The Ultimate Guide to Cloud Migration – Part 3

By Simon Mohr, CEO at SEM Solutions

This is the final part in a three part series, taken from ‘The Ultimate Guide to Cloud Migration’ by Simon Mohr and Databarracks. Did you miss Part One or Part Two? Alternatively you can download the full whitepaper here.

What good looks like

Migration is a complicated process, but it’s no dark art, and overcoming some of the most common (and most severe) pain points is often just a case of having prepared sufficiently. And yet there’s often a reticence in the mid-market to regard migration as the critical process it is, and therefore little to no concept of best practice.

This reticence is not present at the very top end of the market. The regional nuances and idiosyncrasies (from both a technical and process standpoint) make migration a dizzyingly complex exercise for global companies with disparate workforces and IT environments.

Consequently, larger organisations or heavily regulated industries often have very fixed ideas about how migrations should be conducted, and plan for them accordingly. Processes must be bulletproof, with clear, accountable owners assigned to every aspect. Migration at this level is necessarily laborious, and the organisations carrying them out simply can’t afford the catastrophic disruption that failure would cause.

This diligence is a matter of necessity, and is also reflected in the accompanying documentation. One of the main migration guides used by large organisations is nearly 600 pages long and distils hugely complex moves, such as consolidating servers from multiple geographical data centres, into standardised processes.

These rigours permeate the entire migration strategy – it’s not unheard of for companies to spend upwards of 200 man days on the data gathering process alone, and this kind of attention to detail is reflective of what is needed at the lower end of the market, although at the moment it’s completely absent.

It’s rare for smaller companies to even anticipate migration projects, let alone have a firm grasp of best practice. Obviously smaller companies don’t merit hundreds of man hours of planning – but efforts must be scaled down in a relative fashion rather than starting from scratch and meeting needs as they arise.

SMEs would be well advised to follow the lead of larger organisations and establish some standardised processes relevant to their size and complexity. Doing so not only saves money on initial discovery and scoping exercises with migration consultants, but aligns the outcome of the migration itself to more long term business need.


Migration doesn’t just happen overnight. Not without planning at least. In fact, Bloor Research’s ‘Data Migration in the Global 2000′ survey found that in migration projects, insufficient scope definition caused:

  • Over 50% of respondents to run over budget
    Over two-thirds to run over timescale
  • A failure to plan sufficiently isn’t necessarily indicative of technical difficulty. Quite the opposite in fact: the biggest migration challenges are usually a question of perception.

Many of the customers I work with are regularly surprised when the migration process is painless; there’s frequently an expectation that it will be disruptive and costly and take too long. This attitude almost always stems from some common misconceptions that can cumulatively have a considerable impact on the success of a migration project:

‘We don’t need no administration’

Value your system administrators. Whilst it’s true that many organisations are reducing their internal IT function in favour of cloud-provider SLAs, maintaining a clear view of your IT systems and data will pay for itself once it’s time to migrate

‘Migration is a purely technical challenge’

Leave the technical hurdles to the migration partners – that’s their speciality. Migration is primarily a business challenge and the surest indicator of success is clear process and open communication. Establish some best practice; there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, much less industry-standard methodology.

‘Downtime is an opportunity for change’

Don’t combine upgrade programmes or big systems changes with migration projects. There’s a reason scheduled downtime is ‘scheduled’ – it’s time set aside for intensive work with known entities. Limit the variables you’re working with as much as possible.

‘Our service provider will complete the migration for us’

This obviously depends on what is being migrated, but many organisations are still surprised when cloud providers do not offer migration services. As IT has become more complex, dedicated migration partners are frequently required.

Ultimately though, the best piece of migration advice for anyone who owns a digital environment is to not let the need arise unexpectedly. Position it as an expected event under the total cost of ownership. You’ll sidestep the financial and operational shock of discovering it as an urgent need and encourage better day-to-day data management policies.

This attitude is steadily improving. Organisations are getting smarter about migration, and many are now choosing to work with experienced migration partners after recognising it as the self-contained process it is. Doing so almost always makes the movement of data, applications and infrastructure a non-disruptive process.

You can download the full whitepaper here.

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