Cloud Migration Overview
The process by which a company migrates its digital assets and operations, including data and applications, from an in-house physical infrastructure to the cloud is called cloud migration. Businesses that rely heavily on digital architectures and tons of data would benefit from this process, giving them virtually unlimited scalability in terms of storage, networking, and performance.
Although it may sound similar to moving a small office to a larger commercial premise, here, nothing is being migrated physically, but the process involves a digital relocation process to the cloud datacenter. It is quite a daunting and complex process that requires quite a few preparation steps before the actual migration itself begins. However, once this is complete, a company’s digital operations can be managed with greater efficiency and security, which typically translates into cost savings and greater stability.
To understand the whole cloud migration process, including the steps involved and how a business can get the maximum benefit out of it, you need to follow this article to the end without skipping any part. We have also covered and explained in the article multiple strategies so that you can decide on the ideal one as per your specific requirements.
Types of Cloud Migration Strategies
If you’re wondering whether this will be a wise move for your business, you’re at the right place. In this article, we will discuss different cloud migration strategies that may be useful to you in deciding which option is best for you based on your own individual needs. Gartner, Inc., a renowned IT research firm, explained the following five R’s back in 2010 that summarize various cloud migration strategies.
This strategy is perhaps the easiest and would be ideal for organizations that are unfamiliar with cloud computing, providing them with a straightforward way to benefit from its simple and rapid deployment and ability to scale key functions as the user base grows without having to spend too much time or money on the expansion.
In a nutshell, here companies just lift their existing application from their physical framework and shift to a cloud environment without any modification to the application architecture or code. All you need to do is choose your favourite Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) vendor like Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services to deploy your applications on their platform.
An organization that uses the refactoring strategy would take advantage of the already built frameworks and codes of a Platform-as-a-Service or PaaS vendor and not an IaaS vendor.
This strategy involves partially optimizing (by expanding or rewriting) the application code without rebuilding its entire structure and then following either strategy (rehost or refactor) mentioned above.
The migration strategy is not for most companies, but rather for those who feel confident about leveraging the native advantages of the cloud. Features such as serverless computing, auto-scaling, etc., are available only when you rebuild your apps on a Platform-as-a-Service or PaaS infrastructure and are otherwise not available on any IaaS platform.
Although it offers numerous state-of-the-art cloud advantages while allowing you to create a digital architecture that will be future-ready, rebuilding comes with its own cons. Apart from being the most expensive and complex route, you will have to stick to the vendor you are migrating to unless you want to repeat the process.
Companies can also choose to get rid of their existing applications entirely and shift to their preferred pre-built Software-as-a-Service or SaaS architecture from any reliable third-party provider.
What Benefits Businesses can Expect from Cloud Migration?
While companies may have different reasons to migrate to the cloud, they are typically more inclined to do so when faced with growing challenges to meet the needs of their increasing user base and to scale their digital infrastructure in a way that is reliable, secure, and cost-effective at the same time. Once you migrate your applications and IT operations to the cloud, you can generally assume most of the following advantages, if not all.
1. It’s Infinitely Scalable:
With the growing business volume, other related things like analytics, database, and overall workload also increase, which your existing on-site infrastructure might not be sufficient enough to handle, and therefore affect performance negatively. On the other hand, the cloud allows a company to expand its resources as and when needed, offering additional room for the applications to match the requirements seamlessly.
2. Offers Flexibility:
Almost every business has some peak and low points in terms of number of customers and their demands, fluctuating between them frequently. In many cases, the physical platform cannot handle these variations in traffic, and as a result, provides an experience that is not satisfactory. When you migrate your applications to the cloud, you will be able to scale your digital capacity according to the need of the hour, giving unmatched flexibility that no physical framework can offer.
3. Helps Growing Business and Production Ability:
When the cloud vendor manages your complex IT infrastructure, you no longer need to address issues that otherwise arise regularly and eat up a major portion of your time and investment. Instead, now you can focus on the more important things like business growth and productivity that affect the bottom line directly.
4. Cloud is more secure by design:
When it comes to cloud computing, it’s often more secure than even the most advanced local data centre on the planet. Prominent security features like regular updates, security analytics, and cross-enterprise process visibility that come default with a cloud platform can outsmart any on-site framework.
5. More adaptable to constant Technological Advancements:
Business solutions must adapt to the rapid development of technology. Only the cloud can meet such demand quickly by adapting itself to the latest innovations and developments.
6. Cloud migration saves money:
Most cloud vendors bill based on usage, which means there is no need to make a significant investment in procuring physical resources based on predictions of future requirements. In short, cloud migration will save your company from spending unnecessarily, resulting in more efficient use of funds and an improved bottom line.
What Challenges should Companies be ready to face during Cloud Migration?
Migration of your entire IT infrastructure and applications to the cloud may seem simple and straightforward, but that’s far from the truth. While elaborate preparation is fundamental here, even the best-laid plans for migration rarely eliminate certain challenges as explained below.
1. Large Data Migration Risks:
Any digital application relies on databases, and cloud migration often involves terabytes of sensitive data about applications, their codes and architectures, and their users. Transferring such a massive amount of data over the internet can take days or even weeks, delaying the migration process. This is why some cloud vendors allow companies to ship data stored on physical hardware directly to the provider, which again comes with on-transit security risks. No matter which method you choose, cloud migration can be a time-consuming process.
2. Ensuring Data Integrity:
Once the data has been successfully migrated, you should ensure that it hasn’t been compromised during the transfer and is as secure as it was in your local data center. Data integrity is one of the primary concerns that make companies reluctant to the idea of moving their digital operations to the cloud.
3. Avoiding Operation Downtime:
During the process of transferring your applications to the cloud, you might need to take the services offline to ensure a smooth transition. However, such downtime can have disastrous effects on your business, especially when it’s almost impossible to predict the time such migration can take as various factors are involved in the process. It will help if you don’t try to move the whole operation at once and divide the process into several small parts.
4. Trained Human Resources:
Trusting the cloud platform and adapting to its processes are vital factors within an IT workforce. Your professionals who used to manage on-premise applications until now may not trust the unique framework at first and find it difficult to naturalize to this whole new environment. An ideal cloud migration planning should include giving the team proper training and education to make them battle-ready for the upcoming cloud-based operations in the company.
What Kind of Tools do you need to carry out a Successful Cloud Migration?
Almost every cloud vendor and third-party developers offer several services and tools to make the otherwise complex migration task easier. These open-source automated cloud-based tools can help you to check necessary migration prerequisites, manage and constantly monitor the process and confirm after-migration data and application integrity. Let’s have a closer look at some of the essential tools here.
1. Performance management tools:
Although cloud providers allow businesses to access detailed metrics related to a number of critical factors such as application performance, utilization of cloud service, and customer experience, these metrics sometimes fail to report correlations in real-time, and therefore it’s better to opt for a third-party monitoring solution.
2. Business monitoring tools:
To analyze the sheer benefits of cloud migration, this tool is crucial and can offer valuable insights into your business transactions which will help you to compare pre and post-migration performance and deploy necessary optimizations based on the same.
Make sure you select tools that seamlessly work with your platform and operating system. What kind of monitoring your business requires might have a decisive impact on your choice of cloud vendor.
A Step by Step Cloud Migration Process
While companies may have diverse purposes and hence would opt for different approaches for cloud migration, the basics will remain the same. Your cloud vendor could offer you a helping hand in setting up the most efficient migration process according to your needs as well.
1. Determine your goals:
Do you know what performance gain you are looking forward to from cloud migration? To compare the post-migration results with the goals set prior to migration, an organization should set a specific performance target, business growth target, and other related goals. This will help them to find whether the migration is delivering the desired outcome.
2. Plan a Custom Security Strategy:
When your data and applications are in the cloud, your IT operations are no longer protected behind brick-and-mortar security protocol and an in-house firewall. You may want to consult about installing a robust cloud-native firewall with your cloud provider in advance.
3. Make a copy of your database in the cloud:
Once you select a cloud vendor and are ready to initiate the migration process, start by replicating your local database. Continue the process throughout the entire time to ensure the exact latest copy of your on-site data in your new cloud framework.
4. Transfer your business applications:
You may need to refactor or rewrite application codes in accordance with the cloud platform. This can either be done in parts over a certain period or in a one-off process.
5. Move your IT operation:
It’s the final stage. Once the data integrity is ensured, and the applications are verified to work within the newly set cloud infrastructure, you can now make the cloud go live and start your operations from there.
Regardless of which strategy you choose out of the five Rs, cloud migration comes with a set of risks that can’t be underestimated. A business that is new to cloud computing is like stepping onto a battlefield without knowing where the mines are. Although the largest cloud providers like AWS, Microsoft Azure, or IBM can ensure close to 99% uptime with a negligible failure rate, it’s critical to set up a well-thought-out migration plan in advance to reduce the risks significantly.
However, while choosing a cloud vendor, make sure they provide a host of reliable tools and services and assist you to carry out the process right from the initial strategy discussion to the final execution, allowing you to deploy a robust future-ready IT infrastructure.
Here in this brief piece, we made sure to describe the whole cloud migration process in a concise manner and also pointed out the pros and cons that are equally important to consider before you proceed.