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The topic of cloud migration has created a buzz in nearly every industry — if you’re not in the cloud yet, you’re looking for ways to get there. It’s an inevitable conclusion for most organizations looking to scale and grow their business, but it’s not always as easy as it sounds. Overcoming barriers early on and avoiding common mistakes can be the difference between a successful and disastrous cloud migration strategy.

[Related Reading: AWS Cloud Migration Best Practices]

Addressing cloud migration barriers up-front

Barrier #1: Lack of education and awareness

Although we talk about cloud migration often, not everyone fully understands what it is or what it really means. There is a tendency to view it as transferring infrastructure responsibility to someone else to minimize in-house IT costs, but when looking closer, there are many intricacies and details to the different types of cloud computing and migration options.

While the majority of large and medium sized organization, IT teams, boards, and executives comprehend the basics of cloud migration, it is this next level or depth of understanding that is important for success.

Whether you adopt Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), opt to shut down applications & put apps in the cloud through Software as a Service (SaaS), or move to managed services, they all require different levels of understanding and demand a varied approach to aligning stakeholders.

The more education you have on cloud migration, the better equipped you’ll be to address why you want to migrate and to also infer how you’re best going to do it.

Barrier #2: Lack of understanding in critical areas

Costing and migration options are two areas where initial lack of understanding can create initial barriers.

  • Costing: Shifting from on-prem operational expenses to cloud, consumption- and utilization-based pricing requires an organizational shift in how costs are estimated, measured, and charged. Although it can lead to long-term costs savings, it can be difficult to educate stakeholders initially.
  • Cloud Migration Options: Understanding the options can be challenging for two reasons:
    • While in the midst of migrating to the cloud, organizations typically must adopt new technology that comes with a learning curve.
    • These are technical concepts that have to be communicated at a non-tech level to key stakeholders.

Barrier #3: Perceiving cloud migration as just another cost

It’s no secret that upfront costs to cloud migration can be substantial, and this can create difficulties when getting key decision-makers onboard. However, any pushback or hesitance directly related to cost is frequently due to a lack of understanding on the scale and magnitude of cloud migration.

As the old saying goes, you must “spend money to save money.” Decision-makers need to view any upfront costs as a long-term investment, for the money you spend now will help you save money in the long run.

The most effective way to communicate this is to break it down into how it will benefit different areas of the business, highlighting how and where improvements will happen.

For example, moving infrastructure into the cloud will save physical datacenter and operational costs by removing the need to rent or lease a space, and further, removing the high energy expenses that would come with it.

There are two primary resources to leverage to overcome this cloud migration challenge:

  • Industry analysts & reports, such as those from Gartner and Forrester, can provide guidance on data points needed to communicate these improvements. These analyst firms are uniquely positioned to capture a broad market perspective that is representative of what most customers are doing from a cloud transformation standpoint.
  • Best practice documentation from cloud providers (Azure, AWS, GDP) are particularly helpful because their extensive experience with thousands of customers has allowed them to develop proven best practices, taking an approach that is based on what you want to do (use-case perspective) and why you want to do it (focus on desired end-state).

Together, these resources translate cloud migration factors in a way that will help you ask the right questions and effectively walk you through the process, step by step.

Once you’ve overcome the main barriers, it’s important to avoid the most common mistakes when selecting a migration strategy.

Anticipating and mitigating common mistakes before they happen

Mistake #1: Assuming a lift and shift approach is easiest and quickest

A common misconception is that rehosting (aka lift and shift) is simply copying and pasting infrastructure from one place to another, such as to a shared location or cloud infrastructure. Equally, it’s assumed that following this approach will make cloud migration easy — but this is simply not true.

The complexity of cloud migration lies in the actual movement or lift and shift motion. To put it in perspective, an on-prem environment has direct network connectivity while a cloud environment is wireless. This creates dependencies on other forms of networks (e.g., WAN) that become the line to access your infrastructure. Whereas before (when it was local on the network) you knew what the root cause of a problem was, it’s more challenging to get the root cause in a cloud environment. During the migration process, there are more factors at play that can increase the possibility for things to go wrong — a fact that many tend to forget.

Mistake #2: Focusing on existing problems instead of improvements

Organizations should look at cloud migration as an opportunity to fix problems — such as process or workflow inefficiencies — identify gaps, and address key issues.

For example, let’s assume you are moving an internet-exposed server with vulnerabilities that is sitting behind a firewall. If you take a literal lift and shift approach and move that server to the cloud, all you’ve done is expose the same vulnerability.

Instead, take advantage of the unique opportunity you’re given with your cloud migration strategy to:

  • Reflect on the current state-of-play
  • Improve and/or add efficiencies
  • Put your infrastructure in a state that is far better than where it was on-prem

Mistake #3: Missing the opportunity to consolidate

Historically, hosting things on-prem demanded big servers that took up a lot of room. It required you to think about where components would physically go, thereby limiting and dictating how you did things. But when you move to the cloud, you can scale up to massive compute power, with limited impact (apart from cost).

Moving to the cloud provides a prime opportunity to look at ways to consolidate what you have. For example, if have a large number of servers for file storage or numerous applications requiring load balance, you may not need all of them in the cloud. You can beef up applications and have better redundant pairs without requiring all that real estate.

Use your migration strategy as an opportunity to identify where you can consolidate and minimize what you have, ultimately supporting the notion that moving to the cloud is cheaper in the long run. In the cloud, less is more.

To learn more about cloud migration strategy and approaches, register for the webinar — Selecting the Right Cloud Migration Strategy for Your Business.

Edward Merrett
About the Author
Edward Merrett
Edward Merrett is a Senior Cyber Security Professional specializing in Security Operations, Cyber Threat Intelligence, and Incident Response. He’s currently the Cyber Security Operations and Incident Response Manager at McArthurGlen, building out the digital security and incident response functions alongside MSSPs, as well as promoting good security practices across the business and ensuring security awareness is adopted for all. Edward is the founder and researcher at HackableYou, a dedicated Cyber Security Podcast aiming to inform, educate and inspire all levels of interest in the industry.

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