5 Steps to Ensuring a Successful Cloud Migration
A successful cloud migration from traditional on premise infrastructure requires an effective, organised approach, as well as ensuring the chosen solution is suitable for your organisation, and chosen for the right reasons, and not just because everyone else is doing it!
This article outlines a framework for managing a smooth process away from traditional infrastructure to a cloud based approach.
1) Understanding and Identifying related business objectives
The most important first step is identifying what you want your business to accomplish through cloud migration. For some organisations, this could mean a greater flexibility for current and future applications, disaster recovery needs, consolidation, physical security concerns as well as potential cost savings for physical hardware costs and warranties, are some common examples.
Identifying and integrating existing functions and systems which are cloud compatible into your overall business plan also bring immediate benefits through more effective cloud re-hosting and quicker re-factoring (re-architecting the application to make it cloud-ready).
It is also important to consider any potential pitfalls in moving to a cloud environment. The need for reliable and stable internet connection to ensure performance is not degraded resulting in reduced productivity, and the need to consider a backup plan should that connection fail.
2) The Appropriate Cloud Option
There are three distinct types of cloud services which business can choose from; public cloud, private cloud and hybrid cloud.
Private clouds have the highest associated costs to both own and maintain a dedicated server and network infrastructure. Security is usually enhanced especially in terms of physical security, when compared with hosting a server within an office environment. This option is however restricted by lack of built-in scalability and agility.
Public clouds are typically the cheapest option and rely on a 3rd party, such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Rackspace as some popular examples. Where security and compliance are often major concerns, these tend to hold some of the highest security certifications such as ISO 27001 and HIPAA. For UK based customers ensuring that all data is stored in EU datacentres is important for current and future compliance standards.
The greatest benefit of a hybrid approach is that it provides the opportunity for companies to move critical infrastructure and applications in the case of an unforeseen emergency between cloud and on premise infrastructure.
3) Appropriate Technologies and Infrastructure
Aligning the correct infrastructure to meet your workload needs is critical, in addition to ensuring that you have the most up to date technology and operating systems compatible with the cloud option you have selected, where applicable. Some solutions such as Office 365 take away the need for regular patching, which is completed automatically as part of the service.
Ensure all existing applications are ready for the cloud, especially database applications which may become slow, or in some cases increase the risk of corruption where an effective connection speed is not maintained. This is especially true for older applications, which may also include Access or even Paradox databases stored as a flat file. Also it is important to factor in any potential future needs that may be required for the business.
Again, it is important to also ensuring your ability to keep your data safe and secure in transit by use of VPN connectivity or via secure socket connections such as HTTPS, as well the ensuring the data stored on remote servers are secure.
4) Stakeholder Buy-in
Ensure all relevant parties are involved at every step, from management to end users is vital for successful buy-in, interaction and feedback-gathering across the board and to avoid failure.
IT departments, for example, can help make sure critical processes are not disrupted during migration to the cloud. Or where disruption may be unavoidable, it should be appropriately planned so that alternative arrangements can be made during these times.
5) Back-up and Recovery
Comparing the RTO (Recovery Time Objective) and RPO (Recovery Point Objective) of different providers to those which already exist within your existing services, and making sure your back-up policies fit with your chosen cloud service provider is an important last step.
Some solutions such as Office 365 include retention policies for emails, as well as version control for documents, providing a simple level of recovery which may suit the needs for some organisations.
In many cases though, additional 3rd party services may be required, such as mail archiving where compliance requires emails to be stored for long periods of time, as well as backup services for hosted servers.