Developers love a challenge, and the expanding use of the cloud has been one of the most exciting innovations in the past ten years. So, it is easy for an IT department to get excited at the prospect of moving to cloud infrastructure and want to get things done as quickly as possible. But one of the biggest reasons for most cloud migration failures is a lack of planning.
Don’t assume that working with applications and data in the cloud isn’t much different from doing it onsite. You’ve got to think about security, cost estimation, and the willingness to shift to a future-thinking mindset to consider. Let’s review some common traps organizations often encounter when migrating to the cloud and a few ways to handle those challenges.
1. Don’t Skip the Strategy Part
Moving data and applications from legacy systems to a cloud infrastructure is an enormous feat. Make sure the following questions are among those asked when planning out a cloud migration strategy.
- What applications should move to the cloud or get replaced with something more suitable?
- How much can be reasonably accomplished in a given timeframe?
- How much do the workloads on your applications fluctuate?
- Are you placing your data in the proper storage format?
- Will your users have the same functionality and access once their application migrates?
- Do you have a clear business case that outlines your goals?
- Which migration tools will be used, and are they the ones for your needs?
- Have you validated the data you wish to move?
- Will your application behave differently in a cloud environment?
- Does your staff have the training to complete the migration successfully?
- Have you adequately prepared your data for the move?
Here are a few things companies can do to address some of these challenges:
- Break things down into phases — Don’t do everything at once. For example, the first focus should be moving applications that can transition smoothly with minimal adjustments. Account for those that will need replacing in a different phase.
- Account for your users — Make sure the migration team understands how cloud architecture will recognize users and their roles when allowing them access to applications and data. Consultants should also examine the performance of applications in their current environment and capture what functionality must be there.
- Implement controlled data marshaling — It is a good idea to stage your information in a dedicated storage area if you need to do a lot of copying, reformatting, exporting, or archiving. Systems can then prepare the information parallel to each other while avoiding bottlenecks.
The above are just a few things organizations, and IT must consider. Rushing through the process without these considerations can leave a business crippled and unable to service their customers.
2. Mitigate Downtime for Users
Moving applications and data around can be a drain on network resources. Failing to have an adequate backup environment can lead to an outage that affects users and the ability of a company to continue delivering services. Conversely, having reliable backup during migration can keep business applications running until complete.
Don’t throw together something hastily that might fail if an outage occurs. Instead, ensure the backup environment has the necessary resources to support all processes and handle the user load. Businesses should also post clear warnings and send notifications about potential downtime before implementing significant portions of their cloud migrations.
Again, don’t try to do too much at once. Many successful cloud migrations take up to 18 months to complete. Moving smaller, less complicated items at the beginning causes less drain on system resources and avoids extended downtimes.
3. Understand the Security Set-Up
The security needs of a company’s cloud infrastructure become more complex as more pieces get added. Visibility becomes an issue depending on the type of cloud service model a company chooses. Going with a provider like Amazon Web Services (AWS) can limit the amount of control a business has overseeing the various ways of handling data. Organizations also need clarity around the security a cloud provider assumes responsibility for and what the organization will need to address.
Failing to make the distinctions clear can lead to gaps in security that create openings for bad actors. Companies should thoroughly understand how their data repository works and the type of protection around it. It is a good idea to receive regular reports from a cloud provider that can help expose weaknesses in the cloud setup and allow businesses to address them before being exploited.
4. Protect Data During a Transfer
Moving data from a physical server to the cloud presents a separate set of risks. Watchful data thieves can quickly figure out how to steal information during the transfer if businesses fail to put adequate data protections in place. Therefore, companies must implement security protocols that prevent data from being taken during migration.
Ways to Protect Data During Transfers
- Use encryption to protect information
- Make sure the proper protocols (FTP, HTTPS) are used
- Employ automation to check for hacking attempts
- Consider two-factor authentication for access
- Understand Identity and Access Management (IAM) roles
- Implement notifications that confirm the information made it to the right place
- Audit the entire process to find any ongoing weaknesses
- Send regular reports to IT and security on any audit and security findings
Businesses should test each data migration piece before moving their information. There should also be testing done to find vulnerabilities once completing the move. Doing it right away allows a company to find issues immediately and fix them much earlier.
5. Bake in Some Flexibility
Companies often make the mistake of not using the flexibility of the cloud to implement creative new frameworks for their business. As a result, they end up duplicating their current setup and not allowing themselves to adapt and expand with the organization’s needs. The biggest reason for this is a need for more education and understanding among IT staff about handling their cloud platform.
- Be careful about modifying legacy applications to fit cloud architecture, which can cause costs to balloon. In addition, the functionality of the legacy app may be negatively impacted if enough research is not done assessing how well the application would integrate with a new cloud setup.
- Businesses should consider how easily new applications or services can integrate with a cloud platform.
- Interoperability, or the cloud platform’s ability to communicate with applications, should be a consideration at every step.