Thinking of switching to cloud services? Countless organizations have turned to the cloud for the superior agility and scalability it offers.
The process of moving to the cloud is known as cloud migration. Several benefits come with migrating your resources to the cloud, including:
- Improved application performance
- Lower IT infrastructure costs
- Pain-free scalability
But cloud migrations are complex and come with their own challenges. To get the most out of your cloud services, you’ll need a cloud migration strategy that supports your business goals and objectives.
In this post, we’re going to look at what goes into planning a cloud migration.
[Related Reading: On-Premises vs. Cloud: What’s the Difference?]
What Is Cloud Migration and Its Benefits?
When organizations want to transfer their digital assets from private on-premises servers onto the cloud, they must undergo a cloud migration process.
But removing data, applications, IT resources, and other assets from legacy infrastructures to the cloud can be challenging. If you don’t plan for a smooth cloud transition, you could be plagued with setbacks like configuration errors and downtime that costs your business money.
This is why cloud migration should be looked at as a journey rather than a quick process. There are a lot of complexities involved with moving to the cloud, and the success of your journey depends on your strategy.
With that said, there are a number of benefits that come with migrating to the cloud. Any organization looking to stay competitive in today’s world needs to adopt cloud service solutions.
They enable businesses of all sizes to stay competitive by keeping business technology aligned with customer expectations.
Benefits of cloud migration include:
Cloud scalability is lightyears ahead of its on-premises counterparts. With on-prem infrastructure, you’re limited to the capacity of your hardware.
But cloud infrastructure and resources are different. You pay for the resources you need. When you need to scale up (or scale down), you simply upgrade your services so they match your IT demands. This means your technology is aligned with your growth strategy.
Cloud solutions also give organizations a cheaper and more cost-effective alternative to on-premises IT infrastructure. Many large organizations can cut their traditional IT operating costs in half after undergoing a cloud migration –– all because they don’t need to spend money purchasing and maintaining hardware.
And the benefits are more pronounced for smaller companies that can’t afford the cost of owning advanced on-prem infrastructure. Thanks to infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), they use virtualized computing resources offered by cloud providers instead of purchasing their own IT equipment.
Flexible storage options
Many cloud service providers offer flexible storage options that can meet your company’s budget and its business requirements. This means you can expand or shrink your storage space based on your demand –– which is especially useful if your storage requirements change quarterly.
Cloud services deliver an unprecedented level of agility that on-prem solutions are unable to match.
When people commonly talk about cloud agility, they’re talking about the ability to quickly develop, test, and launch applications –– and that’s certainly an important part of its agility, but the benefits don’t stop there.
Along with facilitating rapid development and deployment, cloud services also help organizations become more responsive to change. That change can be new technology demands, a shift in customer preferences, or the need to quickly accommodate a remote workforce.
Cloud systems make it easier to accommodate those changes while minimizing disruptions that could impact your bottom line.
What Are the Challenges of Cloud Migration?
With all the benefits that come with moving to the cloud, it’s hard to see why anyone would confine their organization to an on-prem environment.
However, cloud migration is a double-edged sword. Without an effective strategy in place, your migration could end up causing you grief. Below are some common challenges to prepare for when launching your cloud journey.
Cost management is one of the biggest challenges organizations have with cloud migration.
People often make the mistake of assuming that moving to a cloud environment will immediately save them money, but that won’t always be the case. There are a few things you’ll need to consider when planning your IT budget, including:
- The upfront costs of your cloud migration (migration services, consultant fees, cost of labor, etc.)
- Recurring expenses from subscriptions
- Costs associated with expanding your cloud services
Because there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to digital transformation, estimating the cost of cloud migration can be tough. That’s why we recommend using a cloud cost calculator to help you plan your budget.
Popular calculators include:
Using a cost calculator will help you prepare for the expenses associated with your cloud journey.
Completing your cloud journey is a long and complicated process. You’re going to experience challenges along the way, regardless of whether this is your first migration or you’re a seasoned veteran.
You might get the urge to stick with one vendor for convenience sake, even if they’re not the best fit for you. If you aren’t careful, you could find yourself locked in with that vendor.
When you’re locked in with a vendor, you’re often confined to their ecosystem. Not only can this dramatically limit your selection of cloud tools and services, it also makes switching cloud providers significantly harder.
Here are a few ways you can prevent vendor lock-in from happening to you:
- Design your apps with an exit strategy
- Carefully review the exit policies within your cloud service agreement
- Have a plan for getting your data back
Many cloud service providers store data in proprietary formats that only work on their environments. Before you migrate to the cloud, have your provider tell you about the process for getting your data back in a useable format.
Moving to the cloud comes with its own set of security risks. This is largely due to people assuming that moving to the cloud automatically protects you from threats –– it doesn’t.
Misconfigurations, careless employees, and insecure APIs are just a few of the cloud security risks you’ll encounter during your migration.
Your cloud migration is complicated enough on its own –– the last thing you need is a cybersecurity incident to deal with. Reduce the chances of an attack by making security your first priority and baking it into your migration strategy.
Download our cloud migration checklist to learn how to plan a strategy that minimizes risks while supporting your business.
And when you’re working in your cloud environment, be mindful of the shared responsibility model. Your service provider is responsible for the security of the cloud and you’re responsible for the security within the cloud.
[Related Reading: How Secure is the Cloud?]
You could experience some downtime during parts of the migration process. This could hurt the performance of your applications –– and worse, it could damage your customer loyalty.
A disaster management solution that uses backups and resource allocation will reduce the chances of setbacks. This will protect you from incidents that can undermine your reputation and business performance.
What Are the Types of Cloud Migration Strategies?
Every business is unique. A migration strategy that works for one organization might not work for yours. That’s why AWS created the six Rs of migration, a strategic framework based on Gartner’s “five Rs of migration” from 2010.
You can use the six Rs to help you decide which strategy best supports your business goals and objectives. They are:
This is also known as the lift-and-shift approach. It’s when you migrate your stack to the cloud without modifying any code.
This is a quick and easy strategy, making it popular with companies new to cloud computing. But the rapid deployment of the lift-and-shit approach comes with a cost –– it doesn’t take advantage of the cloud’s full capabilities. This could cost you more money in the long run.
Rehosting is good if you’re looking for immediate gains, but it’s best suited for organizations without a long-term cloud strategy.
This strategy is affectionately known as “lift, tinker, and shift” because of its similarities with the lift-and-shift method. However, re-platforming requires you to make some adjustments to your stack –– but the core architecture of your applications goes relatively untouched.
It’s a good strategy for organizations that want to get used to working in the cloud before going all-in.
Repurchasing is when you dump all of your legacy applications in favor of native cloud applications. This approach may seem somewhat drastic, but it works for organizations that are 100% committed to working on the cloud.
This approach can be challenging at first, because you need time to train teams to work on a new platform. But it tends to pay off in the long run if you’re moving away from a lot of custom legacy software.
This strategy is also known as rearchitecting. It’s when you completely rebuild your applications from the ground up to better support your cloud environment.
Following this approach gives you access to powerful cloud-native features, including serverless computing and auto-scaling. It also increases your chances of making your systems future-proof, which can save you time and money in the long run.
Refactoring takes a lot of time and tends to be the most expensive of the migration strategies. However, it can be very beneficial if your organization has a great product-market fit.
Strategies for staying out of the cloud
Think of the strategies above as active strategies. Each strategy offers a different method for moving your data to a cloud environment.
The two remaining Rs are different. Instead of looking at how you can migrate to the cloud, they offer strategies for keeping your apps off the cloud. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense to migrate certain applications –– and that’s where these steps can help.
Over the course of your migration journey, you’ll likely come across applications that don’t deliver business value anymore. Perhaps you’re already in the process of decommissioning them, or you know of better solutions to help you achieve your business goals.
In this case, you don’t want to waste time and resources migrating unnecessary apps over to your cloud environment. Retire them instead. It’ll save you money and help your organization in the long run.
What about when your applications do have value, but it doesn’t make sense to move them to the cloud right now?
In this scenario, you should retain them. Keep necessary legacy apps in your on-prem environment and look at migrating them when it makes business sense.
Here are some reasons why you may consider retaining one or more applications:
- Your legacy application and systems don’t work in a cloud environment
- Your organization is actively developing the application in question, and migrating will disrupt that
- Your application is working fine, so there isn’t a need to spend money and time migrating it
- You follow strict compliance regulations that require you to keep specific data on-premise
Understanding these six migration strategies and how they apply to your business will help make your cloud transformation a smooth one.
Your next step is deciding which type of cloud model you want to migrate to.
Choosing the Best Cloud Deployment Model for Your Business
When most people think of the cloud, they envision a utility that provides users with drive space and computing power. What they’re picturing is the public cloud –– and that’s just a part of cloud computing.
There are five types of cloud deployment models. Each version has its pros and cons that you need to consider before choosing the one for your organization. Here is a quick summary of each deployment model.
The public cloud
The public cloud is the most popular of the deployment models.
Public clouds are owned by third-party vendors (also called cloud service providers).
Popular public cloud providers include:
- Google Cloud
- Microsoft Azure
- IBM Cloud
Anyone with an account can work on a public cloud. Most providers offer pay-per-use packages, meaning you can easily increase your resources during times of demand.
Benefits of a public cloud:
- Convenience: Public clouds are designed for convenience. Your provider takes care of managing the infrastructure, so you only have to worry about what you run inside the cloud.
- Dependability: Big-name cloud service providers have an expansive network of servers to ensure your services run optimally 24/7/365.
Drawbacks of a public cloud:
- Simplicity: Public clouds are designed to accommodate as many users as possible, meaning some only offer basic cloud services. If your organization needs customized plans to suit your unique business needs, a public cloud might not be your best option.
- Security issues: As a rule, public cloud providers go to great lengths to keep their systems secure. With that said, you still access your cloud environment through public network links –– which leaves you more vulnerable to potential threats.
Overall, public clouds are great as long as you don’t require complex configurations. But if you’re storing highly sensitive data in the cloud, you might want to consider another approach that isn’t public-facing.
The private cloud
The private cloud model operates a lot like its public counterpart. It offers similar levels of scalability and dependability as the public cloud, but you aren’t sharing any cloud resources with other customers.
Because private clouds are used solely by one company or organization, they’re popular among government agencies, financial industries, and medical industries.
Public cloud providers like AWS, Google, and Microsoft offer private cloud services. Other popular providers include:
- Red Hat OpenStack
- VMware Private Cloud
Benefits of a private cloud:
- Dependability: Private cloud providers offer comparable levels of dependability as their public counterparts –– especially cloud providers that offer both public and private services.
- Security: Private clouds aren’t public-facing, meaning nobody outside of your organization can assess your data.
- Customizability: Unlike public clouds, you can tailor your private cloud to suit your business needs and objectives.
Drawbacks of a private cloud:
- Costs: Running your own dedicated cloud server isn’t cheap. Expect to pay more than you would with a public service provider.
- Maintenance: If you’re required to maintain your private cloud environment, you’ll need to devote more time and money to ensuring your systems run smoothly.
The hybrid cloud
Hybrid clouds offer customers a mixture of public and private cloud models.
According to Flexera’s 2021 State of the Cloud Report, 78% of organizations surveyed use a hybrid cloud. This approach is popular because it’s ideal for organizations that want the simplicity of the public cloud, but also require the security that comes with a private cloud.
Benefits of a hybrid cloud:
- Flexibility: You get the best of both worlds with a hybrid cloud. You can enjoy the convenience of working on a public cloud, with the customizability of a private one.
- Security: Keep your sensitive data secure by storing it in the private portion of your cloud, where it’s inaccessible by anyone outside your organization.
Drawbacks of a hybrid cloud:
- Challenging to implement: A hybrid cloud environment is incredibly complex, making it harder to implement than a private or public cloud. We recommend working with a service partner who has experience implementing hybrid systems. They can help you minimize downtime while you migrate to your hybrid infrastructure.
- Compatibility problems: Make sure to have compatibility between your public and private cloud environments. If you’re unable to have both environments working cohesively, you won’t get the most out of your cloud migration.
The community cloud
Also referred to as the multi-tenant cloud model, the community cloud is like a “compromise” between the public and private cloud.
Like its public counterpart, more than one organization can access the community cloud. But it’s not open for everyone –– only a handful of organizations can belong to the “community.” This is often used by several organizations that belong to the same industry. For example, a group of financial institutions may build on a community cloud.
Benefits of a community cloud:
- Customizability: If the other customers also belong to your industry, the community cloud can be optimized to suit your unique business needs and goals. This is one of the greatest features of the community cloud model.
- Improved privacy: Nobody outside of your community can access data from this type of cloud. While they aren’t as secure as completely private clouds, community clouds are safer than the public cloud.
- Collaborative opportunities: If you want, you can collaborate with other members of your cloud community by sharing data or working on joint projects.
Drawbacks of a community cloud:
- Uncommon: This is the least common cloud deployment model. Finding a community cloud and other organizations willing to migrate to it can be challenging.
- Costs: While not typically as costly as a private cloud, you can expect a community cloud to cost more than a public one. Along with your service costs, you’ll also need to factor in maintenance expenses –– and this cost depends on the number of organizations you share it with.
The multi-cloud approach involves using two or more cloud services in a single environment. The clouds can be public or a mixture of public and private, but the cloud services must be from different providers. This is the key difference between a hybrid cloud and a multi-cloud model.
Hybrid clouds use different deployment models, whereas a multi-cloud uses different service providers –– like AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud.
Multi-clouds are very complex and difficult to configure. But they do offer benefits that make them an attractive solution for companies undergoing a cloud migration.
Benefits of a multi-cloud approach:
- No vendor lock-in: Using multiple cloud providers eliminates your chances of becoming locked in with a single vendor. This gives you a wider range of choices when it comes to choosing applications and services to support your business.
- Improved flexibility: Working on multiple clouds means you have options if things aren’t working out with one service provider. In fact, you may find some providers are more willing to negotiate costs and terms when they discover you have other options available.
Drawbacks of a multi-cloud approach:
- Increased complexity: Managing multiple clouds is tough. And it’s going to be even more challenging if you plan to migrate from on-prem servers to a multi-cloud solution. You’ll need to learn the ins and outs of each cloud vendor, which will take time.
- Greater threat risks: Multi-clouds are notoriously hard to maintain visibility within. Managed services such as those offered by Alert Logic, can help with maintaining visibility. On top of that, multi-cloud requires a lot of integrations –– and more integrations mean more potential vulnerabilities.
Choosing the Right Cloud Migration Strategy for Your Business
Moving to the cloud is challenging and complex.
A lot can go wrong if you don’t have a well-thought-out migration strategy in place. That’s why we believe cloud migration is a journey, not a sprint. Because carefully planning and executing your migration is the first step towards using the cloud to maximize your business goals.
Want to learn more? Watch our webinar on cloud migration and learn how to choose the right strategy to support your business.