This article is a guest post from Gilad David Mayaan.

Migrating applications to the cloud has become commonplace. Most companies have moved at least one service in the cloud, and hybrid cloud is an increasingly common strategy. Shifting operations to the cloud presents challenges about data protection during and after the move.

In this article, we’ll discuss effective tips to make the migration as seamless as possible, while protecting your data.

Cloud Migration: Benefits and Risks

Cloud migration is the process of transferring all or part of a company data, services and applications from an on-premises data center to the public cloud.

Some of the benefits of moving to the cloud include:

  • Scalabilitythe storage capacity can be scaled up or down as needed.
  • Reduce operational costs — cloud services enable companies to pay by time or resources consumed.
  • Low infrastructure costs — no need to maintain in-house servers, as well as lower hardware update costs.
  • Multi-layered security cloud security protects the data, applications, and infrastructure involved in the organization’s cloud at network and computer levels. Protects from advanced threats, and data leakage.
  • Disaster recovery — is a function that backs up all electronic records saved in the cloud environment and restores it in case of need. Solutions like N2WS AWS disaster recovery and CloudEndure seek to enable quick disaster recovery of critical IT systems without the need for a physical site.
  • Resources availability — servers, storage, and other services are at hand round the clock, with no downtime.

Moving to the cloud is a critical business decision not exempt from risks, though.

You should take into account the following aspects:

  • Compliance and regulations — can affect the use of an external IT provider, the type of information allowed to store in the cloud, how to handle the data and operations.
  • Security — there is always the possibility of data leakage or an attack. Companies should store or backup highly sensitive data outside the cloud.
  • Lack of compatibility —  between the organization’s infrastructure and the cloud provider.
  • Lack of control over performance — the organization should make sure with the cloud provider what they provide in terms of debugging, and how they can manage your application swiftly.
  • Vendor lock-in — present risks in the transfer of data, application, infrastructure and human resource knowledge to those of the vendor. If the transition is not smooth due to incompatibility or proprietary technology, it is difficult to move back on-premises.

There is no one-fits-all cloud model. Organizations can choose between public cloud and hybrid cloud, Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), or Platform as a Service (PaaS). Following we describe the most common cloud migration strategies.

Lift-and-shift The most commonly used. Imports and deploys applications and infrastructure to on-premises architecture without modifying them.
Re-architect and refactor Uses cloud services like database management, storage, and autoscaling. Updates the application components and middleware.
Cloud native Adapts and rewrite the applications to maximize cloud use.
Reconsider When the cloud is not the best choice for some applications as the advantages are not game-changers.

 

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Challenges of Cloud Migration

While migrating to the cloud can be beneficial for the organization, is not 100% risk-free.

Aspects to consider include: which applications to migrate, how to monitor and minimize the migration impact on users if the IT staff require special training to operate in a cloud environment.

There are challenges in the process for whose is better be prepared. Here we analyze them in depth:

  • Improper planning — not knowing your objectives or which applications and data should migrate can spell disaster. Analyze your infrastructure and decide what is going to migrate, in what order, and what applications need updating to work in the cloud.
  • Ignoring the risk of vendor lock-in — When working with a single vendor, the huge costs of switching can prevent the company to change providers if the need arises. This adds to the risk of outages from the vendor. A good strategy to minimize this can be to compare different providers before contracting, negotiating assistance with reconversion, and not auto-renewing the contracts.
  • Underestimating the security concerns — Security teams often doubt when moving sensitive data to the cloud. Cloud service providers often have their own security solutions to prevent attacks, detect threats and protect the data.
  • Not analyzing cloud strategy costs — Organizations are often lured for the relatively low cost of cloud computing and overlook the migration cost. This can present not so nice surprises. The company should evaluate the total cost of ownership. Cloud vendors charge for storage usage, computing, and network traffic, besides additional costs for certain services like was elastic IP addresses (EIP).
  • Not having a disaster recovery plan — Understand the risks and how your vendor will help with disaster recovery. For example, AWS disaster recovery supports many disaster recovery (DR) architectures, and their global network allows for fast data recovery.

8 Tips For a Smart Migration Plan

How can we address those challenges and assure the migration to the cloud to be successful? Following 8 tips to help your organization:

  • It’s a cross-organization project — Even if the main workload is done by IT, involve operations and business users at every stage. This helps with company accountability improving the migration results for all the organization.
  • Know your application architecture — Because applications don’t stand alone, understanding the application architecture and integration is critical before migrating it to the cloud. Analyze what resources they require, how is it built and in which environment it operates.
  • Know your user experience and application use — Understanding how users utilize and gain value from your app, can help prioritize which applications to migrate and in what order. Checking the user experience for glitches, connectivity issues and bugs can minimize the impact of the migration in users.
  • Check metrics with your own monitoring solution — Vendors generally provide with access to metrics and event streams. While this enables the company to detect and respond to changes in real-time, often doesn’t relate to the specific application performance, business value or traces distributed transactions. It’s important to use a monitoring solution that takes into account both the cloud services and compares the metrics with the application performance and user experience.
  • Small steps — Companies should start choosing a small component or application, migrate it and monitor the migration. This can serve as a pilot plan, identifying mistakes that can be solved for the master migration plan.
  • Use cloud bursting when needed — One of the main benefits of the cloud is the instant scalability. Cloud bursting enables on-premise applications to route overflow traffic to the public cloud, preventing service interruptions.
  • Keep track of business outcomes — Check that the performance of the application in the cloud match the business goals and accelerates growth.  For example, if the customer demand is low, maybe is not worth moving this application to the cloud.
  • Check the success of your migration regularly — Plan ways to show the success of the migration, before and after the move. Demonstrate the technical benefits of autoscaling, how the server response times are improved, how working worldwide improves user experience. From a business point of view, show the impact of the migration in response times and how working in the cloud improves engagement and conversion.

Conclusion

We discussed what to look for and what tips we need to migrate to the cloud successfully. No matter if you start with a single application or decide to redesign your entire architecture, these tips and practices can help your organization to avoid common pitfalls and migrate more smoothly. Migrating to the cloud is not a one-time effort, it is an ongoing process that requires careful planning but can help organizations deliver products, services and systems more efficiently to users.

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