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Best practice for cloud migration

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/bluebay)

Cloud migration - the process of moving data and applications from IT infrastructure on-site within an organisation to the cloud - remains a key priority for many businesses. Indeed, it is predicted that 83 per cent of enterprise workloads will be in the cloud by 2020, with public cloud platforms such as Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure continuing to dominate the market. With the widespread adoption of mobile devices and flexible working practices, organisations are increasingly turning to the cloud seeking greater IT agility, scalability and business continuity.

The benefits of cloud-based IT are multiple, but the process of actually migrating a company’s IT systems to the cloud - while simultaneously ensuring ‘business as usual’ for staff, customers and the supply chain - is not without its challenges. A robust strategy will allow organisations to best reap the rewards, while making the process as efficient and straight-forward as possible.

Careful planning before implementation

As the global cloud market matures, CIOs are increasingly presenting compelling business cases for cloud adoption. Moving all your IT systems to the cloud instantly may have strong appeal, but in reality, this is unrealistic. Not everything can or should be moved, and you will also need to consider the order of migration and impact on business and staff. Considering the unique needs of your organisation will be critical to developing a plan that unlocks the benefits of the cloud without compromising security, daily business activities, existing legacy systems or wasting budget. 

Not everything will be migrated to the cloud

Many applications and services are still not optimised for virtual environments, let alone the cloud. Regardless of how ambitious a company’s cloud strategies are, it’s likely you will have a significant data centre footprint remaining to account for important data and applications. Supporting these systems can be an ongoing challenge, particularly as organisations place more importance, budget and resource into the cloud.

The need for short and long term strategy

Mapping a cloud migration strategy against long, mid and short-term goals can be helpful. The long-term plan may be to move 80 per cent of your applications and data storage to the cloud; however in the short term you will need to consider how you will maintain accessibility and security of existing data, hardware and applications while cloud migration takes place. Third party suppliers can help maintain legacy systems and hardware during the transition to ease disruption and ensure business continuity.

Careful disposal of legacy hard drives and hardware

Cloud migration will inevitably involve the retirement of some hardware. From a security perspective it’s imperative to ensure any stored data is secured to avoid exposing your organisation to the risk of data breaches. Many organisations underestimate hard drive related security risks or assume incorrectly that routine software management methods provide adequate protection.

Cloud migration does not mean less work

While investing in the cloud will result in less on-site hardware and fewer applications for IT managers to manage, this doesn’t automatically mean less work. Cloud computing depends on a significant amount of oversight to ensure vendors are meeting service level agreements, keep budgets under control and avoid cloud sprawl. This vital work requires a different skill set, so you will need to consider upskilling and retraining staff to manage their evolving roles.

On-site and cloud integration

The cloud also creates integration challenges that are even more difficult to deal with. Many IT managers are finding that they must develop ways to integrate premise-based hardware systems with those in the cloud to ensure data and applications can work in conjunction with one another. In many cases, this involves making sure that the network can handle smooth data transmissions between various information sources. However, getting cloud and non-cloud systems to work with one another can be incredibly difficult, involving complex projects that are not only difficult to manage, but also complicated by having fewer resources for the internal facility.

Improving IT cost efficiency

With more budget being transferred off site for cloud systems and other IT outsourcing services, many IT managers are left with less to spend on their on-site IT infrastructure. The financial pressure mounts as more corporate data centres need to take on cloud attributes to keep up with broad technology strategies. Finding ways to improve IT cost efficiency is vital to addressing internal data centre maintenance challenges. 

Streamlining ongoing IT costs

Following cloud migration, as retained legacy IT systems age, dedicated hardware maintenance and operating system support strategies enable organisations to reduce their warranty costs compared to OEM extended warranties, while also accessing more flexible service plans. A third-party maintenance provider can give IT managers the services they need, in many cases, for almost half the cost. The end result is that IT teams can free resources to spend on the internal data centre and be better prepared to support the systems that are still running in the on-site environment. While hardware maintenance plans may not solve every problem, they provide a consistent source of fiscal and operational relief that makes it easier for IT teams to manage their data storage issues as they arise.

Paul Mercina, Park Place Technologies