Cloud computing enables organisations to dramatically scale their operations and provide greater access to their networks while maintaining security and cost-efficiency. Migrating to the cloud can be challenging and expensive, but is well worth the effort once you have successfully moved your data storage and IT operations to a cloud network.
Many businesses are choosing to adopt a cloud environment because the flexibility and scalability of the cloud make it a competitive advantage. A major benefit of cloud computing is that it provides redundancy, which allows you to restore your data. Moving to the cloud can also help companies expand their operations while mitigating the risks of IT outages and data loss.
Organisations can choose between various public, private, hybrid, or multi-cloud solutions. Public clouds are multi-tenant environments, meaning that you share computing resources with other users. They are cost-efficient and easy to manage.
Private clouds are single-tenant environments, so they are more secure than public clouds and offer the customer greater control. The drawback is that private clouds require greater management, and their scalability is limited because you have to acquire new infrastructure to expand.
Many organisations opt for hybrid solutions, which combine private and public clouds to maximise security whilst maintaining scalability and efficiency. You can rely on public infrastructure for less sensitive requirements, and transition to a private environment when handling privileged data. Multi-cloud solutions are similar, except they combine services from multiple providers. However, these solutions can be expensive and complex to manage.
The various cloud services on offer can generally be divided into three categories. Software as a service (SaaS) is the most popular option, as it allows you to access pre-engineered software. The provider handles the technical side so you don’t have to. An example is Gmail. Infrastructure as a service (IaaS) involves renting computing resources like servers and storage space from a cloud provider. Platform as a service (PaaS) combines the two so customers can customise their cloud infrastructure without having to build everything from scratch.
Challenges of Moving to the Cloud
There are several issues to consider when attempting to implement cloud migration. Many organisations fail to adequately plan the move and end up facing unpredicted costs and delays. Some pitfalls to look out for are:
- Vendor lock-in—some organisations come to rely too heavily on a single cloud provider, which makes it difficult to switch to a new service.
- Unexpected costs—if you don’t adequately plan your budget, your cloud operation costs can rise exponentially. If you fail to predict your future needs, you might not select the most cost-effective cloud solution.
- Security—managing cloud security can be challenging. If you rely exclusively on a public cloud, you have little control over the environment, because you share the same computing resources with other users.
- Time and complexity—migrating your entire workload to the cloud can be time-consuming and technically complex. Some organisations don’t have the necessary know-how to implement it.
- Legacy software—some legacy applications are difficult to migrate, especially if you lack visibility into your legacy components, or if you don’t have a proper migration plan. For example, apps with a monolithic mainframe are harder to rehost.
- Workplace culture—siloisation (lack of collaboration between departments) is a major obstacle to an agile work process. Development and business teams often view the security and technical aspects of migration as someone else’s responsibility, leaving the IT department, and this attitude can hinder a successful migration.
8 Tips to Plan Your Migration to the Cloud
It is important to plan your migration in advance. The following practices can help ensure a smooth and efficient transition to the cloud.
1. Understand Which Cloud Solution Fits Your Needs
Before you attempt to move to the cloud, you need to analyse your workload and research the available cloud services and tools that can help you migrate. Evaluate which cloud offerings meet your operational requirements, taking into consideration cost, usability, flexibility, scalability, security, and access.
You should only select a cloud service that lets you track usage and billing data. Another issue to consider is redundancy and data assurance. You should use a cloud solution that allows you to back up your data easily. For example, AWS clouds allow you to back up your data as EBS Snapshots.
2. Decide on a Cloud Migration Strategy
Having a clear migration strategy is the most important element of a successful plan. There are several ways to move your applications to the cloud, including rehosting, replatforming, and refactoring.
Rehosting, also known as lift-and-shift, is the simplest and fastest method. The cloud provider hosts your existing software without you having to modify it first. However, rehosting is not the most efficient way to make the most of the cloud.
Replatforming is the next step up. You modify your infrastructure slightly, but the cloud provider takes care of most of the infrastructure and maintenance. It allows you to keep your core architecture while reducing management and operation and licensing costs.
Refactoring, also known as re-architecting, is the most advanced, and therefore the most time-consuming, approach. Your entire software and infrastructure are adapted for the new environment, allowing you to take full advantage of the flexibility and cloud. However, this strategy requires greater expertise and a larger up-front investment.
Migrating large networks or heavy legacy applications can be difficult, so you might want to opt for a phased migration strategy, starting with rehosting, and then working your way up to a full refactor. Start with small applications and expand your migration efforts incrementally so you can learn as you go and refine your migration plan.
3. Plan Your Budget:
Cost is often the main incentive for moving to the cloud, but not all cloud offerings are cost-efficient for every workload. Estimate your cloud computing costs before you attempt any migration. Factors to consider include licensing, setup, and data storage costs, as well as ongoing maintenance costs. Bear in mind that low upfront costs (as in rehosting) can cost you more further down the track. A greater upfront investment (as in refactoring) can generate significant savings in the future. You can refer to a cloud calculator or migration consultant to help you budget for the cloud.
4. Know Your Applications:
Keep track of your open source components and legacy software in an inventory. To ensure visibility, run a discovery to identify any applications or components you may have overlooked. If you lose visibility into your applications, you cannot properly maintain them or resolve vulnerabilities. A discovery can also help you determine which components you can do without, so you can reduce your migration footprint. Some architecture components are easily replaced on the cloud.
5. Embrace Automation:
Automate the repeatable elements of your migration strategy to accelerate the process and improve consistency. Automation also helps you streamline builds and edits while reducing human error so you can avoid downtime.
6. Plan for Maintenance:
Allocate funds and time for ongoing management. Moving to the cloud reduces your management burden, as the cloud provider handles most of your hardware and software maintenance needs. However, this doesn’t mean you can rest on your laurels. You will need to assess your needs on an ongoing basis, scaling capacity or even switching providers to respond to new demands.
7. Adopt a Culture of Shared Responsibility:
This is perhaps the most challenging factor to implement. Your entire organisation, including developers, operations staff, and business leaders, should be involved in the cloud migration process from the beginning. Don’t leave it to IT or engineering. Achieving this may require training your staff or adopting new communication protocols to ensure that every department collaborates and shares responsibility for the migration. The idea is to shift the mindset at your workplace and make your staff more comfortable with cloud services.
8. Prepare a Disaster Recovery Plan:
You need to have a cloud-based disaster recovery (DR) solution in place. This is cheaper than an on-premise DR solution. Use a DR plan that replicates your on-premise infrastructure in the cloud and continuously updates your data. This will allow you to continue working as normal, via the cloud, in the event that your hardware is damaged.
As speed and scale drive up the competitiveness of apps, more and more organisations are turning to the cloud. If you don’t want your business to fall behind, you should consider migrating your applications to the cloud. However, before you do, make sure you are ready with a well-thought-out migration plan.