The Definitive Guide to a Successful Cloud Migration

May 13, 2020 | by Anjana Ramesh | Posted In Cloud, cloud migration

Cloud migration

In recent times, many organizations have shifted to the cloud to leverage the benefits that it offers, while several others are contemplating a switch.  For organizations considering their first cloud migration, there are a host of factors to consider — from the benefits and the challenges to the right deployment models and strategies that best fit your business. In this article, we’ll look at the high-level elements that you should take into account as you contemplate a move to the cloud.

What are the benefits of migrating to the cloud?

According to Gartner, the global public cloud services is estimated to grow by 17% in 2020 due to the steadily increasing cloud adoption rate. This is because organizations have realized that clunky, legacy systems put them far behind their competitors and increase the chances of security breaches. The goal of cloud migration is to run applications and processes in the most cost-effective environment with better performance, scalability, and resilience. Cloud adoption results in several promising benefits including, but not limited to:

Accessibility

Since cloud servers are accessible from anywhere, users (employees or customers) can easily access the system on the fly. Hence, it opens a horizon of new possibilities in enhancing your business. 

Scalability

Companies that adopt cloud can easily scale up without any additional physical servers or networking equipment, unlike an on-premise infrastructure. For example, in AWS, there’s an auto-scaling option that automatically distributes the incoming workloads across multiple instances with the help of a load balancer.

Cost reduction

Many IT executives move to the cloud for cost-cutting. The cloud infrastructure, with its pay-as-you-go model, allows you to pay only for the resources you consume. This helps you significantly reduce your operational overhead without compromising on the performance. 

Flexibility

Cloud infrastructure gives you the flexibility to determine the level of control and customizability as per your organizational needs. It also allows you to choose the storage options depending on your security compliance requirements and other concerns.

Performance

Cloud computing allows you to deploy new services or applications in fewer clicks, thereby increasing the speed and agility of your business. Also, the cloud remarkably reduces the risk of downtime with the help of safety measures like automatic failover, backup storage, and so on. This makes the cloud more reliable and resilient than your on-premise systems. 

Strategic value

 The cloud service provider that you choose, manages the underlying cloud infrastructure, enabling you to focus on mission-critical activities. Besides, the speed and agility that the cloud offers, shrinks your time to market and gives you a competitive edge over the others. 

What are the different cloud migration strategies?

While formulating a cloud migration strategy plan, you should factor in a lot of aspects. This includes the cloud migration goals, your current IT state, interdependencies, cost, and what to migrate first and how. With the help of this knowledge, you can lay out a detailed plan on how to migrate each of your applications or processes and in what sequence. Once you plan this out, you will have a clear idea about the cloud migration strategy you should go for. Here are the commonly known cloud migration strategies:

Lift and shift

Many organizations that move to the cloud to quickly meet a business need, go for “lift and shift” (also known as rehosting). Typically, organizations that handle large and complex migrations, rehost their applications on the cloud without re-architecting it. Organizations that choose this strategy will select an IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-service) provider and recreate the applications on their infrastructure.

Replatform

Here organizations make a few modifications to leverage some benefits of the cloud but do not change the core architecture of the application. One of the most common modifications include, changing the way the application interacts with the database to benefit from an elastic database infrastructure. Organizations can also enable better scaling and leverage reserved resources in the cloud environment with minimal code changes. 

Replatforming is a cost-efficient solution that allows applications to leverage cloud capabilities like auto-scaling, managed storage services, infrastructure as code (IaC), and more. However, scope creep can sometimes turn replatforming into a full-blown refactoring project. It is therefore important to manage the scope and avoid unnecessary changes to mitigate this problem.

Refactor

Refactoring involves re-architecting the application to better suit the cloud environment, mostly using cloud-native features. Some organizations are driven by strong business cases to add new features, scale up or achieve greater performance with the help of the cloud, which would otherwise be difficult. Such organizations go for refactoring to leverage the increased flexibility that comes with cloud. 

Companies that want to switch from a monolithic architecture to a microservices architecture often take the refactoring approach. Refactoring is a resource-intensive and cumbersome process that requires back-breaking work. Nevertheless, if done properly, it can provide the highest return on investment in terms of cost savings and resilience.

Repurchase

Some organizations choose to dump their existing application and switch to an off-the-shelf SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) application. Although this sounds like an easy option, such platforms offer limited customizability and control to the users when compared to a custom-made application. Furthermore, an already-built SaaS platform cannot meet your overarching needs as opposed to a tailor-made application.

Revise

This approach involves partially rewriting or expanding the code base and then deploying the changes by rehosting or refactoring. Companies that are not inclined to migrate all the components but want to migrate only what makes sense for the business adopt this strategy.

What are the various cloud deployment models?

Once you decide to move to the cloud, you must choose the right deployment model that suits your needs. While choosing the model, make sure you take the application performance into consideration. In other words, ensure that the model you choose provides sufficient bandwidth for optimal application performance. Here are the four main cloud deployment models to choose from:

Public cloud

This is the most common deployment model. With a public cloud, all hardware, software, and other supporting infrastructure are owned and managed by the cloud service providers (like AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, etc.). Some organizations also choose a managed cloud service provider to manage their cloud environment end-to-end in a more efficient manner. Also, in a public cloud, you share the resources like hardware, storage, and network devices with other organizations. Public cloud deployments are mostly used to provide online office applications, storage, and testing and development environments.

Advantages

High availability: The extensive network of servers prevents the system from failure with the help of failover options. This increases the uptime of the cloud server and ensures high availability of the system. 

No maintenance efforts: The cloud service provider handles the maintenance on your behalf.

Unlimited scalability: Public cloud offers on-demand resources to meet your growing business needs.

Private cloud

In a private cloud, companies use dedicated cloud resources that are limited to their own organization. The cloud can be physically hosted at your organization’s on-premise data center or can be hosted by a third-party service provider (For instance, Amazon Virtual Private Cloud). With a private cloud, you can customize the resources to suit the IT needs that are specific to your organization. By and large, financial institutions, government agencies, and businesses that run sensitive, mission-critical operations choose this model for extensive control.

Advantages

Enhanced control and security: Since the resources are solely dedicated to your organization, it offers higher levels of control and security. 

More flexibility: You can customize your cloud infrastructure as per your organizational needs.  

Hybrid cloud

The hybrid cloud model combines two clouds of different types. For instance, it combines an on-premise infrastructure or private cloud with a public cloud to take advantage of both the models. In a hybrid cloud, the data and applications can move between private and public clouds. For instance, you can host applications with high incoming traffic and lower security needs in a public cloud, while you can choose private cloud for mission-critical applications. The hybrid cloud also offers an option for applications that normally run in the private cloud to tap into the public cloud, in case of a spike in traffic. For example, during a seasonal shopping event, there may be over-the-top traffic that would require additional resources. Companies that frequently come across such cases can opt for a hybrid cloud.

Advantages

Cost-effective: Since this model allows the applications to tap into the public cloud, you pay for the additional resources only when required.

Flexibility: You can automatically scale up and down depending on your requirements.

Multi cloud

The multi-cloud model combines two or more clouds of the same type (public or private) but from different vendors. For instance, you may have chosen a public cloud service provider to host some of your applications. But, to support a high volume application such as a customer portal, you may find another public cloud service provider that comes with the right blend of SLAs, security protocols, scalability features, and uptime. If you integrate the applications that are hosted in two different public clouds, you now have a multi-cloud environment. 

Advantages

Greater flexibility: This model enables you to find the perfect solution for your unique needs and lets you take advantage of the benefits that different vendors offer.

Quick recovery: The multi-cloud model allows organizations to have an available and highly scalable backup for data, workflows, and systems if the primary cloud fails.

What are the key steps involved in cloud migration?

Cloud migration is a labor-intensive and complex process. It can become a fiasco if you do not plan and execute it right. Here are the most important steps every organization should follow while migrating to the cloud:

Establish KPIs

You might have already defined the key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the performance of your applications and services. However, would they still be relevant even after you switch to the cloud? The ideal KPIs for cloud migration are the ones that indicate how the migration has contributed to your business goals. Some key categories of KPIs that organizations measure are:

  • Application performance (throughput, availability, downtime, etc.)
  • User experience (page load time, usability, etc.)
  • Infrastructure (disk performance, network throughput, etc.)
  • Business KPIs (conversion rate, user engagement, churn rate, etc.)

Choose your cloud migration strategy

Once you have established your KPIs and set baselines to measure against, the next step is to determine the applications you want to migrate and the level of integration that is required. In other words, you must decide which among the different cloud strategies discussed above (lift and shift, replatform, refactor, revise, or repurchase) is perfect for your organizational needs. Each strategy has its own pros and cons. Choose the one that best suits your needs and implement it with a proper execution plan in place. 

Choose the most suitable deployment model

This is another important consideration in migrating to the cloud. As discussed earlier in this blog, each deployment model caters to a specific type of business and has its own advantages. For example, if all your applications are sensitive and business-critical, then the private cloud model is the best choice for you. If you find two different vendors who, together, can meet your requirements, then you can opt for a multi-cloud model. Therefore, choose the right deployment model for your business. 

Map out a data migration plan

Migrating data is the trickiest part of cloud migration. Therefore, do not underestimate the complexity and importance of planning your data migration properly. The location of your data can greatly impact the performance of your application. To migrate your data, you can either adopt a bi-directional syncing mechanism between your on-premise and cloud databases or a one-way synchronization from your on-prem database to that of the cloud.  Once the cloud database becomes the primary one, you can remove the access to the on-prem database. In addition to these mechanisms, there’s an option to use a cloud migration data service like the ones that AWS or Microsoft Azure offers. 

Choose the right cloud service provider

The most crucial step in the whole cloud migration process is choosing the right cloud service provider that checks off all the items in your requirements list. The most common choices of service providers among organizations are AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform. Among the three, AWS leads the market with a 33% share because of its myriads of services that cater to almost all types of businesses. However, many organizations choose a qualified managed cloud service provider to offload all the steps discussed above. Managed cloud service providers have the expertise to help you execute the cumbersome process of cloud migration with an end-to-end approach so you can focus on your mission-critical priorities.

Cloud migration challenges and how to overcome them

Migrating to the cloud is beneficial but also highly challenging. The process behind migration is complicated and burdened with several questions.  By addressing potential challenges early on, you can save both time and money — as well as avoid undue stress. 

Cloud migration planning

Any new technology initiative requires proper planning to make it successful. Cloud migration is no exception to this rule. Planning out your cloud migration can be challenging as it includes choosing the right cloud service provider, determining the best migration strategy, picking the right deployment model, establishing KPIs, and more. Furthermore, you should also determine what to migrate and what to retain.

If your planning is poor, there is a high chance of your migration becoming a disaster. To map out a concrete plan, you must factor in the overall goals, cost analysis, expected downtime, the associated risks, employee training, and an estimated time to complete the migration. 

Estimating the actual cost

While moving to the cloud is cost-effective, it may seem expensive once you execute it if you have underestimated the actual costs involved. To avoid such revelations, you must take into consideration the amount of data you are planning to move, refactoring (if required) cost, employee training cost, and the expected resource usage. This will help you estimate the actual cost of migration and thereby forecast the potential financial impact upfront. 

Security concern

For a very long time, security was reported as the major reason for not moving to the cloud. Although there is a consensus now that cloud is a lot more secure than any internal approach, it is important to pay close attention to the security aspect. A smart move would be to understand the security practices, data storage location, encryption methods, and security compliance of the cloud providers and choose the best one accordingly. 

Employee training

When you introduce new technology to your organization, it is important to get your employees up to speed with the same. You cannot expect everybody to be a self-learner. Therefore, it is essential to organize a training programme to onboard your employees into the new system. 

How Go2Group can help you

With 15+ years of experience in helping enterprises make the most of their IT initiatives, Go2Group can help you with all aspects of your cloud migration – right from assessing your cloud readiness through to planning, strategizing, architecting, and executing your cloud migration as well as training your employees. Furthermore, we also monitor your cloud infrastructure and applications 24×7 to maximize the performance of your applications, optimize costs, and increase the availability of your systems. Our team of experts can help you overcome all the challenges and make a seamless shift to the cloud, while you can focus on your other business-critical priorities. 

Looking to switch to the cloud? Talk to our experts today and learn more about how we can help you!