Over the last few years, many organizations rushed to the cloud to ensure survivability. This rapid adoption often needed more careful planning to mitigate risk and optimize security, cost efficacy, performance, and operational integrity over the long term. As organizations continue to integrate the cloud into their IT ecosystems, they need migration strategies that mitigate risk and support their corporate objectives.
What is cloud migration?
Cloud migration is the process of moving some or all an organization’s digital assets into the cloud from either an on-premises or colocation data center or another cloud environment. Once in the cloud, the infrastructure and services are provided and maintained by the provider, allowing organizations to dedicate more time to business-enabling initiatives. Read about advanced cloud migration here.
Why cloud migration is important
Cloud migration can transform organizations, allowing them to innovate and adapt without managing and maintaining infrastructure. It can also support geographically dispersed end users, enable a disaster recovery (DR) plan, drive revenue, and modernize infrastructure and applications to meet new needs. However, to achieve this value, organizations need a cloud migration strategy that identifies and mitigates risk and sets the stage for cost-effective cloud adoption.
Benefits of cloud migration for your business
When designed and executed correctly, cloud migration can benefit businesses of all sizes.
Enable rapid scalability: Most businesses experience demand fluctuations. For example, online retailers need more processing capacity and bandwidth during the holiday season. The cloud offers access to unrestricted computing resources, allowing organizations to quickly ramp up resources during peak season and scale it back down during normal operations. A data center deployment requires peak-demand resources to be available at all times, resulting in idle capacity during non-peak times. The cloud can also support autoscaling, helping organizations instantly adapt capacity to address fluxes.
Improve agility and flexibility: Organizations rely on digital IT transformations to drive competitive advantages and fuel their success. The flexibility and agility of the cloud can accelerate change, eliminating the need to procure and move legacy systems or install additional resources—a significant benefit given ongoing supply chain delays. This allows organizations to quickly pivot and engage new IT services to satisfy evolving market demands or move in new strategic directions.
COVID-19 offered a clear lesson in the importance of this agility as organizations with cloud environments adapted rapidly to support a suddenly remote workforce. This agility remains a critical differentiator in today’s business climate.
Strengthen performance and availability: Cloud can also enhance performance and availability over an on-premises data center. Internal IT teams juggle multiple priorities, which can delay infrastructure maintenance and security upgrades. Cloud IT infrastructure is managed and maintained by the cloud provider, and a reputable provider is dedicated to ensuring the performance, reliability, and resilience of the environment. Additionally, cloud providers with a national or global cloud network can help organizations minimize latency to improve the customer experience.
Reinforce security and compliance: Security breaches are an ever-present threat to data centers. Cloud can offer more robust security than a data center without on-staff security experts. Cloud providers dedicate significant effort and resources to the security and compliance of their infrastructure, ensuring the correct configurations and protections are in place. They also stay abreast of security updates and trends that strengthen overall security.
Restore data seamlessly: A data recovery plan is critical as data and security threats surge upward. With cloud, organizations can leverage disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) and backup as a service (BaaS) to restore their data, applications, and systems while meeting their unique recovery requirements.
Improve cost structure: Cloud allows organizations to only pay for the services they need at any given time. Organizations can better control expenses by scaling resources up or down to match existing demand.
Refocus the internal IT team: Maintaining an IT environment is labor-intensive and time-consuming. Cloud offloads internal IT teams of maintaining the cloud environment so they can dedicate more time to IT initiatives that drive business outcomes.
Cloud migration best practices
The cloud’s many benefits are only possible with a well-designed and well-executed cloud migration strategy that mitigates risk. The following best practices support an effective and clear cloud migration strategy.
Build and assess
Before devising a successful cloud migration strategy, organizations must understand the business value they expect to achieve with cloud. Organizations can define business objectives by aligning their cloud solutions with their corporate agendas and gaining executive buy-in.
Auditing the existing IT environment ensures that every component is accounted for and builds an awareness of what is involved in cloud migration. During this discovery process, organizations should:
- Conduct a risk assessment
- Inventory IT assets
- Map dependencies
- Record current usage
- Understand security requirements
Strategize and plan for downtime
There is no set formula for cloud migration. Instead, every move is unique, requiring rigorous planning and a clear strategy. Armed with information from the assessment, organizations can make strategic decisions about the cloud solution, including where data and applications will live in the cloud environment and the specific steps necessary to transition assets to the next cloud platform in the quickest, most cost-effective, and most secure way.
Be sure to consider if the migration will require downtime and, if so, how much. Communicating this information with internal and external stakeholders is essential.
Access the right cloud provider
Cloud migration can be complex. Ensuring an effective cloud architecture with the proper security protocols and an appropriate migration plan requires some cloud experience. While hiring and retaining this expertise is one option, the ongoing IT skills shortage can make this challenging and expensive. Partnering with a third-party cloud-certified provider is another option.
Establish security policies and test
Cloud migration requires organizations to follow numerous security policies. Organizations must acknowledge their risks in cloud migration and security and regulatory requirements to ensure that sensitive data is not compromised. Those that do not risk noncompliance and hefty fines. Utilizing properly configured identity and access management controls and encrypting critical data and applications can minimize the risk of hackers accessing private information during the move.
Finally, organizations should test the migration plan before the actual transition. This best practice helps validate that each step will work as intended.
Cloud migration risks
While cloud can be a cost-effective business solution with many competitive advantages, it is essential to understand the risks involved.
The wrong migration approach
Migration can take many shapes, and selecting a strategy that does not meet business and security demands can have serious consequences. Gartner recognizes five migration strategies—rehost, refactor, revise, rebuild, and replace—each with pros and cons. For example, rehost—called “lift and shift”—lifts the infrastructure from the original environment and shifts it to the new cloud environment without any changes. While this simplifies and speeds up the migration process, it does not allow organizations to leverage cloud-native services or modernize the IT environment.
Workloads that are incompatible with cloud
Only some workloads are suited for the cloud, and organizations that unilaterally move their workloads to the cloud may face costly repatriation down the road. For example, legacy applications may not perform well in the cloud. Additionally, highly regulated industries, such as healthcare and financial services, may have compliance requirements that multiple cloud providers cannot support.
Operating applications or storing data in an unsuitable cloud model—whether private or public—can impact performance and security. The location of the cloud deployment can also introduce unwanted latency. This is a growing vulnerability as organizations and individuals increasingly rely on public cloud deployments to support real-time applications.
Today’s IT environments are complex, with many interdependencies. Organizations that do not identify and map all shared resources can impact operations in the new cloud environment. To make matters worse, finding a dependency within an intricate cloud ecosystem is complex, taking additional time and money and delaying deployment.
Unrecognized security responsibilities
Cloud security is a shared responsibility between the cloud provider and the organization. Generally, the cloud provider is responsible for securing the cloud infrastructure, while the organization is responsible for its data, applications, and code security. Organizations that do not fully understand this division can invite risk. Not recognizing regulatory requirements can also be costly—from noncompliance fines to losing revenue and customer trust.
Increased exposure to downtime and data loss
Every migration can subject organizations to lost or compromised data and unexpected downtime due to cyberattacks, insufficient redundancies, technical challenges, power outages, or human error.
Cloud costs can spiral out of control without a thorough migration strategy. Insufficient planning or a misconfigured environment can yield an unreliable budget and timeline and repatriation down the road—all of which incur additional costs. Forcing the wrong cloud service provider or strategy to fit within a specific budget can also introduce risk. A cloud deployment that does not meet the scalability requirements of an organization wastes dollars from the outset.
Loss of control and visibility
Migrating to the cloud inherently limits visibility and control over cloud-contained assets, system performance, and security as the external cloud services provider manages the infrastructure and some security policies. This lack of visibility can create cloud waste, where organizations pay for unnecessary resources without recognizing them.
New cloud deployments are undoubtedly intended to provide business-improving capabilities. However, ineffective migration strategies can result in unnecessarily lengthy transitions that delay operations in the new, optimized environments, impacting the ability to innovate, serve customers and improve profitability.
Cloud can introduce a level of complexity that an organization’s internal IT team may not be prepared to handle. Groups that lack cloud expertise can misconfigure the cloud environment or make missteps during the planning or migration phases of the move, exposing the organization to serious security risks, performance, availability issues, and cost inefficiencies.
Mitigation strategies for cloud migration risks
Every cloud adoption strategy should understand both the organization’s needs and the risks the migration could pose and offer mitigation strategies to manage these risks.
Engage in in-depth planning
Detailing the transition plan can alleviate cloud migration risks while offering opportunities to modernize legacy applications and align the IT strategy with business objectives. The planning process should decipher what assets are cloud-ready and which should remain in the data center. Additionally, it should determine the most suitable cloud model and if any applications need to be updated. Depending on the cloud infrastructure assessment, organizations may opt for a hybrid IT strategy that combines cloud and data center solutions or a multicloud strategy that includes multiple cloud platforms.
Backup all data before the migration
Data loss is a severe migration risk, which makes an up-to-date backup of all critical data essential before a move. While frequent backups should be an operational best practice, they are often overlooked. Pre-migration backups ensure data recovery should an issue occur during the move. Learn more about cloud backup and recovery here.
Recognize security requirements and responsibilities
Organizations must understand their cloud migration security and regulatory requirements to establish a cloud architecture and transition strategy that complies with government regulations. They must also enforce their own security policies, including authentication and authorization protocols, and develop a governance framework that outlines data protection protocols, cyberattack responses, and other security-related controls to protect data and ensure privacy. By minimizing the risk of hackers accessing private information from the start, an organization’s cloud data will be in a more secure place. Additionally, organizations can leverage the cloud provider's compliance to help them meet their own regulatory obligations.
Leverage a cloud expert
To address cloud complexity, organizations can partner with experienced third-party cloud providers with the necessary cloud migration expertise. A trusted cloud partner can help organizations fully understand their technical needs and security and compliance requirements. It can also offer guidance and support throughout the cloud migration process—from assessing the existing environment to building and executing the move to testing the efficacy of the new environment—to ensure a successful, secure, and fast move.
Gain back visibility and control with vCenter access
Organizations need visibility and control over cloud deployment to right-size resources, control cloud costs, and optimize performance. Adopting the best solution for vCenter access is imperative. This provides direct access to VMware vCenter, including interoperability and compatibility with industry-leading third-party tools for an optimal application development environment.
Utilize a phased migration approach
Risk is always present regardless of how well-planned the migration process is. By migrating non-critical data first, organizations can address unforeseen issues without worrying about the safety of high-impact data.
Flexential offers the expertise to deliver a seamless cloud migration strategy
Flexential is prepared to help organizations optimize their cloud migration strategies, mitigate risks, and ensure the flexibility, performance, and security necessary to achieve the desired business results. A trusted partner with a track record of success, Flexential offers cloud optimization services, connecting organizations with experienced cloud consultants who can design and optimize clouds for predictable costs, improved security, reliability, and agility. Flexential cloud-certified experts understand the nuances of cloud migration—as well as the constantly evolving risk landscape—and can offer expert guidance along every stage of the cloud journey.
Offering access to multiple cloud environments—including hosted private cloud, multi-tenant cloud, and managed public cloud services, Flexential empowers organizations to build effective cloud solutions that integrate multiple clouds or data center deployments for a robust hybrid IT strategy. The Flexential Hosted Private Cloud (HPC) – Advanced Access solution gives organizations visibility and full administrative control over the Flexential-owned VMware vCenter server. As the industry’s only hosted private cloud offering, this solution offers advanced permissions and direct access to the tools customers need to personalize their virtual environments and devise distinct backup or desktop-as-a-service solutions. It also allows them to utilize DevOps tools and maintain the same level of access and control as if they were operating an on-premises solution.
This dynamic combination of Flexential cloud experts and diverse cloud options enables organizations to solve complex hybrid IT challenges and drive long-term business growth.
Learn how Flexential can support your cloud migration. Schedule a consultation today.