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A sense of direction is key to cloud migration

(Image credit: Image Credit: TZIDO SUN / Shutterstock)

Moving IT systems to the cloud has become a strategic objective for many businesses. As a result, investment in cloud services is expected to exceed general IT spending by 2020. This ‘migration’ process is well named, and for some, it can be a challenging journey. But, having a well-planned sense of direction from the start can help businesses ensure their cloud strategy delivers everything they need.

Assess the current situation

The migration process should start with an assessment of existing IT platforms and solutions. In some cases, it might not be practical to move all existing applications to the cloud, and it is vital to understand what is possible before any budget is committed to cloud services or providers. For example, some applications are very resource intensive, this will affect the choice of cloud model. Also, consider the management layer you need – do you have an in-house IT department who can manage your cloud for you, or do you need a managed service provider?

This should go hand-in-hand with an understanding of business requirements and how a cloud migration needs to impact the overall organisation, not just your IT team. By addressing business goals and analysing the impact of moving to the cloud, a clear project plan can be put together.

Migrating to the cloud is an opportunity to rectify any problems the existing IT architecture. A gap analysis can help identify these issues and point towards any cloud-based services that could increase business efficiency and profitability.

A big part of this initial work is to spend time researching different cloud hosting companies to find the one that suits your requirements and technical priorities. Ask them challenging questions and keep looking until you find the ideal partner. If you require 100 per cent uptime, for example, focus on finding a provider that can guarantee this, and can support this claim with Service Level Agreements (SLAs) that are financially backed. Be sure to check company SLA’s and make sure you understand where their service and support begins and ends.

Create a cloud strategy

Once the research phase is complete, it is time to put together a specific cloud strategy. Businesses can choose from a range of cloud services including Public, Private, Hybrid mix or Colocation. Each strategic choice will have pros and cons for your specific needs, and this can be a good time to look for advice from people with experience of cloud migration, such as IT experts in other businesses or full-time cloud professionals.

When the cloud platform or solution has been designed in conjunction with the cloud experts, you can begin to think about how to migrate your data from the existing provider to the new one. Depending on the specific resources that you wish to migrate, this process will vary. Actions and internal resources that are required should be mapped out with a time scale as part of a high-level project plan.

One model of migration is referred to as a ‘lift and shift’ operation, where enterprises move their data and applications to the cloud without making any modifications. In other cases, it may be more beneficial to make changes to application code or architecture before migrating it. Without proper planning, cloud migration could negatively affect workload and lead to higher costs, which is where working with a managed hosting provider can beneficial.

Another crucial consideration ensuring that you look for a provider who can not only offer you a speedy migration, but alongside this, offer complete security and support while the migration process is underway. Working with providers that, not only offer this security during the migration process, but commit to providing continuous DR and backup solutions that protect valuable data across your environments.

Select, deploy and optimise

Once you have planned your migration and your cloud has been built, you are ready to start deploying your data and applications. Ensuring you have struck the right kind of partnership is key during the migration and deployment stages, especially when it comes to handling any issues. Working with a UK-based hosting provider that is always available, whenever an upgrade is needed, could prove to be of huge benefit and comfort to any UK business making it leap to the cloud.

Having a detailed and structured project plan for the migration will be really useful when the new solution is delivered. Migration may be done in stages, depending on how the architect has planned the process. A testing plan should also be in place once the migration is complete to ensure that all sites and applications are working correctly.

Once the strategy is up and running, regularly assess your cloud platform to ensure that it is working for your business – your cloud must be able to scale with the demands of the company. Continue to learn about the cloud, identify features that work, and features that could be improved. Ensure all software is patched and kept up to date and invest in new features as they are released. 

Managed providers will be able to suggest any amendments or performance tuning to improve the platform. If any additional services are added, the platform may even need to be re-architected to ensure that the server is working to its full capacity.

Jon Lucas, co-director, Hyve Managed Hosting