Identity Governance Blog

The Complete Guide to Cloud Migration

By Stephen Lowing, VP Marketing at Omada

2022 saw an unprecedented 57% of organizations worldwide migrating their operations to the cloud. And it’s likely to increase in the coming years.

There’s no denying the enormous benefits of moving to the cloud. Aside from greater reliability and uptime, migrating an application to cloud servers can also improve performance and security.

However, cloud migration is exceptionally challenging and complex. There are a lot of technical hurdles that you’ll encounter. You need lots of preparation, coordination, and knowledge to overcome them.

This article will start solving the latter by giving you a comprehensive guide to cloud migration.


What is Cloud Migration?

Cloud migration in IT is the process of moving a company’s system from an on-premise environment to a cloud-based platform. The system to be ported can include applications, data, or infrastructure. Or it could be all of them.

The primary goal of cloud migration is to leverage the benefits of cloud computing into an organization’s operations. This includes scalability, elasticity, and cost efficiency.


The Benefits of Cloud Migration

Cloud migration has many crucial benefits, which is why companies go to great lengths to do it. But before discussing, let’s first talk about why some organizations are hesitant about migration.

Why People Resisted Migrating to the Cloud

Migrating tier 0 (also called mission-critical) applications to the cloud can be worrying to many.

That’s because tier 0 applications typically have high performance and security requirements. In other words, organizations can’t afford downtime on them. Can you imagine if a bank’s financial system goes down?

When these mission-critical apps are moved to the cloud, people think it’s more susceptible to data breaches and hacks. This misconception is the primary reason why some companies are hesitant about cloud migration.

There’s also the notion that moving systems from on-premise (which the company owns) to a third-party cloud server is akin to giving up control. They believe they can’t manage it as efficiently as before or respond during an emergency.

Finally, some are concerned that moving tier 0 applications to the cloud can slow them down, affecting their reliability and stability.

All of these issues are founded. But they can easily be tackled by choosing a reputable cloud provider with stringent security, reliability, and safety standards.

Cloud Computing Migration Benefits

Scalability is perhaps one of the biggest advantages of cloud migration. Application and hardware can be easily scaled up or down fluidly. It is advantageous when dealing with temporarily increased traffic during peak seasons. A scalable cloud architecture also leads to cost savings since you don’t need to spend on expensive hardware and infrastructure.

Another benefit is flexibility. Cloud computing allows users to access their applications and data from anywhere, anytime, and on any online device. It makes remote work possible, thereby increasing productivity and collaboration across the organization.

Cloud computing can also improve reliability and stability. That’s because most cloud service providers have Service Level Agreements (SLA) that guarantee a certain level of uptime and availability. Thus, it’s highly unlikely that your application will go down if hosted on a reputable cloud server.

Finally, most cloud service providers have the latest cybersecurity protocols and sophisticated measures in place. As a result, protection actually improves against cyber threats and data breaches. Furthermore, such protection is often more robust and cost-effective than if you tried to do it on your organization.


How Does the Cloud Migration Process Work?

Cloud migration sounds simple in theory. After all, don’t you just need to move your entire infrastructure, like copy-pasting files?

Unfortunately, it’s more complicated. Cloud migration involves multiple obstacles, challenges, and complications that you need to consider. Thus, it involves a multi-step process that ensures migration goes smoothly.

Here are the cloud migration steps in order.

Define the purpose of migration

Before you begin migrating to the cloud, you first need to determine why you will do it. Deciding on a use case will help make decisions regarding your migration much easier. Plus, different use cases would require different strategies and approaches.

One of the most common purposes for cloud migration is data storage and back up. Cloud-based solutions are often more cost-effective and scalable than on-premise alternatives and can offer better security and reliability. Plus, it’s easily accessible for remote workers.

An enterprise would also want to migrate its entire operations to the cloud, including hosting web and mobile applications. It’s a popular approach to make these applications scalable and available, as cloud-based applications can handle high traffic without sacrificing performance.

Or perhaps you’re setting up a cloud-based application development and testing environment? This approach is often used for development teams to quickly spin up and down computing resources as needed without investing in added hardware. Cloud migration also benefits continuous integration and delivery (CI/CD) pipelines and DevOps.

Cloud migration can also be used to implement infrastructure as a service, or IaaS. It provides a cost-effective way to access computing resources, such as servers, storage, and networking, on an as-needed basis. IaaS allows organizations to quickly scale their operations up and down to account for peak seasons.

Finally, cloud migrations can also be the foundation of your disaster recovery efforts. For instance, organizations can use cloud-based infrastructure to replicate their data and applications across multiple regions. This creates redundancy and ensures critical systems are available even if one region is affected by a disaster.

Assess the current infrastructure

Once you’ve decided on a use case for cloud migration, your next step is to assess your current infrastructure. Doing so will help determine which applications and data are suitable for migration.

Start by identifying all the components that will be affected by the move, including applications, databases, servers, hardware, and network devices.

Then, you must assess them. That is, you determine if there are any potential issues or limitations that may impact cloud migration, such as legacy systems, security risks, compliance issues, or performance bottlenecks. To do this, you might need to analyze the current workload, resource utilization, or application performance metrics.

Pick a cloud integration approach

The next step is to select the level of integration appropriate for your situation. You have two options here – a shallow or deep integration.

A shallow integration, also called “lift and shift,” is when you move the application as is to the cloud. No changes are made to the application’s code or functionality to fit into its new cloud environment.

This approach suits applications or systems that can’t be redesigned for a cloud environment. One example is off-the-shelf software that can’t be changed due to an end-user license agreement (EULA) that prevents it. Another instance is a legacy system that isn’t compatible with modern cloud architecture.

The main benefit of a shallow integration is simplicity and speed since you don’t need to do extensive modifications to existing systems. Because of this, this approach is best for organizations with limited budgets or who are just getting started with cloud migration.

However, a shallow integration is limiting at best. Applications hosted with the lift and shift method can have slower performance and latency. On top of that, it could also be prone to security vulnerabilities.

Now, let’s look at its counterpart—deep integration.

In deep integration, you tailor-fit your application and systems to fit into a cloud environment. It often involves modifying software completely, depending on the complexity of your deployment.

Deep integration often involves advanced techniques such as middleware, integration platforms, custom APIs, and data mapping. In more complex cases, you might need serverless computing such as one provided by AWS Lambda.

The main benefit of deep integration is that it allows your applications to maximize your cloud environment’s features and capabilities fully. Applications hosted this way are more scalable, elastic, and available than the lift-and-shift method. As such, they can also result in lower costs, improved performance, and greater flexibility.

Of course, the trade-off is that deep integration is more expensive and time-consuming. It also requires the skills of experienced integration architects, developers, and operations personnel.

However, deep integration is the way to go if your cloud applications require optimal speed and performance.

Decide between single or multi-cloud migration

In a single-cloud migration, you only get the services of a single cloud provider.

The main benefit of this approach is that management is greatly simplified because everything is on one platform. It could also give you greater visibility on your network, thus allowing you to spot irregularities much faster.

The drawback of single cloud migration is that you’re locked into that provider.

Therefore, you won’t always get the best price or service level agreement (SLA) metrics like speed and uptime.

A multi-cloud migration is an exact opposite of a single-cloud migration. Here, you use multiple vendors to host parts of your system. For instance, you may use Amazon Web Services (AWS) for your ERP system and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) for your website.

The main advantage of multi-cloud migration is flexibility. You can choose the best platform suited for each application or workload using multiple providers. It also allows you to choose the best price.

The trade-off is added complexity and overhead, as you’ll need to manage and monitor multiple cloud platforms. Furthermore, you might need to implement additional integration and management tools to ensure seamless communication between platforms.

Overall, the choice between single or multi-cloud migration will depend on your specific needs, goals, and resources.

Pick a cloud service provider

In this step, you decide on one or several cloud service providers, depending if you opted for a single or multi-cloud migration.

Common options include Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, IBM Cloud, and Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI).

It would help if you looked at each platform’s features, capabilities, strengths, limitations, and pricing. Then, try to match that with your migration needs. Ideally, shortlist your top two or three picks, then compare them with each other.

Plan and execute the data migration

At this stage, you need to start planning your migration process.

First, you’ll need to prioritize the systems, applications, and components you’ll migrate.

It often makes sense to start with internal services with the least dependencies on other systems as they involve the least complications. You can easily check dependencies and connections between your services with an application performance monitoring tool.

You should also plan data migration carefully, as it’s often the most challenging aspect. An easy way to do this is with a data migration service like the AWS Database Migration Service (DMS).

It’s also prudent to prepare your applications for the move by backing up any critical data. This ensures you have something to restore it with should issues happen.

Finally, put it all together in a migration plan. Outline the specific steps involved, and include timelines and contingencies in case of problems. After that, it’s just a matter of executing the plan.

Post-cloud migration

Post-cloud migration tasks are crucial to ensure that the process proceeds without significant problems.

First, you must thoroughly test applications and infrastructure to check if they function as expected. There are different software testing methods that you can use depending on what it is you want to test, for instance, functionality, security, or performance testing.

Once issues are resolved and applications run in the cloud, the next step is optimizing them for performance, cost, and scalability. Here, you might need to remove bottlenecks, resize resources, and adjust configurations as needed.

At this point, it’s important to constantly monitor the cloud environment to ensure everything performs optimally and that any issues are identified and addressed immediately.

You can use cloud migration metrics here to gauge specific performance areas in your infrastructure. Notable examples include lag, response time, throughput, availability, CPU usage, and disk performance.

It’s especially critical to ensure data security in your new cloud environment and that they conform with regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Finally, you should also consider staff training. Cloud migration can introduce new workflows and processes, so orienting everyone in the new environment is important. Doing so ensures they can effectively adapt and work in the cloud.


The Challenges of Cloud Migration

Cloud migration takes a lot of work. Here are some challenges you’ll encounter.

The biggest is complexity. Large organizations usually have complicated IT infrastructures, with dozens of applications and thousands of data points. Migrating these seamlessly takes significant planning, testing, and coordination.

Second, is the compatibility issues with cloud migration. Application systems, especially older ones, might not be cloud-ready. You’ll often need to modify, retool, or in some cases, completely rebuild the software to fit into a cloud environment. Even then, there’s no guarantee that it will run optimally. That is why many organizations take this as an opportunity to look at more modern solutions that are cloud-native and where they don’t have to make any compromises.

Third, you can also encounter bandwidth issues when migrating large data volumes. This can be exceptionally time-consuming. Not to mention it might introduce problems like network congestion and data loss.

Fourth, cloud application migration can also introduce performance issues. These can arise when the migration needs to be optimized or application configurations need to be properly set.

Fifth, you might not have the necessary expertise to perform a successful migration. You might need to spend time and effort hiring a professional or cloud migration provider with the required skills.

Finally, you have cost challenges. Data migration can involve high upfront costs associated with migration planning and execution, licensing, and infrastructure. There are also maintenance costs you need to worry about.


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