A Quick Guide to Start Cloud Migration
One of the most significant technological developments of recent years is the expansion of the cloud. In 2019, one survey found that 90% of businesses had adopted cloud technology in some form, showing just how crucial it has become to modern IT infrastructure.
While the expansion of the cloud is undeniable, for many businesses, the question remains of how exactly to start making use of it. Moving to the cloud can be a daunting task, so having a robust cloud migration plan is essential to successfully adopting cloud technology.
What is Cloud Migration?
Cloud migration is the process of moving digital assets such as workloads, databases and applications from physical IT infrastructure – like on-site servers and data centres – to cloud environments.
Cloud migration involves more than just the actual act of transferring these assets to the cloud. It also requires numerous decisions concerning exactly how you’ll go about doing it. Effective cloud migration planning should consider how your business plans to use the cloud, which assets will benefit most from migration, and how you can optimise your use of the cloud in the long term.
Why Should Businesses Migrate to the Cloud?
The cloud offers a wide variety of benefits compared to traditional, physical IT environments. First, it often represents considerable cost savings – on-site IT infrastructure requires tall running and maintenance costs, whereas cloud alternatives are usually much more affordable.
The cloud can also aid productivity, as it offers heightened flexibility to users via remote access. It also allows the easy implementation of new cloud-based tools and functions to improve the user experience further. Moreover, shifting assets from physical environments to the cloud frees up your existing on-site systems to work on more resource-intensive operations.
Additionally, the cloud is often more secure than on-premise data centres because cloud providers have made — and continue to make — significant investments to safeguard stored data. Cloud solutions have multi-layered inbuilt security features, including application role-based authentication allowing users access anytime, anywhere while maintaining control and reducing risk.
Finally, the cloud offers vast potential for optimisation and innovation. It’s highly agile and scalable, allowing more efficient development of new functionality and applications. The cloud also enables the implementation of new technologies like AI and machine learning, giving greater scope for innovation.
Key Stages in Cloud Migration
Properly planning your cloud migration is essential, as mistakes and accidents can hinder performance due to outages, data loss, and lost functionality. They also make the process more expensive, as you’ll have to divert time and resources to a second attempt at migration if the first goes wrong.
Evaluate and Assess
Start with a thorough assessment of your existing IT infrastructure. It is beneficial to map out all of your applications, workloads, databases, and other digital assets, clearly noting dependencies and connections. This process helps to provide a complete picture of how everything works together and how migrating individual components will affect your infrastructure as a whole.
Decide which aspects of your infrastructure are the best candidates for migration according to the benefits of transferring them to the cloud, then prioritise the most beneficial migrations. Finally, establish clear KPIs to measure your cloud migration so that progress and results can be monitored throughout the process.
Once you’ve decided what you’re migrating, the next step is to determine how you’ll migrate it. There are various migration strategies to consider (listed in more detail below). Each offers distinct advantages and disadvantages, so work out the optimum method for different assets you plan to migrate to the cloud.
Create a timeline for migration that sets out the order that assets will be migrated, and ensure that this timeline doesn’t create any dependency issues.
Run a Pilot Migration
Don’t jump straight into the largest-scale migrations – instead, start with smaller, less complex and less business-critical assets. Running pilot migrations with these assets gives your team a chance to gain experience with the migration process, and if anything goes wrong, you can learn from your mistakes while avoiding any large-scale disruption.
Monitor these migrations closely to inform refinements to the process, and gradually pilot more extensive and complex migrations until your team is ready to begin the cloud migration process in full.
Once thorough planning and testing are complete, it’s time to begin migration in earnest. Prioritise the migrations that will deliver the greatest value to your business.
Try to schedule migrations for quieter periods where potential outages or necessary downtime will create less disruption. Implement the appropriate migration strategy for each asset, then carry out thorough testing to ensure the cloud solution is in working order before decommissioning the physical/legacy version.
You can keep running your legacy systems while testing takes place for peace of mind, but be aware simultaneously running both systems can quickly become expensive. So it’s best to retire your redundant systems as soon as possible to reduce costs.
Once migration is complete, there’s still work to do. You should continuously review your cloud systems to ensure they’re delivering the most value, creating long-term strategies for what new technologies and systems you can implement to optimise your cloud infrastructure.
Cloud Migration Strategies
There’s no one-size-fits-all method to cloud migration – different assets, systems, and environments require different strategies. Taking a blanket approach to cloud migration isn’t the answer; instead, gauge which cloud migration strategy best suits your various assets.
The four main strategies for cloud migration are rehosting, replatforming, refactoring and rebuilding. However, it would help if you also evaluated whether an asset could more easily be replaced, retained or retired.
Also known as “lift and shift”, rehosting moves digital assets wholesale from a physical environment to a cloud environment with minimal adjustments.
Rehosting is one of the fastest routes to the cloud, but it also curbs your ability to make full use of cloud-native features. While it cuts migration time in the short term, it can limit ROI in the long term by restricting optimisation. However, rehosted assets can be reworked later to make full use of the cloud.
Replatforming involves porting the components of your applications and digital assets to a new cloud-based runtime platform, making the essential adjustments necessary for the move to the cloud and adding a few minor modernisations where possible.
This strategy allows fast migration with room for slight optimisation, but it still limits the adoption of cloud-native benefits.
Refactoring migrates portions of an application, workload or other asset to a cloud environment while retaining physical elements to create a hybrid system. For example, an application’s database can be moved to the cloud while the application itself remains in a physical legacy environment.
This method allows for the gradual migration of assets in manageable chunks rather than migrating them all at once in a single resource-intensive, potentially disruptive migration. The downside is that approaching migration in this way is a more drawn-out process than other strategies.
For some assets, the best approach is to rebuild them from the ground up for a cloud environment. Rebuilding assets in this way offer the most benefits since they can make full use of cloud-native technology.
However, rebuilding is resource-intensive and requires significant training and upskilling within your team to ensure the new cloud solution works as intended.
5. Replace, Retain or Retire
Sometimes, the costs of migration outweigh the benefits. For these assets, there are three options:
- Replace – completely decommission legacy components, replacing them with a new cloud alternative.
- Retain – keep the legacy infrastructure running but implement long-term strategies for optimising them.
- Retire – If a legacy system is made fully redundant by new cloud solutions, simply stop using it and save your resources.
Cloud Migration Support
Cloud migration is a complex, time-consuming and resource-intensive operation. For larger businesses and organisations, this isn’t necessarily a problem.
However, it may be helpful for smaller organisations with fewer resources to seek external migration services to ensure that their cloud solutions are implemented effectively and efficiently. If you fall into the latter category, finding a third-party cloud migration service will help give you peace of mind in your cloud migration journey.