The cloud is the future of business – and more companies than ever are turning to cloud computing, hosting, and storage for their IT infrastructure needs. Cloud computing offers a huge variety of benefits – reliable uptime, lower upfront costs, robust customer support and maintenance – the list could go on and on.
But migrating your IT infrastructure to the cloud can still be a bit scary – there’s always the chance that something will go wrong, and you’ll lose valuable, mission-critical data during your migration. This doesn’t happen often – but it can still be cause for concern among IT workers.
So, to help you ensure that your cloud migration is a total success, we’ve put together a list of 7 quick tips on cloud migration. By following these tips, you can minimize your risk of data loss – and make sure your business’s cloud migration is totally seamless.
1. Too Many Faces of Migration
First off, it helps to understand what type of migration you are planning to undertake, and for that you need to determine what kind of cloud you are planning to implement. Will it be an all-cloud environment or a hybrid? Will it support customer-facing, mission-critical apps, back-office functions like business intelligence or data analysis, or long-term operations like archiving and disaster recovery? Will it require a one-time migration, infrequent data transfers or steady rapid bursting? Each of these factors will pose different challenges in terms of data access, continuity and transfer rates during and after the migration process.
If this is your first migration, it’s probably wise to start with a small load of non-mission-critical data just to get the IT team familiar with migration tools and procedures, and even gain a better understanding of what a successful migration looks like. Quite often, it isn’t easy to tell if everything has gone smoothly until the new environment is brought online, particularly for technicians with little or no cloud experience.
2. Make a Plan
Once the initial objectives have been defined, it’s time to construct a working plan for migration. A good place to start is to migrate your data to the Best cloud solutions for your company can be an attractive prospect – but make sure you think your migration through first. Weigh the pros and cons of cloud migration, and take a deep look at your current IT infrastructure. What do you want to move to the cloud? Are you going to keep any data on-premises? and why? The cloud is not the optimal environment for every workload, so IT executives should take the time to determine what kind of performance they expect to achieve, what security precautions to take, how governance and policy management will be enforced and a host of other factors. As well, the plan should incorporate any and all regulatory factors that govern data, ranging from residency and availability to disaster recovery, data integration and risk management. Not all clouds are the same, and in fact many providers are starting to tailor their offerings to the regulatory requirements of key industry verticals like healthcare and finance. General purpose clouds can certainly be architect for regulatory compliance, but this requires a fair amount of in-house expertise that may end up costing more than a pre-configured environment.
And it goes without saying that the cost-benefit of any migration should figure high in the planning phase. Not only should the cloud provide a lower cost basis on which to support data and applications, but the migration itself should be designed to provide the quickest, easiest and least disruptive manner of moving workloads from the enterprise data center to a third-party facility.
3. Understand the Risks – And Time Cost
There are a few risks that you are susceptible to when moving your data to the cloud:
Public cloud environments could pose a security risk
Your cloud provider may not comply with regulations like HIPAA or credit card compliance
Legacy applications may not function properly in a cloud environment – test their compatibility, or consider upgrading them
While most of these risks can be eliminated entirely by partnering with a great cloud services provider, they are still worth considering during your transition.
In addition, you must consider the total time cost of transitioning to the cloud – moving huge volumes of data can often be quite time-consuming, and if you don’t implement a smooth transition plan, this can cause interruption and downtime of crucial IT services.
4. Trial and Test Phase
The seldom-spoken truth is that the migration doesn’t end once the last bit has made it to the cloud. Indeed, in many ways the testing phase to determine the success, or failure, of the operation can be just as complicated as the actual data movement.
As mentioned above, the biggest challenge here is the fact that in-house technical staff rarely has the right skill sets to ascertain what is working in the cloud and what is not, or to identify and correct problems in the latter case. Multiple tools are available for this phase, most of which are available from the cloud provider. If not, it’s probably best to look for another provider before you start.
In general, however, the same basic principal applies to the cloud as for newly provisioned local infrastructure: don’t go live until you are sure the application is providing acceptable performance. Another item on the post-migration checklist is the establishment of broad visibility into the new environment. Few cloud providers will allow clients to peer directly into their infrastructure, but there are various third-party tools on the market that can peer into data movement, resource utilization and cost allocation to at least allow you to determine for yourself that you are getting what you paid for.
5. Keep it Secure and Backup
Many providers will allow third-party security systems access to DNS changes and BGP redirects so clients can perform their own attack detection and mitigation functions. You should also have a plan to separate normal traffic from compromised traffic, preferably keeping data decryption to a minimum. This can be done using behavioral threat algorithms and other advanced tools that not only enhance user privacy but speed up the containment and damage mitigation processes as well.
If you’ve planned well, your cloud migration is extremely unlikely to fail – but you should have a backup plan, regardless
Make sure that your cloud provider is aware of your rollback plan – there should be an agreement in the SLA that allows you to terminate your contract in case of an unsuccessful migration, and allow you to maintain complete control over your data.
6. Partner with A-Great Cloud Services Provider
Since few organizations have the in-house expertise in cloud migration, selection of a strong partner is essential. This can be the cloud provider itself, the developer of cloud management software or even a third-party consultant.
This is the most crucial point on our list. A great cloud services provider is the difference between a successful migration – or a totally nightmarish disaster. Here’s a quick list of what you should look for in a great cloud services provider.
Guaranteed performance with an SLA– A Service Level Agreement sets forth regulations pertaining to data availability, uptime, performance levels, encryption and data security, and much more.
Choose a company with experience– The growth of the cloud services industry has created hundreds (if not thousands) of startup cloud services providers. However, these startups often exaggerate their capabilities – and can’t deliver on their promises. You’d be better served partnering with a more experienced provider.
Transparent billing– You should be paying a flat, monthly fee, based off of your total capacity and usage of cloud services. There should be no hidden fees or surprises – so take a good look at pricing plans.
Consult with providers about your IT needs– There is no “one-size-fits-all” IT infrastructure solution – each company has different computing, storage, and availability needs. Consult with your prospective providers and tell them the details about what you’re looking for – that will allow you to get a better idea of their capabilities and services.
7. Consider Managed Cloud Services
If you’re moving your entire IT infrastructure to the cloud, you may want to consider going beyond standard cloud solutions, and partnering with a managed cloud services provider, who will provide 24/7 Seamless technical support and maintenance.
These cloud providers do more than just host your data – they provide comprehensive support for your infrastructure, patch your servers and machines regularly, perform upgrades and application installations, and much more.
Outsourcing the management of your cloud services allows you to refocus your IT team on important daily tasks, and increase the overall performance of your cloud platform. And while managed cloud services can be a bit expensive, you’re likely to enjoy a more reliable IT infrastructure, and to lower your overall overhead by reducing the man-hours your IT team has to spend on maintenance, upgrades, and patching of crucial systems.