As businesses strive to keep pace with the demands of the digital age, many are capitalizing on the efficiency and scalability advantages of cloud computing. While operational speed and efficiency are critical, migrating to the cloud is about determining what is best for the business―not solely about cutting costs.
Every cloud deployment has its own unique risks and limitations. However, these risks can be minimized by following a carefully planned migration strategy that details precisely which workloads are best suited for the cloud; what specific business value your organization hopes to gain from the cloud; and how success will be defined and measured.
Cloud migration is never simple, but with proper planning and the right approach, you can minimize your risk and optimize your return on investment. Following are five important questions you should ask to help ensure you migrate to a cloud environment that best aligns with your business needs.
1. What is your core business reason for migrating to the cloud?
The first step to effective cloud planning is to identify your business goals and understand how the cloud will support those goals. Work with your internal team to carefully evaluate your business priorities, internal processes, operational requirements, and long term strategy.
Be sure to clearly define why you are moving to the cloud and consider the resources and infrastructure you need to make that happen. What does your organization truly require from a cloud environment? What shift in strategy do you expect your business to make in the next few years? What new or emerging technologies should you consider in your migration plans?
While the benefits of cloud computing are attractive, be realistic and realize that not all workloads are a good fit for the cloud. Consider your infrastructure constraints and business priorities. Evaluate and prioritize each workload or application since this will help drive core migration decisions, including cost and timing. How will ongoing market pressures and economic uncertainties impact your IT systems and infrastructure needs?
With a better understanding of how applications and workloads are being utilized, accessed, and created, you can more easily determine the ideal cloud architecture and deployment model. In some cases, a hybrid cloud approach may be the best option. This will allow you to optimally balance data and applications between public and private cloud environments while improving your ability to respond to shifts in workload demands, supply chain weaknesses, and changing market dynamics.
Ultimately, your cloud environment should reliably and efficiently meet the performance requirements of your business, including the need for ongoing sustainability, information security, regulatory compliance, as well as operation efficiency and technology optimization.
2. How will you accurately estimate migration costs?
While the cloud offers the potential for substantial cost savings, without proper planning, costs can quickly spiral out of control. It’s important to understand the rate structure and how you will be charged for the proposed cloud services you are migrating to.
Be sure to take into account the cost of software licensing, infrastructure upgrades, outside contractors and the cost of initial and ongoing technical support. Keep in mind that costs typically increase as you scale your workloads or user count. These figures need to be as realistic as possible to ensure reliable budget forecasting.
Estimating the cost of a cloud migration project can be difficult even for the most seasoned professional. Be careful not to stretch your resources too thin. Some applications function differently in a cloud environment cloud. On-premises performance metrics―while a suitable reference― aren’t always correct. Therefore, you’ll want to incorporate a backup plan in your budget to support extra resources if required.
Having a clear picture of your project needs and budget requirements upfront will help minimize the chance of surprises and migration delays. Often a safer approach is to focus first on a single cloud migration effort and prepare a budget with room to spare as opposed to trying to execute multiple projects in a rapid fashion and come up short if costs shift higher than expected.
To help minimize the chance of cost overruns and project delays, consider working with an experienced cloud consultant who already has a reliable and proven migration methodology. Utilizing the latest virtual technology platforms combined with a modern approach to cloud planning and deployment will help ensure you get a tailored, ROI-focused solution.
3. Do you the resources and expertise needed for an effective migration?
From security and troubleshooting to backup and recovery, there are a lot of moving parts when it comes to planning and deployment. To avoid missteps, make sure you have a knowledgeable implementation team in place early in the decision-making process. Expert planning and advice can mean the different between success and failure.
Your in-house IT team may be best positioned to move your internally developed applications and files to the cloud, but may be less equipped to manage other migration tasks such as moving e-mail systems or file shares. As skill gaps are uncovered, asses the cost-benefit advantages of training your team to handle the task. Be sure that critical areas like security and compliance, managing costs, and governance are properly addressed.
When choosing an outside consultant, look for one with an established record of success in your industry, demonstrated skill in your particular type of project, and equipped with the resources and tools needed to ensure the project is a success. Make certain that your service-level agreements have defined timelines for each stage of the project..
Keep in mind that a delay or failure of your cloud migration project can cost you substantially in lost opportunity and competitive positioning. Teaming with the right cloud partner can help ensure that critical elements stay on track, including go-live schedules, project costs, and business-aligned outcomes.
4. How will you manage data security?
One major advantage of cloud computing―flexible data access―can become a huge liability if security is not effectively factored into the equation. That’s why security concerns should be addressed early in your cloud migration project.
Building a solid security foundation requires an IT infrastructure and operating culture that not only safeguards data and mitigates risk, but helps make the business more agile, responsive, and transparent. Although there is no way to defend against all threats, new tools and techniques for detecting and malware and securing networks and endpoints can help protect data without hindering mobility or productivity.
Technology plays a critical role, but equally important is the need to create an informed and educated security culture. Bad actors and cybercriminals s are continuously exploring new ways to penetrate your defenses, which underpins your need to create a solid culture built around knowledge, awareness and responsiveness.
User policies define acceptable and unacceptable behavior and actions. You’ll want to work with your IT team to outline and enforce practices and policies based on user preferences and business requirements unique to your specific market.
Regulatory compliance is another important consideration. Based on your unique requirements, you might need to store certain types of data particular region or some data may be best suited for on-premises storage.
Strong application controls like encryption and authentication can help safeguard information across networks and on endpoint devices, helping to thwart attackers from transferring or copying critical business data. Your cloud provider should be able to provide documentation that shows a separation of duties for administrative functions, disclosing the level of access that each user has and how those levels are maintained.
5. How will you recover if data is lost or stolen?
Data security and business recovery are among the top critical factors to consider in cloud planning decisions, particularly if your business operates in a regulated environment. In the event of a security breach, you need to be able to restore information and recover quickly.
After identifying and prioritizing the data and applications and you’ve defined your recovery time objectives, your business can establish a solid foundation for a cloud-based disaster recovery solution.
At the center of any good disaster recovery plan is a strategic guidebook that defines processes and outlines procedures to be followed in event of a security breach. This guiding document includes potential scenarios with detailed steps and actions to be taken to minimize the business impact of data loss and allow vital business applications and systems and to be restored and recovered quickly.
The primary goal of disaster planning and recovery is to minimize the impact of a security breach or data loss on business operations and performance. With a properly designed cloud-based disaster recovery plan, mission-critical workloads will failover to a recovery site. Once data is restored, systems can failback from the cloud, and applications and workloads can be restored and re-established to their original condition ―while downtime and disruption are minimized.
Although there is no perfect model or ideal configuration backup and recovery, a smart best practice is to make sure you have employed effective failover measures for all connected devices. A frequent entry point of many attackers is through out-of-date firmware on endpoint devices. That’s why it’s imperative to make sure all of your networks and devices are effectively hardened and capable of protecting against today’s increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks.
Establishing a Solid Foundation
As with any IT investment, certain risks come with cloud migration. Minimizing those risks and capitalizing on the full potential of cloud requires a strategic, pragmatic approach, evaluating essential infrastructure requirements, risk factors, performance needs, and cost considerations.