For many companies, the cloud's flexibility, predictable payment structures and economies of scale are too attractive to ignore. According to a survey from CloudReach, more than one-quarter of U.S. IT leaders (27.5%) believe that large-scale cloud migrations were essential for business survival in 2020.
Moving to the cloud is a process that unfolds over time. It takes planning, collaboration and a value-driven approach. When you do it right, your new cloud assets will continue to drive your company's growth, support and sustain your business efforts, are easy to manage, and generate cost savings for you in the long term.
Let Business Value Drive Your Approach to Cloud Migration
The most successful migrations deal with the “why” aspect of the project as much as the “how.” Those organizations spend time understanding what assets have the most value to their operations, and they use that knowledge to create their migration roadmaps. Your asset inventory will help you identify what those assets are.
In some circumstances, you may want to migrate critical assets first. Other times, it could make more sense to migrate non-mission critical assets first. Either way, take your cues from your understanding of the business value of your assets.
And be prepared for this to be a process that unfolds in phases. This helps ensure uptime for all of the systems that power your business. "For example, you could choose to migrate a human resources portal that is meaningful to employees but does not impact revenue or customer service capabilities," notes James Ball, vice president of global alliances at Navisite. "Later, move on to more mission-critical applications." This phased approach — moving one system at a time — helps ensure that the migration will have the least impact on the business’s operations.
Keep in mind, too, your reasons for making the migration in the first place. Those reasons could include any of the following:
- Physical infrastructure leaves little room for growth or flexibility. When your organization is bound by the capacity of its on-premises infrastructure, it can be hard to scale up if, for example, evolving business realities bring droves of new customers to you. During the pandemic, this was a reality for businesses in the online retail and fintech sectors. The elasticity of the cloud environment is a major advantage for most organizations because they can customize how much data they use and where they store that data without having to implement expensive upgrades and system changes, Elizabeth Wallace writes at Open Data Science.
- Migrating to the cloud creates cost efficiencies. Maintaining and supporting IT infrastructure is expensive when you have to pay support teams, for data centers and for facility management. You can significantly reduce your costs by letting a reliable cloud provider handle that work. Further, you alleviate stress on your IT team and reduce the hiring, onboarding and training costs for your IT staff.
- The cloud can make your business more secure and more resilient. Typical disaster recovery (DR) set-ups include physical mirroring of IT assets in a different physical location. Since they're still physical assets, IT infrastructures need a regular schedule of maintenance, support, repair and replacement. By migrating your DR infrastructure to the cloud, you'll store critical data and applications online and can failover to it quickly when needed. Cloud DR services are often provided on a pay-as-you-go basis, so you're only paying for it if you actually use it. But it's not just a matter of setting it and forgetting it with your cloud apps. "(A) big part of any DR plan is doing continuous testing for partial cloud failures," IT journalist David Strom writes.
As the migration takes shape, organizations that understand the business value of their assets and how that value informs the reasons for the migration will be able to create clearer roadmaps for their teams.
What a Migration Strategy Looks Like
Here's a quick look at some of the different cloud migration strategies you can use today.
Also referred to as lift-and-shift, rehosting moves an entire infrastructure as-is to the cloud. It's a quick migration approach that can reduce some capital expenditures in the short term. Rehosting is typically done if you're swapping like-for-like applications and systems without any switches, additions or retirements.
One downside to rehosting is that you may move existing issues to the cloud and still have to deal with them there. If you lift and shift bad databases directly to the cloud, David Linthicum at InfoWorld writes, you'll have to "loop back and fix things once you figure out that the database architecture in the cloud is not optimized."
This approach is a variation on rehosting where an organization optimizes its infrastructure before migrating but retains the core architecture of the system. For example, you might move a system from a licensed vendor to its open-source equivalent when you migrate to the cloud. The architecture stays the same, but you enjoy significant cost savings.
With this approach, you're moving a legacy system to a cloud-based provider, typically a SaaS product. As examples, you may move your HR system to Workday or your CRM to Salesforce.
Refactor or Re-Architect
Here, you're re-imagining how the application or system is architected and developed, typically using cloud-based features or functionality. It requires a significant time and effort commitment to do but can lead to massive business gains if done properly. It's typically driven by a strong business need to add features, scale to match growth or offer better performance than what you're getting now.
Refactoring migration is more complex than other methods because organizations have to be sure those changes don't affect the external behavior of the app, writes Gaurav Mishra of Srijan Technologies.
Retire or Retain
Sometimes it's not worth keeping the application or solution you have once you move to the cloud, so it may be time to retire it. You'll only know if you've audited your current infrastructure to see what's still being used. A good portion of your IT portfolio may no longer serve a purpose and can be eliminated without sacrificing functionality or workflow.
Conversely, if you're still waiting out an asset's depreciation period, aren't ready to move an application that was recently upgraded, or are otherwise not inclined to migrate a system or piece of infrastructure, you can retain it. You should only migrate what makes sense for your business, and you can revisit the asset in the future if it doesn't.
Successful Migrations Plan for Organizational Change
Since migrating systems will affect everyone in the business and possibly even customers, organizations should create plans for:
- How they will announce the changes.
- How they will roll them out in a phased approach.
- How they will troubleshoot issues that arise during the transition.
In many ways, a cloud migration involves a cultural change just as much as it involves a technical change, writes Gemma Horsell, strategic partner manager at Cloud Business in the U.K. This means organizational buy-in is also key. "You need senior leaders ... to provide support and secure buy-in for cloud migration from all users," Horsell writes.
A technical advisory board (TAB) can advocate for all areas of the organization to ensure all needs are heard and addressed. As you lay out all phases of your migration — from planning to execution to maintenance — reach out to the TAB for comment on the strategy.
Include Maintenance in Your Roadmap
Because migrations are a process, there will be ongoing assessments and maintenance tasks to account for. Post-migration planning should be baked into the migration roadmap to account for this.
Plan to assess and iterate immediately post-migration as needed. This helps to smooth out any bumps that appear during the transition. Employees may be dealing with new processes after the migration and will need help "circumnavigating any productivity loss during the data migration," IT journalist Joe Devanesan writes.
Assess and iterate regularly afterward, too. This helps ensure you're getting the most out of your cloud services. New cloud services and features are launched frequently. When better tools are released, you can switch to them as needed quickly and efficiently because you're already in the cloud.
Get Professional Help for the Move
The cloud is a key driver for business today, allowing companies to embrace technology in all areas. A migration is a big undertaking for any company. With a well-thought-out strategy, and a reliable partner to help you execute the move, your cloud migration will go more smoothly and set you up for success.
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