Summary: Cloud migration is the key to successful cloud adoption. However, there is a lot you need to understand before you think about migrating to the cloud. Read on to learn what cloud migration is, why you need it, and how to plan your cloud migration journey for a smooth transition.
Virtual management of an organization’s infrastructure is essential for ensuring anytime, anywhere access. Also, the evolving remote work culture means that organizations need to move to the cloud to ensure business continuity, which, in turn, emphasizes the need for planning, strategizing, and executing cloud migration.
“Cloud has become an essential tool to support business continuity in these difficult times. Many organizations have turned to the public cloud for its burst capabilities to meet a sudden spike in use. Platforms such as Zoom would not have been able to operate without the flexible infrastructure provided by the major cloud providers.”
— Alastair Edwards, Chief Analyst, Canalys
However, organizations feel overwhelmed when adopting cloud computing because of the complicated underlying processes of moving valuable, intrinsic, and confidential data. Here’s your practical guide to cloud migration:
What is Cloud Migration?
Cloud migration is the practice of transferring data, processes, and workloads from an on-premise setup to virtual server space. It makes an organization independent of the acquired physical resources to run business operations.
The anytime, anywhere access has made migration in cloud computing popular among organizations of all sizes.
COVID-19 is a catalyst for cloud migration, and 87% of global IT decision-makers agree with this.
Alternatively, here are two other types of cloud migrations:
- Cloud-to-cloud migration in which we migrate our infrastructure from one cloud to another.
- Reverse cloud migration in which we move back to on-premises from the cloud.
Irrespective of the type of cloud migration, its successful implementation requires planning and know-how of the process.
An Overview of Cloud Service and Cloud Deployment Models
Before diving deep into cloud migration, you should understand the different cloud services and deployment models available. The applicability of these services and models will solely depend on your business needs.
Cloud Service Models
The standard cloud service models include IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS. Here’s an overview of these cloud service models to help you understand their features and applicability.
- IaaS (Infrastructure as a service): Involves migrating partial or entire physical infrastructure to the cloud.
- PaaS (Platform as a service): Involves deploying a cloud-based framework where developers can quickly build applications.
- SaaS (Software as a Service): Enables cloud-based applications, which the providers on servers then host. Businesses nowadays are choosing SaaS applications as their business model as it is accessible through the internet and offers 24/7 access to the end-users.
Cloud Deployment Models
- Public Cloud: This is a cloud environment where organizations share server space and co-exist without interruptions. The majority of IT services rely on the public cloud to ensure access anywhere and at any time.
- Private Cloud: This is a cloud environment designed to be used by one organization only. In this case, either the data center is available on-premise or maintained off-site.
- Hybrid Cloud: It is a combination of both public and private clouds. The features of both cloud environments are integrated to offer an orchestrated experience. Organizations often use the private cloud to manage IT infrastructure and the public cloud for handling network loads.
Why is Cloud Migration Important?
The hardware and software resources in an organization are referred to as legacy infrastructure. An on-premises presence of this legacy infrastructure leaves you dependent on your physical workplace while adding to the maintenance cost.
On the other hand, migrating to the cloud makes an organization independent of physical space and infrastructure.
Here are some benefits that highlight why cloud migration is vital for your business strategy.
- Cost-Optimization: Managing the cloud is cheaper. Most of the leading cloud providers, such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform, base their pricing model on a Pay-as-you-go basis, i.e., you only pay for what you use.
- Agility and Responsiveness: The cloud environment instantly facilitates new legacy infrastructure and storage space buy-in. Such a fast response from a cloud provider means speedier adoption of newer technologies that can offer a competitive edge.
- Remote Access: With cloud computing, you can access your data from anywhere and at any time. An organization no longer solely relies on its physical setting to get work done, and this is also why cloud computing is gaining more traction as remote work is becoming the future of how we work.
- Increased focus on Core Business: With cloud adoption, organizations have less to worry about downtime, data security, and disaster recovery. The cloud provider provides the required cloud space, security, and real-time access. Thus, organizations can focus on core business responsibilities more, which results in improved productivity.
- Scalability: Cloud computing can manage heavy workloads and a more extensive user base. Where it takes extra time, effort, and costs to accommodate the increased demand in an on-premise environment, the cloud is simpler and more affordable.
Cloud Migration Strategies — The 5 R’s
The 5 R’s of cloud migration define cloud migration strategies, including Rehost, Refactor, Revise, Rebuild, and Replace.
Also called Lift-and-shift, rehost involves lifting your data and applications from an on-premise setup and shifting it over to the cloud. It is the mirror image of the current legacy system.
Also called Lift, Tinker, and Shift, refactor involves migrating to the cloud by optimizing the legacy infrastructure and adopting PaaS (Platform as a Service) cloud service. This strategy proves beneficial for developers to experiment and take advantage of the cloud platform.
This strategy involves modifying the core architecture and the code before migrating to the cloud. The aim of revising it is to customize the applications to fit the cloud environment. Revise takes technical know-how of the cloud migration process, which, in turn, means that you would either have to rely on your in-house tech team or consider outsourcing.
This strategy involves re-writing and re-architecting the applications, i.e., rebuilding them from scratch. Rebuilding should be considered when the existing application framework does not suit the changing business needs and technological advancements.
This strategy involves discarding application migration to the cloud if it is outdated or does not suit the cloud environment. In this case, going ahead with SaaS application development while discarding the traditional in-house applications should be preferred.
Types of Cloud Migration Tools
Often organizations are not prepared for the significant shift where migration tools come to the rescue. These tools ensure migration speed and effectiveness without affecting the organization’s routine operations.
Here are the types of cloud migration tools:
1. SaaS Tools
SaaS, or aptly Software-as-a-service tools, acts as an anchor between on-premise applications and cloud storage destinations to safely transfer all the data. The good thing about these SaaS tools is that they are automated and user-friendly.
2. Open-Source Tools
These tools are available free of cost and can be used by anyone. However, there’s a catch! Your technical team should be able to customize these tools to cater to your business and functional requirements.
3. Batch Processing
These types of tools are primarily used to transfer large volumes of data. Batch processing tools are automated to work at frequent intervals to help avoid network congestion.
Cloud Migration Steps
Organizations should execute cloud migration in a sequence of well-defined steps to ensure a flawless transition. Although the basic cloud migration steps are the same, the core process relies on your business’s size and the complexities of the legacy infrastructure involved.
Here are the necessary steps to answer how you migrate to the cloud:
1. Prioritize Requirements
To start with, consider the size of your organization and the corresponding business needs. It should be a Q&A within the organization to establish goals that will further help frame a robust cloud migration plan.
These questions can be:
- What are your expectations from the cloud?
- What cloud migration strategies suit your business needs?
- Why do you want to move to the cloud?
- What are your performance, security, and server requirements?
The answers to these questions lie in a comprehensive overview of your current on-premise environment.
2. Look for a Suitable Cloud Provider
Assess the various cloud platform providers. For instance, running a comparison between AWS vs. Azure vs. Google Cloud would be helpful as they suit the needs of small and large-scale businesses.
Comparisons should be primarily based on these parameters:
- The compute of the proposed providers
- The storage capacity that they offer
- The price model and flexibility
- The market share, and the corresponding reach
3. Finalize Cloud Migration Style
Before moving ahead with the cloud migration process, choosing a suitable cloud migration style becomes essential. Here are three of the most prominent ones to choose from.
- Hybrid Cloud: As already discussed, a hybrid cloud amalgamates public, private, or even on-premise server centers.
- Single-Cloud: This involves the deployment of just one cloud vendor.
- Multi-Cloud: This involves deploying two or more public cloud service providers to help create the best of all worlds scenario.
4. Communicate with the Stakeholders
Cloud migration is a major change for your organization. Some organizations also consider it a digital transformation that changes the operational guidelines.
This is why it becomes essential to communicate effectively with the junior and senior-level employees and prepare them for the incoming change.
5. Choose Cloud Migration Tools
There are numerous cloud migration tools to choose from. You can also choose a cloud migration service provider to help you finalize the best tools that can synchronize with your cloud deployment model and strategy.
6. Data and Application Migration
Based on your cloud migration strategy, you can move ahead with actual migration. Your technical support team can help you with the migration, or you can hire IT, experts and developers for a smooth cloud migration process.
Understanding and adhering to security and privacy protocols become essential at this stage.
7. Ensure Security and Cloud Management
Once the migration is complete, you can get most of the performance benefits while adding to the savings. However, ongoing maintenance of the cloud is also essential. That is why you need to assess cloud health continually with the help of cloud monitoring tools. What you need to track and monitor:
- Measure uptime performance
- Map memory utilization for virtual machines,
- Identify, analyze, and fix any security and utilization gaps
Cloud Migration Checklist
There is a lot to cover when it comes to cloud migration. So, before moving ahead with the cloud migration process, it is a safe strategy to create a migration checklist so that you stay on track without missing a beat of it.
Here are some key cloud migration considerations:
- Categorize workloads that you wish to maintain on-premises vs. the workloads you want to move to the cloud
- Choose a suitable cloud provider that suits your business size and corresponding needs. Run a comparison between shortlisted providers if necessary.
- Appoint an in-house team to execute migration or hire a cloud migration service provider to avoid roadblocks and loopholes
- Estimate costs for migration through cost calculators and total cost of ownership (TCO) calculators available with AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud Solution
- Communicate with the stakeholders to keep everyone in the loop
- Build a cloud migration roadmap, i.e., choose cloud migration strategy and create a timeline for execution
- Build team skills by introducing training sessions to accelerate the adoption of the organizational change
- Choose the right cloud migration tools for a smooth transition
- Establish KPIs for migration to ensure the effectiveness of migration
- Execute migration according to the laid out plan, either in phases or all at once
- Maintain and manage the cloud presence to ensure security, privacy, and uptime
Challenges of Cloud Migration
To navigate through cloud migration often seems a challenging task for organizations. It is easier said than done. Below is a glimpse of some challenges of cloud migration that you need to be aware of.
1. Temporary Downtimes
Your in-house servers can suffer downtime temporarily while migrating to the cloud. In turn, this can adversely affect the customer experience if the outage prolongs for unexpected intervals.
2. Architectural Complexities
Sometimes, it becomes tricky to match the chosen cloud strategy with the organization’s needs. Especially for executing hybrid environments, a lack of planning can lead to an overcomplicated architecture. To avoid this, focus on building a cloud migration architecture compatible with the in-house IT infrastructure.
3. Loss of Data
When migrating to the cloud, data loss is possible. Moreover, the risk of the breach is also magnified. To mitigate such risk, encryption should be considered seriously. Also, security protocols should be strictly adhered to avoid any loopholes.
4. Large Data Migrations
It takes a considerable amount of time to transfer larger volumes of data over the cloud. The larger the databases, the more the time it takes to move them over to the cloud servers. This could also result in prolonged downtimes or even data loss.
5. Skill Gap
The tech team that managed the physical servers might not feel comfortable handling the virtual servers. In this case, consider cross-functional training courses and also introduce new roles if it seems necessary.
What Applications Hold Scope for Cloud Migration?
It is not required to migrate all applications to the cloud, nor is it economical. The following table highlights the applications that should move to the cloud vs. those that should be maintained on-premises.
Frequently Asked Questions About Cloud Migration
1. Which Cloud Deployment Model is the best?
The public cloud offers flexibility and scalability through its pay-per-usage model. A private cloud is suitable for organizations that prioritize security and control. Whereas the hybrid model provides the best of both worlds, performance and connectivity lag might occur.
2. What is the Best and Most Reliable Cloud Service?
The choice of cloud migration service provider depends on your business and functional requirements. If you are looking for a wide range of services and tools, the AWS service for migration is recommended. If your organization primarily runs on Microsoft and Windows, Microsoft Azure is a suitable option. And if yours is a small-scale web-oriented startup that has been experimenting with machine learning, Google Cloud Platform is the right choice to make.
3. How to Switch Over to the Cloud?
There are mainly two phases of cloud migration:
- Do it all at once: When you have moved the necessary legacy infrastructure to the cloud and validated its success, you can shift your operations from on-premise to the cloud in one go.
- Transition in Phases: Move a few customers and the corresponding data over the cloud. See how it works and if everything seems to work just fine, move a few more until you eventually move everything to the cloud.
4. How Much Does Cloud Migration Cost?
The popular cloud migration service providers, i.e., AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud, work on a pay-as-you-go model, i.e., you only pay for what you use. Moreover, these service providers also offer tools such as price calculators and TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) calculators for estimating cloud expenditures based on the services and tools you choose.
5. What is Cloud Rightsizing?
If you select Rehost as your cloud migration strategy, you are, in a way lifting the workload from on-premise as it is and shifting it to the cloud. In this case, you would require excess compute and storage capacity, thus increasing the overall cost of ownership. To avoid this situation, rightsizing is needed, i.e., a practice to analyze workloads thoroughly to remove redundancies and outdated records.
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