The Cloud Journey – A Guide To Migrating Databases To Cloud

Cloud adoption continues to boom – as companies seek to meet growing business demands, they are increasingly exploring the power of the cloud and are adopting cloud-based architectures. Today, cloud computing has become an integral part of the ‘digital revolution’ of businesses and it is estimated that cloud services spending will reach$160 billion by the end of this year. From mobile working to file back up and disaster recovery, cloud adoption offers a multitude of modernisation opportunities, including the opportunity to modernize legacy databases and migrate databases to the cloud. In fact, due to the advantages of moving to cloud-based database services, 63 per cent of database administrator surveyed for the 2017 IOUG Database Replication Survey, said they plan to migrate to the cloud within the next two to three years.

The advantages of moving databases to the cloud

It is true that a large portion of IT is moving to the cloud, but companies following suit are not just jumping on the bandwagon solely for the reason of following an IT trend. When it comes to moving databases to the cloud, what is propelling this movement are the key advantages that the cloud offers to organisations: lower costs, flexibility, reliability, and security.

 When adopting cloud computing, the first priority for the business is often the possibility of lower maintenance costs, and this holds true when it comes to database migration to the cloud. By migrating to the cloud, businesses are able to permanently eliminate a large proportion of capital expenses for hardware and software. Not only that, but the organisation will be free from the operating expenses of installing, maintaining, updating, patching, and retiring databases without the additional administration overhead.

Another benefit of working in the cloud is the flexibility it offers. For example, when managers want to stand up a development environment with a database, they can create it immediately, get their developers working on it in no time and scale it up and down. In turn, this scalability ensures that needs and resources are closely matched. Building on the advantages of lower costs and flexibility, migration to the cloud also offers reliability and redundancy as cloud providers employ great numbers of administrators to run data centres. These administrators ensure that there is no single point of failure, creating a reliable service for the organisation operating in the cloud.

Additionally, although moving data out of a business’ on-site facilities and entrusting valuable data to other companies and people may seem dangerous to those with traditional views on cloud and security, in fact, the opposite holds true. Security in the cloud can often be stronger than security on premises. Why? Data is the lifeblood for cloud providers, and it is one of their top priorities to keep it safe. Therefore, providers have armies of experts in security who ensure data kept on the cloud is safe from threats – from tracking security bulletins to undergoing white-hat penetration testing on their own servers for security assurance, cloud providers are dedicated to keeping your data safe, behind a virtual barbed wire fence. There are few companies who would have the resources or technical depth for the same dedication to cloud security. 

With the benefits of database migration to the cloud in mind, it is still important to remember that moving databases to the cloud is a complex process done in multiple phases. It is crucial that the business factors in the possible challenges of the process when making the decision to migrate.

The threat of downtime

When migrating databases to the cloud, the threat of downtime is the number one barrier to be overcome. On a migration project for a multi-terabyte CRM database for example, sysadmins usually are required to stop all user input, export the existing database and import it to the new database in the cloud, a process which could take several days to complete. This is why the business must ask the question: ‘Can we afford downtime, and how long can we afford it for?’.

Fortunately, whilst a certain period of downtime is unavoidable, it is possible for the period to last less than an hour with adequate planning and risk management. To achieve the short downtime goal, dedicated database replication and migration tools can work to ensure that once the source and target databases are coordinated and database replication has begun, users can go seamlessly from working on the old database to working on the new cloud-based one. It is also important to keep the existing system’s data accessible while database administrators are setting up the new system.

With the downtime challenge overcome, it is clear that when it comes to migrating databases to the cloud, the benefits far outweigh the challenges. Once a business makes the decision to migrate databases to the cloud, the next stage is making the move itself.

How to successfully migrate a database to the cloud

There are a few different approaches to moving databases to the cloud. For example, an organisation may choose to develop brand-new applications using databases in the cloud without migrating old databases at all. In this case, as queries on historical data could arise, on-premises storage remains and as do some of associated hardware and software costs. Alternatively, an organisation can decide to switch an entire on-premises database to a database in the cloud suddenly, over a weekend. However, this is a high-risk approach which increases the possibility of extended downtime.

With these two approaches in mind, it is crucial to remember cloud migration is a journey and not a destination, especially when starting the database migration process. Organisations are better advised to approach database migration by identifying low-impact tables and schemas such as development, QA databases or use cases like data integration, disaster recovery and offloaded reporting that require data availability but do not interfere with application uptime. Alternatively, organisations can replicate data from an on-premises source database to a target database in the cloud.

Whichever path to migrating to the cloud an organisation chooses; it is vital to remember that planning is key. Adequate planning of database migration will ensure a successful migration with little to no workflow disruption. Users should be able to execute tasks like reporting, querying and analysis throughout the process and applications running on those databases before, during or after migration should not be affected– this makes for a successful database migration.

Start the journey

As cloud adoption continues to grow, it has become the norm rather than the exception, and offers a wide range of advantages compared to traditional infrastructures, especially in the case of databases. With lower costs, flexibility, reliability, and better security than on-site database sources, organisations yet to make the first step in cloud computing should start today.

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