For many businesses, cloud computing may seem like a simple technology to adopt. However, the transition phase can result in massive IT related headaches. One cannot simply just turn on a switch to cloud computing. Your business will need to first create a comprehensive migration plan that accounts for service providers as well as the impending security issues that come with it.
Cloud computing is growing to become a critical element in IT infrastructures for businesses of all sizes. Whether your business wants to move its data from an internal private cloud to an external hosting provider; or whether your only changing your service provider, there are a few critical aspects that you need to consider.
What is Cloud Migration?
Before going into making any complex considerations, it is critical that you are clear with the basics. The process of cloud migration essentially involves partial or complete transfer of a business’ digital assets, IT resources, applications and services onto a cloud platform. This process quintessentially involves merging an onsite IT infrastructure with a hybrid cloud based solutions. This can be accessed over the World Wide Web at a pre-determined fee.
Hybrid cloud solutions typically tend to make transitions between one or more cloud service providers. The services are offered on an on-demand and provisioned server keeping in mind the services, applications and space used.
Cloud migration is an essential need for businesses today that wish to achieve real time and upgraded performance efficiency. It is thus, that the entire process demands significant analysis, planning and execution to make sure that the cloud solutions are compatible with the requirements of your business.
Why should your Business be Migrating on to the Cloud?
Most companies face a similar set off challenges when it comes to cloud based migrations. For instance, a growing number of rogue IT expenses is resulting in uncontrolled cloud sprawls. This means that there is a vast proliferation of workload on the cloud platform. This in turn is impacting budgets, threatening the security of critical business information and resulting in incongruent workloads all throughout the cloud platform.
By moving workloads on the cloud, businesses are able to reduce the workload on existing hardware resources. Even if you are using a private cloud platform, your business will require much less hardware due to the better utilization of the pooled resources. However, to achieve this, the existing hardware may also need to be re-purposed as servers for cloud.
Moving to a public cloud, on the other hand, can help dramatically reduce the need for in house services. This means that your business can shift its financial structure from capital to operational expenses. Furthermore, your business will now be in a position to better utilize physical floor space that was conventionally taken up hardware infrastructure and also minimizing energy expenses.
One of the most critical advantages of adopting cloud is the reduction of management costs. With a variety of solutions available to make the transfer of server workloads to the cloud easily, the migration is a lot easier and affordable. A major influence to this is the fact that cloud IaaS environments that are responsible to meet the processing capabilities of a workload are easily created at will.
Furthermore, physical characteristics such as the operating systems and other software functionalities are done away with, permitting businesses to leverage the easy compatibility of workloads with cloud environments. With the help of an effective cloud management tool, businesses are able to gain sufficient visibility and control of the workloads on the new platform.
Another major upshot of the features of cloud platforms is the excellent scope it offers to IT organizations. A large number of IT companies are stuck in the never ending cycle of trying to meet the demands of their clients with regards to the development and maintenance of customized business platforms. This needs to be achieved while keeping the costs in control. Information technology as a discipline is seen as a highly tactical one that is unable to reduce its burn rate. IT companies can use cloud technologies in aiding other businesses to make IT a strategic member of their business functionality.
The Advent of Cloud Technology
There is no denying that the exodus of cloud migration is well in action. While a few small businesses are still vary about the risks of transferring critical data into a cloud platform, the benefits of this technology outweigh the risks involved.
Cloud computing is known to directly address a variety of challenges small and large businesses face in today’s tech driven world. These challenges have a lot to do with the general sentiment that IT is not responsive enough to meet the changing needs of the business.
It is not common for one to hear the following complaints:
- The IT environment at our organization is too complicated.
- The IT function is seldom able to respond quickly to the evolving needs of the business.
- The Speed of the existing systems do not meet the expectations of the user.
- The current infrastructure is unable to consistently scale to support the fast growing needs.
- The performance metrics is derived using rules that are too complex.
- There is an ever widening gap between the actual features used and the functionality of the system.
- The IT department is unable to maintain pace with the advancements in technology.
- Businesses are unable to find talent that can support the new technology.
- Operating and capital costs are constantly escalating.
The answer to all these problems is evidently, cloud computing. However, for its actual effectiveness, businesses need to consider the following questions:
- What are the underlying drivers in your business that compel you to tap into cloud? Is it for new functionality or applications; or is it to move your existing solutions?
- How clearly are these drivers defined and communicated to the relevant project team?
- What needs of the business will be served by the cloud solution?
- Will the cloud solution work with other systems or will it work independently?
- Will the planned solution be a part of an already established cloud platform?
- How many users will access this platform?
- What kind of training and support will be required?
- What is cost for the lifecycle of this solution?
- Are you able to find a service provider offering a “pay per use” model to enhance your cash flow?
While it is easy to think of this migration as a process a simple as pressing a button and then letting the system do its job; you need to think about your overall organization goals and the scope of the system to help you achieve it. It is important that you are clear about whether your company is looking at achieving cost savings or operational efficiency, or both from this migration.
Even though you feel that replacing some of your legacy workloads with SaaS solutions that already exist of cloud can be a good thing; making significant changes to the conventional services provided by your existing IT infrastructure come with unintended risks and other problems for your users. Careful planning while migrating to new cloud applications is critical before you completely replace your legacy systems. This means, that before you jump the gun with the new cloud based applications, you need to also find a path that helps retain your legacy systems without any disruption. This can be easily done even while you acquire the benefits of a cloud platform.
Guide to Efficient Cloud Migration
Spending Sufficient Time and Effort to Find the Right Cloud Service Provider
When selecting a service provider, make it a point to do your research right. If you are changing providers due to performance issues, you may have already learnt a few lessons that can help you find a new one. It is important that you pay fine attention to the service level agreements and also take into consideration the support factor when calculating the overall cost of the service. Also make sure that the cloud architecture in question is compatible with the existing systems in your business.
Treating this Project just like any Other IT Project
Before starting the migration, sit with your service provider to create a project plan that highlights risks and offers a test platform to make sure everything will run smoothly. If possible, make it a point to maintain the test platform for the sake of future migrations. It is important that you test the migration before you start working on any critical data.
After the data transfer, make it a point to perform a validation test to make sure that all the systems and applications are functioning just as expected. Also check a sample of critical data to make sure it has been effectively migrated.
Keeping in Mind the Security Risks
As soon as your migration procedure is complete, one of the first things you need to check for is the security of the data in its new environment. However, before this stage, remember to make security a vital consideration while selecting a service provider. Engage an ethical hacker to work on your applications and attempt access to your information.
If any flaws are discovered in this process take your service provider to task to fix any issues that make your business information vulnerable. It is best to discover the problem early on that to have your client’s confidential information end up on a public server in a foreign land.
While selecting a service provider, remember to check the quality of their data encryption, firewalls and authentication services. Cloud data migration as a process needs to be taken very seriously and handled with utmost care. If this process fails or if your data is compromised, your business can face serious consequences. By working closely with a reputed service provider you can make sure your migration is secure and effective.
Planning your Migration
Even though implementing a transfer exercise may seem like a straight forward process, there are chances of a variety of risks if not done in the correct way. Before you commit to any data migration exercise, it is important that you understand and plan for these risks to facilitate the successful deployment of this technology. A well planned and executed cloud computing solution can significantly help improve the functionality and offer an opportunity to leverage the system for process growth.
If you wish for your IT infrastructure to effectively partner with the business, the stakeholders involved need to work closely with the system integrators as well as the project team for the purpose of:
- Clearly stating the objective of the business for the migration.
- Defining the scope of the migration project.
- Define a set of guiding principles that need to be followed.
A quintessential cloud migration process consists of the following stages:
Stage I: Planning
- Determining the key business drivers.
- Defining the objectives of the business.
- Acquiring executive sponsorship.
- Defining the guiding principles for the project.
- Creation of a project team that consists of IT as well as business representatives.
- Development of a comprehensive project plan that includes defining the business requirements; setting up of key success indicators; creating a timeline and identifying the decision making authorities.
Stage II: Execute
- Executing the Plan.
- Staying focused on the original scope of the project. This is often a challenge, especially in cases where a replacement of a major legacy application with large users is taking place.
- Remembering to adhere to the guiding principles at all times.
- Making it a habit to communicate with all the stakeholders on a regular basis.
- Training all the users of the solution.
Stage III: Monitor
- Finding ways to regularly monitor the adoption.
- Keep a rack of the performance indicators and success metrics.
- Focusing on the originally determined scope. This helps determine the success or the failure of the entire migration project.
- Follow the guiding principles.
- Implement only those changes that fulfill quantifiable business requirements.
Steps to Effectively Carrying Forward the Cloud Migration Process
The idea behind the migration process is to adopt a cloud model that is cohesive to business growth. The system integrators responsible for this migration must consider following these steps for best results:
- Start by preparing the virtual machine instances (VMIs). This is the quickest and most effective way for a business to get started on the cloud platform.
- In the next step, load applications in the cloud in a way that it eliminates any overheads with regards to software management, maintenance and support related to the running of these applications on a local server.
- In addition to this, businesses should remember to upgrade their software to their respective cloud versions instead of simply transferring the ones that are currently in use. Most conventional applications are not designed for the cloud. Check with the software service provider for more information on such upgrades.
- Now, you can begin to upload the data. To decrease the lead time required for complete data transfer, businesses are recommended that they run logic and processing in the cloud and leave all the databases in the data center. If you are facing trouble in uploading the data, make sure that you have a backup mechanism that helps ship a tape or a disk that can be loaded for the transfer.
- It is also important that the business and the cloud service provider find the right source and form of connectivity. While performing a stock of all the workloads that need to be transferred, you also need to assess the bandwidth required for each application or data. This will help you make a decision with regards to relying on a public internet versus leasing a dedicated line for connectivity.
- It is also important that you employ federated management and logon systems which help in effective management of access controls and compliance in the cloud. Wherever available, these need to be installed with the first VMI. This helps ensure that when other VMIs are created, they are effectively picked up by the management tools.
- As already highlighted earlier in this article, to be able to fully leverage the potential of cloud, it is critical that your system integrators fully implement security. The firewall security, for instance, needs to be a critical task in the pre-prepared VMIs with all ports locked down by default. Furthermore, businesses should be encouraged to use and synchronize the firewalls across all the VMIs that are created. In addition to this, also access other security tools such as ones that detect intrusion and systems that constantly keep a check on the security for preventive measures. Most cloud service providers offer this as a value added service.
- Finally, it is important that you find ways to implement effective disaster recovery services to reduce the risk of interruption in business processes. Many system integrators recommend the use of hybrid models which storage technologies write the data in cloud as well as on premise storage solutions. This helps minimize the risk of disruption as much as possible.
It is the job of the IT sector to foresee business turbulence and find ways to provide effective solutions in an innovative and cost effective manner. Cloud computing is one such piece of technology designed specifically to cater to the ongoing needs of the business world.
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