As outlined in the HTEC high-tech glossary, cloud migration is an increasingly common process in which a company transfers its databases, services, and the rest to a cloud computing environment, leaving the cumbersome stagnation of legacy infrastructure behind and embracing the many possibilities of cloud technology.
Deciding to move to the cloud is something that should be taken seriously, and preparation can often be the point of difference between success and catastrophe, but businesses are increasingly realizing that cloud technology is where innovation, development, and success lie. Unsure about how to move your business to the cloud? Let us clear the sky a little for you.
Why Cloud migrating in the first place?
Before every ‘how’, there must be a ‘why’. What good is planning cloud migration when businesses aren’t entirely sure as to why they should be doing such a thing in the first place? What are the benefits of a greater reliance on cloud technology, especially in these decidedly chaotic and insecure times?
When discussing the benefits of cloud migration, the hardest decision is choosing where to start. Maybe it's best, especially in the face of that chaos and insecurity, to accentuate the increased security that cloud technology offers. The nature of the cloud makes security a major plus-point, and cloud providers have put in the hard yards to ensure the safety of all data held within. More often than not, storing data in the cloud is exponentially more secure than doing so in-house.
Cloud technology also offers unprecedented potential for scalability and development, with businesses no longer tied to IT solutions that are always in danger of becoming obsolete, such as the incredible pace of innovation in modern technology. With scalability comes flexibility, and the unrivaled access to entire swathes of data that the cloud offers makes cloud migration an absolute must for businesses looking to grow in real-time. If all a company’s data is stored in the cloud, it is available at all times from all places, removing the restrictions of office times and working hours entirely.
Cloud migration has also been proven to help businesses reduce costs and improve efficiency. The very nature of cloud technology makes internal IT maintenance a thing of the past, while also helping businesses scale back on hardware, size, and clumsy space-sapping constructions.
The final days of legacy infrastructure
While more and more businesses are choosing to embark on the modernizing quest that is cloud migration, some are still stubbornly sticking with legacy infrastructure. With such benefits waiting with the change to cloud technology, why do some companies actively choose out-dated frameworks? While it is easy to espouse the positive side of cloud technology, it is important to remember that reticence and fear are powerful factors in human decision-making. After all, is there a more common business cliche than ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?’
The problem with legacy infrastructure is that it is never far from breaking. Few aspects of industry develop as quickly as IT, meaning what was secure and efficient yesterday could be obsolete today. Old systems are ever more susceptible to malware and corruption, while obstinately keeping data on systems and hard drives is never more than a hair’s breadth away from becoming an open letter to hackers. Legacy infrastructure has its benefits, but these rarely stretch beyond familiarity and comfort when approached from a logical business standpoint.
Legacy infrastructure is also a hindrance to innovation, something that can be the difference between success and failure for many companies. Cloud technology offers unrivaled flexibility, efficiency, intelligence, automation, and security, all integral parts of even the most rudimentary forms of business development. Legacy infrastructure may offer perceived normality, but it also bogs companies down in old-fashioned modes of working, more complex and more difficult to manage, not to mention systems that are without the agility and the control that cloud technology provides.
Which type of migration to choose?
The flexibility offered by cloud technology begins before businesses even make the switch. There is a wide range of options for companies to choose from when deciding which type of cloud migration suits them best, a range that can handily be packaged into what is known as the ‘6 R’s of Migration’. These are (in no particular order) rehosting, re-platforming, repurchasing, refactoring, retaining, and retiring.
Rehosting is the simplest of these paths, a form of migration that is also known as a ‘lift and shift model. It is exactly what it suggests itself be, a move that involves lifting applications, virtual machines, and server operating systems from their current homes to the cloud. This is the quickest way to start working with the cloud, although the lift and shift model does create restrictions on utilizing the full potential of the cloud. It is far more intricate than a ‘quick fix, but rehosting is the swiftest option for cloud migration. Re-platforming is a more detailed version of rehosting, allowing companies to lift and optimize as opposed to simply lifting and shifting, leveraging more cloud benefits along the way.
Refactoring (or re-architecting) is the polar opposite of these methods and requires companies to essentially develop their cloud data from scratch. While a more time-consuming choice, refactoring is a common method for companies driven by a desire to improve output and get the most out of cloud migration. It requires more resources and is infinitely more complex, but the long-term benefits are plentiful, namely full use of cloud-native benefits and cost-efficiency.
Repurchasing (also known as ‘drop and shop’) allows companies to change proprietary applications for cloud-based platforms and services, moving from one license agreement to a new one. Retaining (or the hybrid model) allows businesses to keep some of their IT infrastructure on the aforementioned legacy infrastructure, be this for perceived security reasons or others. Finally, retiring is exactly what it says on the tin, namely a way to decommission or archive some infrastructure components while replacing their functionalities with other services. This has the knock-on effect of drastically reducing the complexity of computing, another major benefit of cloud migration.
There is no right or wrong way in which to undertake cloud migration. It all depends on what your business requirements are, or what your immediate goals might be. The 6 R’s function as foundations from which development is possible, beginnings that can be tailor-made to fit the functions of any industry.
Which cloud is your cloud?
When a business has decided which route to take, the next decision is choosing the best cloud development style for the company in question. The modern world is built on choice and cloud technology is no different, with four types of cloud deployment waiting to be discussed, namely: public, private, hybrid, or community.
Those four titles should be fairly self-explanatory. The public cloud is exactly that; cloud infrastructure offered by major companies that have massive amounts of space and therefore plenty of scope for scalability. By tapping into an already-existing structure, companies can ensure that they are industry compliant, and also have a built-in recovery plan should security issues arise. The downsides mainly involve independence, as public cloud migration means companies remain under the umbrella of the cloud provider. The opposite of this is the private cloud, usually an on-premises cloud that exists behind a firewall and is only used by a single organization. The security benefits of this model are clear to see, although moving to a private cloud can be much more expensive than other options.
The hybrid cloud is a mixture of public and private, designed to allow malleability and smooth transfer from one to the other, perfect for companies who want the scalability of the public cloud and the security of the private. Finally, the community cloud is the least common of the four, although that may change in the future. As the name suggests, this is a collaborative platform where multiple organizations utilize the same cloud and the same applications. If you think that this sounds like a public cloud acting privately, you’re 100% correct. Of course, multi-cloud models also exist, proving once again that nothing is out of the question when it comes to cloud technology.
Visualizing the process
Making the switch to cloud technology might look simple on paper, but it is important to remember that this is a hugely important process that will change the way a business operates from that moment forward. While it is undoubtedly a change for the better, it is still a monumental one that isn’t going to happen in a day. The cloud migration process is one that businesses must get right, and therefore can be a little laborious.
Clarity must exist before the literal process can even begin. Businesses must be crystal-clear on why the move to cloud technology is happening, as well as being fully aware of the strategy that works best. Goals are vital in all areas of business and cloud migration is no different. Businesses should take clear stock of their environment and confidently decide on what their cloud requirements are, the sort of decision that requires the expertise and experience of cloud experts. Once the type of cloud migration strategy is decided on, businesses must choose which cloud development style to go with, all based on the company’s current and future needs.
When these decisions are set in stone, the migration can begin. If the requisite planning and preparation are done efficiently, then this shouldn’t be too difficult a process. Don’t get complacent though, as complying with industry regulations and planning for bumps in the road is no simple task. Once the applications and the data have been moved to the cloud, it is just as important to ensure that the migration has worked. Validating post-migration success is a must. When this box is ticked, the future can truly begin.
The challenges of cloud migration
Migrating to the cloud will soon become the norm for businesses of all kinds, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t without its challenges. As mentioned, a process of this scale is always going to bring obstacles and issues with it, ranging from technological problems to more intricate management complications.
By definition, cloud migration will involve moving all your data and applications from one spot to another, meaning downtime is inevitable. In-house servers will likely have to go offline, and without proper backups or resource allocation, this downtime can be damaging to a company’s performance and reputation. Competent resource management is, therefore, a must, not just for ensuring a smooth transfer but also for guaranteeing that the move is a successful and efficient one. It isn’t unusual for companies to introduce new roles to maximize what cloud technology has to offer.
Software issues such as data loss or interoperability are also known to arise during and after cloud migration. A company’s data is at its most vulnerable during the migration while getting existing applications to function normally in the new cloud environment can be a frustrating undertaking.
There are plenty more potential challenges waiting during the cloud migration process, but these are obstacles that are worth overcoming. Cloud technology is here to stay, and the benefits for businesses of all kinds speak for themselves. The time for cynicism is over, and the time for a migration is now.