10 Precautions Your Business Should Take When Transitioning to the Cloud
More and more businesses are moving parts or all of their IT operations to the cloud. According to one estimate, in 2019 about 60% of business workloads were being hosted in the cloud. And that figure can only be expected to increase. For many businesses, the advantages the cloud offers, such as reduced costs, increased flexibility, higher scalability, and easier disaster recovery, are too compelling to forego.
Yet migrating a company's IT processes to the cloud is not a trivial undertaking. Many companies have experienced unexpected disruptions because they weren't as prepared for the transition as they thought they were.
Risks of migrating to the cloud
Transitioning a company's IT operations to the cloud can be a lengthy and complex undertaking. For example, migrating large amounts of data from your data center to the cloud is a task that must be done very carefully. Not only is it time-consuming, but it also requires that you take great care to maintain data security on both ends of the transfer, as well as while the data is in transit. Also, if there is a period during the changeover process when some applications are hosted in the cloud while others have not yet been moved, it may be difficult to ensure that synchronization between cloud data and on-premises data is maintained.
Other risks you'll potentially face during a cloud migration process include performance issues due to cloud latency effects, lack of needed cloud expertise among your staff, and becoming dependent on a single cloud services vendor.
When a cloud migration project is not done well, company operations can be significantly disrupted and costs can soar, with negative impacts on both employees and customers. Yet, with good planning and proper up-front precautions, your transition to the cloud can be seamless both for users and for day-to-day company operations.
Precautions you should take before starting a cloud migration project
Let's take a look at some of the precautions you should take to ensure that your company doesn't become one of those whose transition to the cloud is more difficult than it should be.
1. Be sure you have a clear business purpose for your move to the cloud
Your migration should arise from a clear and specific vision of what you want your business to become in the future.
What are your business goals that only a transition to the cloud can help you meet? What specific use cases are driving the migration? What will your move to the cloud allow you to do that you couldn't do as well with your current IT infrastructure?
Until you can provide compelling answers to questions such as these, you're not ready to proceed with a cloud migration project.
2. Make sure all significant stakeholders are on board
Employees at various levels of your company must buy into the transition; they are the ones who will be most affected by it, and who you will depend on to make it work. Get their insight into how having the applications they depend on hosted in the cloud might affect their operations. Could there be latency issues, for example? Or security concerns. Will the way applications function need to change?
Keeping these stakeholders involved from the beginning will help reduce some of the expressions of discontent that are normally voiced when the inevitable hiccups in the process occur.
3. Map out a clear and comprehensive long-term cloud strategy
It's important to think long-term, and not be swayed by current temporary pain points, or by the allure of near-term cost reductions. The cloud is a long term commitment, and you need to understand how it can meet your company's needs not only now, but as your marketplace and your corporate goals evolve over time.
In particular, your strategy should include an assessment of which parts of your IT infrastructure are currently cloud-ready, which parts should be moved at a later date, and which must remain in your on-site data center for security or performance reasons.
You should also focus on what type of cloud implementation will serve you best: single-cloud vs multi-cloud, public vs private vs hybrid cloud, etc.
4. Understand your current IT and data center environment
You should survey and assess your present IT operation, including every piece of hardware and software in your data center. Identify the specific applications that will be moved. What are their constraints, such as data dependencies and performance or I/O requirements? What are your key performance indicators (KPIs), and will these remain relevant after the transition? What cloud service offerings are available to handle these demands?
Don't forget to determine whether there are licensing issues that might affect your ability to transfer software from your servers to virtual servers in the cloud; your existing licenses may not automatically extend to the cloud.
5. Map out a realistic migration strategy
The most common reason for failure in cloud migration projects is inadequate up-front planning. Of course, you can't foresee everything that might happen during the transition process, but recovering quickly and avoiding disruptions are easier when you are working from a well-thought-out plan. And, of course, when the plan hasn't been sufficiently thought through, the probability of unforeseen issues and disruptions is magnified.
Gartner's five Rs framework provides useful options you can choose from in deciding how your applications and IT services will be migrated.
- Rehost (with no changes) on an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) platform.
- Refactor for Platform as a Service (PaaS) hosting.
- Revise for IaaS or PaaS.
- Rebuild on PaaS.
- Replace with Software as a Service (SaaS) offerings.
Rehosting (often called "lift-and-shift") tends to be the simplest approach. The downside is that any preexisting shortcomings in the design or implementation of your applications will carry over as well.
One thing to be aware of is that a transition to cloud operations will not be instantaneous. In the interim between when you start the migration and when it is completed, you will essentially be operating in a hybrid environment. This is especially an issue when moving large amounts of data; keeping the on-premises and cloud data in sync, especially when there are many data dependencies, requires careful planning.
In laying out a timeline for the migration, allow for unforeseen issues that can cause unanticipated delays.
6. Develop a realistic assessment of the costs of the migration
A major driver for cloud migration is cost reduction. But be sure to carefully analyze the costs you will incur based on your own mix of applications and the pricing model of your cloud provider.
7. Be prepared to handle hiccups and failures without disrupting operations
You should plan to start small and test every step before switching over production. The last thing you want is for the transition to disrupt services that have been working well for your employees and customers. Have contingency plans for temporarily moving parts or even all of your applications back to your own data center if the cloud implementation meets with major setbacks.
8. Be careful about vendor lock-in
What if your cloud services vendor goes out of business or otherwise can no longer service you? Will you end up locked into just the services that vendor supplies, and thereby miss out on innovation opportunities? You may want to consider a multi-cloud strategy to avoid vendor lock-in.
9. Be sure you meet security and regulatory requirements in all phases of the transition
Carefully assess any possible data security issues that may occur at either end of the transition, as well as while data is in transit between your data center and the cloud.
Also, be careful that you don't run afoul of the data sovereignty regulations some countries impose to place limitations on where their citizens' data can be stored.
10. Don't try to do it all on your own
Most companies don't have IT staff on board with the skills needed to successfully carry out a complex cloud migration process. Rather than struggling through an extensive and expensive learning curve, it makes sense to seek assistance from a partner, like Accent Computer Solutions, with the skills to guide you through the process.
If you'd like to explore how we can help you be successful in your transition to the cloud, please contact us.
About Courtney Casey
In an industry dominated by men, Courtney Casey, Director of Marketing for Accent Computer Solutions, Inc., is making her mark on the world of information technology. Courtney has been immersed in the IT field most of her life and has been molded into the tech savvy expert she is today. She began working for Accent while earning her Bachelor's degree from California State University, Long Beach. Known in the Inland Empire as the "Tech Girl," Courtney is a regular columnist for the region's newspaper of record, The Press-Enterprise. Her columns address topical news trends, new technology products, and offer advice on how to embrace technology or avoid common IT pitfalls.