What to Include in Your Cloud Migration Strategy

Gary Malhotra Digital Transformation

As cloud computing and storage capabilities continue to advance, the majority of companies are implementing a cloud migration strategy for some or all of their applications. In fact, 94% of large businesses already use the cloud as part of their business.

It’s no surprise that so many companies are migrating to the cloud. Cloud computing makes it easier and faster to scale up operations and add new users without having to add new physical servers or equipment. Cloud computing also allows access from multiple locations, which means a company can expand into new geographic areas without having to transfer data between physical locations.

But migrating to the cloud can be complicated and time-consuming, even if you are moving only some of your applications. For example, in addition to migrating data, you have to add training to your timetable, and 85% of executives say that getting their employees to adopt new technologies and processes is challenging. As part of your cloud migration strategy, consider using digital adoption solutions like Whatfix to make it easier for your employees and customers to learn new features and better adjust to the change.

As you create your cloud migration strategy, there are a few other factors to consider and potential problems to sidestep in order for your plan to be a success.

Types of Cloud Migration Strategies

Your first step is to decide what processes you want to control in-house and what you want your cloud service provider to take care of. There are three main bases you can use for your cloud migration strategy.

Infrastructure as a Service

Infrastructure as a service (IaaS) is ideal for companies that want to manage their applications and software in-house. With IaaS, the cloud service provider manages the infrastructure, including the physical servers and storage capabilities. You, as the subscriber, are responsible for installing, configuring, and managing your own software.

IaaS is highly flexible. You pay only for the storage and software you use, and you can easily scale up or down with demand. Some examples of IaaS providers include Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and Cisco Metacloud.

Platform as a Service

The second option for your cloud migration strategy is platform as a service (PaaS). A PaaS provider manages all of the infrastructure, as well as analytics, databases, and operating systems. Basically, PaaS offers a completely managed cloud space in which you can build and manage your own software.

Since applications built using a PaaS provider are in the cloud, they are widely available to employees and customers in different physical locations. PaaS allows high levels of software customization, because you build it yourself, but without the coding or infrastructure management required in traditional software building. Some examples of PaaS providers include Google App Engine, OpenShift, and AWS Elastic Beanstalk.

Software as a Service

The final type of cloud migration strategy is software as a service (SaaS). This is the most common choice for businesses migrating to the cloud. With SaaS, the provider manages all technical aspects, from applications and upgrades to analytics and infrastructure. Applications are delivered to users via the internet and can typically be accessed in a browser, so there is no downloading or installation required. Major SaaS providers include Google GSuite, Salesforce, and GoToMeeting.

When planning your cloud migration strategy, consider what you’ll be moving to the cloud and where you want your applications to be developed. Any of these options will take basic infrastructure management away from your IT team, freeing them up to focus on big-picture tasks, such as software development.

Steps for Building Your Cloud Migration Strategy

Once you’ve chosen your cloud service provider, you can lay out your cloud migration strategy so you and your team know what to expect. As you develop your plan, there are a few actions you can take to ensure that the move is smooth, complete, and as timely as possible.

1. Map your application dependencies

Applications don’t operate in a vacuum. Part of your cloud migration strategy should be mapping which applications are dependent on one another so they can all be migrated together. Interdependent applications won’t work properly if migrated separately. For example, if an application pulls information from a particular database, it has to be migrated with that database.

Improperly migrated applications might have to be moved over again, which slows down the whole process and reduces productivity. To prevent this, create an application dependency map so you can see which applications are communicating with each other and then migrate them in groups.

Your application dependency map will look different depending on the mapping service you use. Here’s an example from Site24x7.

cloud migration strategy-enterprise grid

You can clearly see application groups and their related databases. If this was your map, your cloud migration strategy would include moving all the applications in the “MYSQL” cluster together with the MYSQL database. Mapping your application dependencies this way will help ensure your applications work properly after they’re moved to the cloud.

2. Create a detailed timetable

Creating a detailed timetable at the beginning of your cloud migration will keep you on track and indicate if you fall behind. The length of the time frame will depend on factors like how much data you’re moving to. It could take as little as a few weeks if you’re moving only one or two small servers. On the other hand, large databases take much longer to move. It took Netflix eight years to completely migrate to the cloud.

A few months is a more reasonable timeline to set than eight years, typically. As you make your timetable, set dates for migrating each set of data, as well as major dates like when the project should be completed, and when you plan to shut down your old system and exclusively use the cloud. Your exact steps will depend on the type of service you use. An IaaS cloud migration strategy, for example, won’t include a shutdown of the old system.

If you have a timeline and find yourself constantly adjusting and pushing back dates as you go, you know there’s an issue (or multiple issues) with the migration. Now you can address the problem and get back on track so your migration is as quick as possible.

3. Identify your cybersecurity needs

Cloud services are distributed by nature, which means they’re more secure since there’s no single point that can fail and bring down the system. However, security during the migration process needs to be part of your cloud migration strategy.

Before starting the migration, rank your data sets in terms of security level. Migrate low-security data first so you can look for security gaps without exposing sensitive information. Consider whether data needs to be encrypted at either end of the transfer. Once your data is transferred, set up permanent cloud firewalls to protect the transferred data.

You also need to understand compliance requirements for your data and set your security accordingly. For example, health care systems and the companies that work with them have to follow HIPAA compliance requirements. HIPAA security requires encryption and decryption of sensitive patient information, so you would have to include appropriate security measures in your cloud migration strategy to stay compliant.

4. Start small

Plan to move your data a little at a time rather than trying to do it all at once. Migrating your data in small groups gives you more opportunity for testing to be sure the migration is successful and there are no data or security gaps.

Start with smaller, independent applications that don’t have a lot of dependencies. Once you’re sure those were migrated successfully, move on to larger server groups. After each move, make sure the applications can successfully function in the cloud before moving the next data set. Moving your data in pieces ensures that if there are issues, you only have to redo small amounts of data instead of completely start over.

5. Regularly monitor your progress

Finally, your cloud migration strategy should include regular monitoring. After every step in the cloud migration process, check your data for issues with the migration. Check each application within the new system for the following:

  • Complete functionality
  • Complete transfer of data
  • Data integrity
  • Data retrievability
  • Data security

When you’re sure an application or data set is secure, functional, and easily retrievable by users, then you can migrate the next set. Regular monitoring will show you functionality and migration issues early on, so you can pause the migration and address the issue before it affects a larger subset of the data.

Including these steps in your cloud migration strategy will help keep you on track so you can successfully migrate your data in an efficient and timely manner.

Potential Challenges for Your Cloud Migration Strategy

When you create your cloud migration strategy, there are a few potential challenges you should address. One is that employees and customers will need to be trained on the new system. More than 50% of digital transformation efforts are unsuccessful, but one way to help your cloud migration strategy succeed is to train your customers and employees on the new system to ensure adoption. You should factor training into your timetable and consider using a digital adoption platform to aid the learning process and speed up the adoption of the cloud technology.

You also have to keep in mind that your old system will need to stay up and running during the entire migration process. Your employees and customers will need to keep using the old system until the migration is complete and you’ve tested your applications in the cloud to ensure that they work properly. New data will continue to be input into the old system as the migration is happening. After moving applications, transfer data regularly from the old applications to the cloud to make sure you capture all data input before and during the migration.

Finally, keep an eye on your budget. Cloud services can be very cost-effective, but easy scalability and a variety of upgrade options can make it difficult to manage spend. Assess your data needs and set strict budgets accordingly, then reassess regularly to see if any upgrades are necessary.

Design Your Cloud Migration Strategy for a Smooth Transition

Creating a step-by-step plan for your cloud migration is the best way to ensure a smooth transition for your company and customers. By including considerations like application dependency mapping, cybersecurity, and monitoring, you will minimize the risk of issues during the transfer process. Fewer issues will keep your migration timeline on track and allow you to start working in the cloud more quickly. Keep the lines of communication open between yourself and your team leads throughout the process so you can find and address any issues early on, before they affect your migration timeline.

There are plenty of software options for your company to choose from, but having the latest software is only beneficial if your employees and customers actually use it. The true measure of success for your cloud migration strategy is end-user adoption, not just moving all of your applications into the cloud. Incorporating digital adoption solutions will help increase your adoption rates and make sure your cloud migration strategy is successful across the company. To learn more about how it can help with your migration process, request a demo today.

Gary Malhotra

Gary Malhotra

Gary is a full-stack product marketing leader with experience steering 12 SaaS products to market leadership. He heads the Product Marketing team at Whatfix and spends his time constantly creating, planning, and implementing innovative and exciting product marketing strategies.
Gary Malhotra
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