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What is cloud migration? Let’s talk benefits and challenges

So you’ve decided it’s time to migrate your digital assets to the cloud. Well, you’re in good company. 94% of enterprises now use some form of cloud services, and 67% of business infrastructure is now cloud-based. In 2022, 70% of organizations said they were accelerating their migration to the cloud, and that trend shows no signs of slowing down.

So, if you’re a little late to the cloud migration party, don’t worry. You’re here now! And you can benefit from the learning experience of organizations that have gone before. Because cloud migration isn’t all rainbows and endless, cost-efficient scalability; it does come with some challenges. In this article, we’re going to look at some of the major benefits of cloud migration, and also some traps to avoid.

What is cloud migration?

Cloud migration is simply the process of moving your applications, data and other digital assets from an on-premise environment (i.e. on-site servers) to a cloud computing environment (delivered over the internet by a cloud service provider). This migration is usually done to take advantage of the numerous benefits of cloud services, like increased scalability, flexibility, cost-efficiency, security, and the ability to access your data from anywhere.

The important thing to remember is that cloud migration is a complex and iterative process, and it only gets more complex the bigger the legacy systems get. If you’ve been relying on old-school systems architecture for 20 years, the worst thing you can do is rush a cloud migration.

Strategic benefits of cloud migration

There’s a reason cloud migration is so popular. It works the way a vast number of organizations need to work now. Migrating your assets to the cloud – as a rule – allows you to transform your IT operations, drive innovation, trim costs, and scale up efficiently. Of course, every organization will have its own reasons for moving their assets to the cloud, but here are some of the top-line benefits.

Scalability. Cloud migration lets you scale your resources and network infrastructure up and down dynamically, based on demand. This is obviously great for organizations that experience seasonal changes in workflow or user behavior, or those who need to respond quickly to growth and changing market conditions.

Cost efficiencies. Why does a business do anything? At the end of the day, it all comes back to margins. By eliminating the need for on-premise server maintenance and upfront investments in hardware, cloud migration is usually way more cost-effective. Cloud services are mostly offered on a pay-as-you-go subscription basis, too, which gives you more financial flexibility.

Business agility. Need to cut that time-to-market? The cloud can definitely help. Cloud migration gives you access to the full cloud-native suite, including app development, collaboration tools, data storage and analytics, machine learning, IoT and more. This gives cloud-based companies a serious edge over their on-premise rivals.

Global reach and accessibility. On-premise infrastructure is constrained by physical limitations – literally, it requires more space. With all your assets on the cloud, however, you can expand your reach and deliver services to clients all over the world. It’s all thanks to the magic of global data center infrastructure and decentralized architecture.

Enhanced security and compliance. This one’s a double-edged sword. On the one hand, cloud migration gives you access to end-to-end encryption, identity and access management, network security and compliance certifications, but you do lose that hands-on control you get from on-premise data sovereignty.

Business continuity. Where the cloud really shines is disaster recovery and keeping your business online. With resilient and redundant cloud infrastructure, there’s no single point of failure anymore, so your fault tolerance is much higher. Cloud services also offer built-in redundancies, data backup and disaster recovery solutions, so you can maintain 100% uptime.

Cost implications and optimization

It’s hard to guarantee that your new cloud environments will be ‘cheaper’, since ‘cheaper’ depends on a bunch of different factors, including your server layouts, organizational structure, user base, and global footprint. But there are a few things you need to consider when it comes to optimizing costs with cloud migration.

Up-front vs ongoing costs. The cloud is mostly known for its ongoing service usage fees (i.e. subscriptions), which keep costs both visible and flexible. But you also need to factor in some up-front expenses. Cloud planning, assessment, migration tools, training, potential downtime during the migration, and ongoing compatibility issues will all impact your bottom line.

Resource provisioning. When it comes to the cloud, if you want to get the best bang for your buck, you need to think in terms of resource provisioning. Over-tooling your cloud environment means you’re essentially paying for more storage/network bandwidth than you need. Best practice is to implement auto-scaling mechanisms, to dynamically adjust resources and ensure maximum cost efficiency.

Choosing the right service model. This is a decision every organization needs to make for themselves. Do you need Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) or Software as a Service (SaaS)? Consider leveraging managed cloud services to offload some operational tasks and reduce your management overhead.

Optimize your storage costs. How much data do you keep, and where do you keep it? Your answers to these questions will determine the cost of your cloud environment. In general, it’s a good idea to use data lifecycle management policies to automatically move or delete data based on its age, access frequency and importance. You should also be using storage compression, deduplication and encryption to minimize your storage requirements.

Networking architecture. How would you like your cloud to be configured? To keep costs low, we recommend looking into content delivery networks (CDNs), caching mechanisms, and edge computing – all of these will help minimize data transfer over long distances. Better for performance, and better for your budget.

Security in the cloud

In general, cloud computing is incredibly secure, despite the noise from some high-public leaks. When security breaches do occur, they’re often due to human error, or even cloud infrastructure security misconfigurations ( 23% of instances , according to the stats).

What this means is that, if you’re considering cloud migration, you should be putting security front and center. You need a strategy for data protection and privacy, encryption of data in transfer and at rest, network security protocols, user access controls, identity and access management, incident response and disaster recovery, as well as vendor and supply chain security. Cloud service providers offer all of this as part of their cloud suite, but if it’s configured incorrectly, it can be a massive security risk.

Challenges in cloud migration

This brings us on to challenges in cloud migration. And there are a few. Cloud computing offers outstanding value, flexibility and processing power, but the migration itself is often fraught with teething issues. Here are some common challenges you might face:

Application compatibility. A big one. Some legacy applications may have dependencies you’re not aware of, making your migration a huge pain. Look out for legacy monolithic applications with tightly coupled components or dependencies on specific operating systems – they’re your big red flags.

Data integration. Migrating large volumes of data from on-premise architecture to the cloud (safely) can be tricky. Before shifting terabytes of data to the cloud, you need to undertake data preprocessing and cleaning, choose a migration method that minimizes downtime, and optimize network throughput by scheduling data transfers during an off-peak time.

Performance and latency. If your cloud infrastructure is located far from your end users, you’re probably going to see performance issues. Imagine you’re an ecommerce site, and you’re moving your web servers to a cloud provider’s data center in another country. This will slow down performance dramatically.

Resource management. A common problem many smaller startups make is overprovisioning during the cloud migration. And the result is higher than expected (or at least, higher than necessary) cloud bills. Make sure you take adequate stock of your data needs, usage rates and necessary performance metrics, so you don’t overspend.

Vendor lock-in. Finally, we’ve got vendor lock-in, which occurs when organizations become too dependent on a single cloud provider’s proprietary services and APIs, making it difficult to shift things in the future. You can get around this by adopting open standards and APIs, ensuring interoperability and compatibility across different cloud platforms.

The role of automation in cloud migration

Cloud migration is complex, so it’s generally a good idea to automate as much as you can. This streamlines the overall migration effort, minimizes user errors, and frees up your team for more important stuff (like endless AWS training webinars). Automation tools can perform a bunch of useful tasks during migration – just ask your cloud service provider for more information.

Discovery and assessment. Automation tools can scan and analyze your existing on-premise infrastructure for you, giving you a better idea of migration scope.

Provisioning and configuration. Automation tools can provision cloud resources, like virtual machines, storage and networking, based on pre-defined templates.

Data migration. Take the hassle out of data migration by using automated data migration tools, like AWS Data Migration Service (DMS) or Azure Data Factory.

Application deployment. Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment (CI/DC) pipelines can automate the deployment and configuration of applications in the cloud. Very handy.


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