate risk.

Once you’ve carried out your infrastructure migration to cloud, pat yourself on the back, and then remember: the cloud is not a destination but an ongoing journey. After successfully transferring workloads to the cloud, organizations transition to the operate phase. This stage encompasses workload management in the cloud, focusing on performance monitoring, resource management, and upholding security and compliance standards.

Technology is ever-changing, and as cloud computing evolves, your approach will, too. Having the systems and partners in place to help you pivot toward new, beneficial technologies will keep your business resilient and enable ongoing transformation into the future.

Various cloud migration strategies

A successful migration strategy determines what to migrate, where to migrate, when to migrate, and how to migrate. There are seven main migration strategies to choose from, depending on your specific workloads and objectives.

  • REHOST - This quick path to cloud—often for migrating legacy workloads or to meet an urgent business case—lets you migrate an application (without making any changes) to utilize cloud features. While this doesn’t unlock the full benefits of cloud, it can lay a foundation for future optimization and cost savings.
  • RELOCATE - Similar to rehosting, relocation lets you move applications to the cloud quickly without purchasing new hardware or changing their architecture. With this strategy, you can transfer multiple servers (containing multiple applications) simultaneously from an on-premise platform to cloud. A bonus: the applications can continue to serve users during the migration, eliminating downtime.
  • REFACTOR - This path is the most complex migration strategy and calls for re-architecting and redeveloping an application, often with cloud-native features that add scalability, performance, or agility. Businesses usually choose this route to scale, hasten product releases, or reduce costs. Refactoring can be ideal for applications that have already migrated to the cloud, as it’s simpler to re-architect applications once they are in the cloud
  • REPLATFORM - Usually considered the middle ground between rehosting and refactoring, replatforming lets you make changes to optimize your applications without altering their core architecture.
  • REPURCHASE - This involves replacing an application with a different product or consumption model— such as switching a CRM application to a SaaS service like Salesforce—to increase business value and lower costs.
  • RETAIN - For various reasons, you might want some applications to remain in their source environment temporarily or permanently. You can always retain applications for a period of time and decide to migrate them later.
  • RETIRE - Sometimes applications no longer hold business value or utility. Retiring, or shutting down, these applications can simplify your data infrastructure and bring cost savings.

Costs associated with cloud migration

When budgeting for your migration, keep in mind that calculating cloud costs can be challenging and requires diligent planning and sufficient knowledge—not only of the costs businesses encounter during migration but the ongoing costs that can be more difficult to measure.

Be sure to account for these costs when planning your cloud migration:

  • Current costs of workloads and applications
  • Costs of moving workloads and applications to the cloud
  • Costs of tools and services used during migration
  • Post-migration, ongoing cloud costs like consumption billing

The complexities of cloud can lead to unexpected costs if companies don’t know what to expect and budget for at the outset. Enlisting the help of an experienced cloud provider can help your organization make accurate cloud cost projections and set you up for long-term cloud success.

Potential risks and mitigation strategies

Along with bringing unforeseen costs, migrating data to the cloud without adequate knowledge and preparation can lead to inefficient resource management and cause applications to under-perform once in the cloud.

Here are three risk factors and how you can mitigate them:

  • PLACING WORKLOADS ON THE WRONG CLOUDS - It’s essential to understand your data and workloads before moving them to the cloud. Misplaced workloads can cost companies substantial time and money. While eliminating capital expenditures is a great feature of public cloud, not all workloads—for example, data with strict residency or latency requirements—operate effectively there and should either remain on-premise or deployed on a private cloud.
  • TREATING THE CLOUD LIKE ON-PREMISE INFRASTRUCTURE - Some companies are quick to “lift and shift” their data from on-premise to the cloud in the hope that they’ll reap cost savings. However, when these companies migrate and fail to adjust their workloads to function in the cloud, they can end up over-provisioning their resources. While this might have been the logical choice in an on-premise environment, it’s unnecessary and indeed detrimental in the cloud, where over-provisioning can rapidly escalate costs.
  • CHOOSING SUBOPTIMAL MIGRATION STRATEGIES - Not all applications can or should be moved to the cloud as they are but need significant re-architecting before they can benefit from features like scalability, resiliency, and availability. For example, some large, monolithic applications can’t operate well in the cloud and need to be re-architected before they can take advantage of scalability on demand—one of cloud’s greatest strengths.

Moving to the cloud requires technical knowledge, skills, and diligent preparation. To realize the cloud’s many benefits, ensure you have a skilled team at-the-ready to make the most of your migration.

Current trends in cloud migration

Enterprises have increasingly adopted cloud technologies to enhance their operations, raise business value, and propel digital transformation.

In our 2023 Cloud Impact Study, 94% of senior IT professionals polled said that cloud had delivered the expected efficiencies within their organizations. These IT leaders report that they’re enthusiastic about adopting hybrid cloud—and that a combined public and private cloud environment that works alongside legacy infrastructure is becoming the go-to solution for many enterprise IT departments.

While the growing popularity of hybrid cloud solutions means that more organizations are embracing sophisticated cloud technologies to drive greater innovation and benefits, many IT departments face hurdles as they adopt these advanced hybrid solutions—considering the complexity of moving legacy applications and data into the cloud.

This increased demand for more sophisticated cloud solutions brings about an equivalent demand for expert cloud migration and management strategies across industries.

Partnering with a cloud provider

Migrating to the cloud and managing your data once there is a complex, ongoing, and iterative journey that encompasses many moving parts. An expert managed service provider like Aptum can guide you through the process, filling in key knowledge and skills gaps and building you a roadmap to optimal business outcomes.

Day in and day out, we work with successful organizations that partner with our experts to transform their infrastructure, along with their IT operations and business processes. As an extension of your team, we leverage our 20+ years of experience working with legacy and cloud infrastructures to provide the essential support you need to optimize your data infrastructure—and maximize your digital transformation.

Need an expert partner for your migration journey? Contact Aptum today.

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