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Planning your cloud migration: Key steps and considerations

The real perk of the cloud, and one that doesn’t get talked about much, is its low barrier to entry. With cloud service providers offering more-or-less turnkey solutions, it’s pretty easy to run your entire business online these days. But in some ways, that’s part of the problem. With cloud adoption becoming so mainstream and so simple, organizations risk jumping into cloud migration without pausing to think, breathe, or evaluate the consequences. And when it’s done poorly, well…can you say data breaches, loss of visibility and control, misconfigured settings, data corruption, business downtime… The list goes on and on.

Let’s look at some of the common challenges with cloud migration, and how to optimize your cloud migration process.

Why undergo a cloud migration?

Imagine moving all your digital and IT assets, all your services and databases and legacy infrastructure, onto a remote, virtual server. You can access this server from anywhere in the world, and it can be rapidly scaled up or down, depending on your business needs. That’s the beauty of cloud networks. Cloud service providers like AWS, GCP and Azure essentially ‘host’ your business online: you rent virtual space, which is connected to a physical third-party server.

Cloud migration comes with a ton of benefits, including flexibility, security, cost, and time savings. It’s the reason 67% of enterprise infrastructure is now cloud-based, with 92% of businesses now having a multi-cloud strategy.

Cloud migration planning phase 1: Assess your current infrastructure  

As with any large-scale move, the first step is to assess your readiness. Review your current infrastructure, your business needs, any data or regulatory concerns, the apps you use, and the systems you depend on. This will give you an idea of how tricky the migration will be. Create an inventory of existing IT assets, including all your hardware, software, applications, and data. Evaluate each system to determine its suitability for the cloud and create a dedicated migration architect role to lead the project. More on this bit below…

Cloud migration planning phase 2: Align your cloud migration with business objectives

This is such a crucial step, and one that’s often overlooked. Your cloud migration strategy should be closely aligned with your business objectives. Think about it: are you looking to reduce operational costs? Maybe scale the business overseas? Perhaps you’re trying to manage the transition to hybrid work, or increase overall business agility? These objectives should inform your cloud migration planning. 

Cloud migration planning phase 3: Choose the right cloud service provider

Which cloud service provider is right for you? That’s a question worthy of 10,000 words on its own. You need to consider factors like service offerings, scalability, cost, performance and reliability. Look for features like high-speed data transfer, low-latency connections, and reliable performance levels. You’ll also need to decide what kind of model you’re after: Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS, Platform as a Service (PaaS) or Software as a Service (SaaS).

There are some great cloud service provider comparison tools online, to get you started.

Cloud migration planning phase 4: Understand the costs involved

How much will a cloud migration cost? That sort of depends on whether you’re doing a shallow cloud integration (also known as a “lift and shift”) or a more substantial, deep cloud integration.

If you’re planning to run your existing apps on new cloud architecture (i.e. a shallow migration) and you’re an SME, the whole thing could be as little as US$5000. Larger cloud migrations can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. You need to factor in the size of your business, and the current running costs of any on-site infrastructure, including server racks, storage, power and hardware maintenance. Compare some quotes, and stack them up against your current IT spend. This will give you a good idea of whether the cloud will save you cash.

Cloud migration planning phase 5: Ensure data security and compliance

The good news is that most cloud service providers give you outstanding native tooling and push-button options when it comes to security. This makes the cloud migration process run much more smoothly.

For most organizations, it’s pretty simple to set up basic user roles and responsibilities, along with end-to-end data encryption. You’ll also need to give some thought to data protection and storage, which is a subset of data security. Make sure to implement robust Identity and Access Management (IAM) policies, along with multi-factor authentication.

Depending on your industry, you might also be constrained by data privacy legislation requirements, like the GDPR. Most cloud service providers offer compliant, cloud-native solutions these days, so security shouldn’t be too much of an issue.

Steps to execute your cloud migration strategy

Most cloud migration processes run along similar lines. Here are the basic steps you need to follow:

  1. Deploy the foundational framework. This means setting up your new cloud provider systems, along with account management, security and automation.
  2. Migrate data. Often a tricky step. You can either do everything at once, or (our suggestion) adopt a phased approach, bringing one database over at a time.
  3. Migrate apps. Make sure your old apps are configured properly. If you’re ditching legacy systems, you’ll need to move existing data over to your new, cloud-native apps.
  4. Validate and document. Keep records of everything and run validation activities to make sure that the cloud environment is ready for production. You want to do this before cutover.  
  5. Optimize. You’ll probably need to tweak a few things to get your cloud servers running smoothly. Cloud service providers can help with this step.
  6. Cutover. The final phase when you shift legacy systems to the new cloud environment. Make sure to allow for some downtime, depending on the complexity of the cutover.

Monitor and evaluate

Without good monitoring, cloud migration can get seriously costly. Any good cloud migration strategy should factor in hardware monitoring and alerts, so you can proactively check out any teething issues. Trust us, it’s cheaper to catch these things before they happen, rather than after the fact.

These days, cloud service providers offer their own in-house monitoring tools, like AWS CloudWatch and Azure Monitor, which makes life much easier. You can also use Application Performance Monitoring Tools (APMs), like New Relic and AppDynamics, to track response times and help identify any performance bottlenecks.

Plan for future growth

The beauty of the cloud is its scalability, which makes it perfect for organizations looking to grow. Without the need for static, on-site servers, you can quickly scale your cloud systems to meet user demand. We recommend optimizing your spend and cloud environment as you go, rather than planning a long, multi-year growth strategy. It should be a continuous process of measurement and optimization. This will help you avoid overinvesting, or scaling up infrastructure you don’t really need.

Again, if growth is your goal, you should be leveraging cloud-native services, rather than legacy systems. And don’t forget to look into distributed data storage solutions and caching mechanisms to handle any increased data volume. 

Engage your stakeholders

Ask anyone who’s been through a cloud migration process, and they’ll say the biggest challenge isn’t necessarily tech, it’s communication. You need to bring stakeholders along for the journey, across all levels of the organization – not just IT. Start by working with key stakeholders to develop your cloud migration strategy, and make sure there’s a good spread of departments in there. Assign a cloud migration architect or team to manage the transition, and keep the wider business informed of any goals, progress, and even setbacks. The idea is to communicate the value of the cloud – beyond mere cost cutting – and generate cultural buy-in. And that only happens when employees can see the benefit.

Some common cloud migration challenges

Even with a low barrier to entry, cloud migration isn’t simple. And the bigger the organization, the less simple it is. You’re bound to run into some common challenges during the cloud migration process, and that’s okay. The trick is to be ready for them.

Data security. Make this your starting point. Implement robust access controls, encryption protocols and data backups to avoid any high-profile breaches.

Integration with legacy systems. Always a sticking point, particularly with a “lift and shift” approach. You’re likely to run into compatibility issues during cloud migration – that’s just part of the process.

App compatibility. Legacy apps may require re-architecting or refactoring to fully leverage the benefits of the cloud. This can be a bit of a pain. It’s often simpler to ditch them entirely for cloud-native applications.

Downtime. Some downtime during and post-migration is more or less inevitable and should be planned for. You can minimize downtime with a solid cloud migration strategy.

Performance. Latency, bottlenecks, bugs. You’ll probably struggle with them all. Make sure to monitor your data transfer speeds, to make sure your new cloud architecture is running correctly.

Need some help with your cloud migration strategy? Specifically, the cloud printing side of things? PaperCut is here to help .

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