The cloud is a virtual hub where you can indulge in a number of activities like networking, storage and computing. This can be made available on demand and scaled as per requirement. Moving into the cloud is termed “cloud migration”, and this involves the entire process of moving your organization’s data, infrastructure, applications and resources from the on-premises computing system into cloud systems.
Once you make that step into the cloud, you enter a totally different world. This is probably the reason why companies consider moving to the cloud as a critical business decision that can drastically influence the future of their organization. If you have already successfully moved to the cloud, then you are one of the few lucky ones, but if you are still planning to migrate, then look out for methods that will complete the process with speed and efficiency, not to speak of the costs involved in it. The best thing about moving to the cloud is that you can do more work with less downtime, lower costs and practically no data loss.
Though critical and complex, it is definitely rewarding, and making the switch correctly can help you enjoy a number of advantages. Let’s go through them.
Scalability: Scalability is a highly significant advantage of cloud technology. Through scalability, you can scale the storage capacity of the infrastructure up or down as per requirement. If you want your infrastructure to grow (upscale and downscale as and when required), but would prefer not to worry about the additional expenses attached to it, you can choose to migrate to cloud technology.
Increased effectiveness: This gives your company the increased advantage of utilizing it for development and deployment of services, rather than worrying about monitoring and maintaining infrastructure. This leaves the company resources to focus on achieving business goals.
Lower costs: Since scalability is a strong point of cloud migration, you need not worry about operational costs, because you pay only for what you use. Cloud gives the flexibility to pay by time or resources consumed, depending on the chosen pricing model. This is a boon for small to medium scale businesses, especially when they are trying to control their costs.
Faster implementation: Application changes can be rolled out faster to the end user.
Security: Cloud computing security, also known as cloud security is a set of policies, controls and technologies that will protect the data, applications and infrastructure involved in cloud computing. It involves information security, network security and computer security. Security is provided through different layers and protects critical information from data leakage, theft and deletion/manipulation.
Availability: Cloud providers make resources like infrastructure, servers, storage and other services available for business. This is provided round the clock and with practically no downtime.
Mobility: The need for mobility makes cloud computing possible. This gives reliability, robustness and scalability to the cloud infrastructure making it possible for the continuous and uninterrupted access to content and applications.
Disaster recovery: The Cloud Disaster Recovery feature is a backup and restore feature that stores and maintains copies of all the electronic records saved in the cloud computing environment. It is an important security measure, where data can be securely transferred and stored, with user-authentication and password protection.
Global network: Speed and efficiency are the hallmarks of cloud computing, and this is possible through the impeccable global network feature. There are multiple hubs around the world providing regional infrastructure and resources that gives users access to information within a matter of seconds.
Despite the positives of moving to the cloud, there are significant concerns that you must be aware of.
Compliance: Certain compliance standards may limit the information stored on cloud. There could be risks involved with the IT provider’s compliance to existing policies and contractual obligations with respect to data handling and business operations. There are legal implications in using an external IT provider.
Sensitive information: No matter how secure a a cloud service is, there is always the possibility of a security glitch. If the app has extremely sensitive data, then it would be advisable not to save it in the cloud. It would be good to evaluate the entire structure rather than face the repercussions later on.
Proprietary resources: If the application or technology has proprietary resources, then moving to the cloud could lead to legal complications. CSPs come with their own set of proprietary specifications and standards. Make sure you are aware of those before deciding to migrate.
Latency: Latency is the delay period between a client request and the response provided by the cloud service. This affects the effectiveness and usability of devices. And in cloud services, this problem can be really magnified. High latency can lead to huge delay times, especially in these situations: video conferencing contact centers, cloud-based telephone systems and similar collaboration tools. It is important to take measures that would lower the latency for public cloud apps. You can start by identifying the areas where bottlenecks often arise, and clear those. You can also control latency by moving your office closer to that of the cloud service provider. Significant measures have been taken to control the latency, and there has been a huge change too, but there could still be some loose ends.
Current setup: If you follow an on-premise model that is not too expensive and is comparatively easier for you to handle, then the wiser option is to stick with it. This way, you will not call in unnecessary complication of moving to the cloud.
Debugging: There is this threat of lack of control over performance because of the incompetence of the cloud provider to provide quality service all the time. Make sure you are aware of what the cloud provider can provide in terms of system performance, how they handle a disruption of service threat and how they can manage your application without too much delay. When the cloud vendor handles the hardware, it could affect the performance factor.
Sharing issues: With shared infrastructure, the threat of one application hogging the resources of other application is always a glaring fact. Unless there is proper visibility, it is not possible to monitor the applications and the physical hardware that they share while running simultaneously. This is always a risk that will stare right at you all the time.
Vendor lock-in: Vendor lock-in is a primary issue of moving to cloud. It happens when you cannot have a smooth transition from one product or service to another. This mostly results from usage of proprietary technologies and resources with those of the vendor’s. The four primary vendor locking risks are data transfer risk, application transfer risk, infrastructure transfer risk and human resource knowledge risk. These could also lead to substantial switching costs. And once committed to a particular cloud model, you will have difficulties in switching back to an on-premise model.
Compatibility: It may so happen that the existing infrastructure is not compatible with that of the cloud provider’s. In that case, you might have to make some changes and ensure compatibility before moving ahead.
If you are a company managing with on-premises computing, and worried about the expenses in managing the resources and infrastructure, you can consider switching to cloud. Given below are the steps that help in a smooth transition.
The first step is of course, to select the right cloud provider. The following points will help you in this.
Which cloud service model: IaaS, PaaS or SaaS?
You need to opt for the right cloud service model before migration: IaaS, PaaS or SaaS. IaaS is also known as Infrastructure as a Service, PaaS is Platform as a Service and SaaS is Software as a Software. Each of these cloud models has their own sets of benefits that would be suitable for different kinds of businesses.
In IaaS, the cloud provider gives you a whole range of computing infrastructure like networking hardware, storage, servers, maintenance and support. IaaS cloud services include Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Compute Engine.
PaaS simplifies enterprise software development, and provides servers, storage and networking resources that’s manageable either by the company, or by the platform provider. PaaS services include AWS Elastic Beanstalk, Azure App Service and Google App Engine.
SaaS allows quick access to cloud based web applications. The vendor handles the computing stack, and you can access it with a web browser. Examples of SaaS include Google G Suite, Microsoft Office 365, Dropbox, etc.
Which cloud type: public, private or hybrid cloud?
The different types of clouds are private, public and hybrid. Hybrid solutions is a blend of public and private cloud services (something like having the best of both worlds). Many companies choose public clouds because it is considerably cheaper, requires low maintenance, allows for greater levels of scalability and provides impressive reliability in case of network or bandwidth glitches.
Private cloud, on the other hand, consists of computing resources, provided exclusively by one business or organization. This service can be located at the company’s office or hosted by a third party service provider.
Which platform: AWS, Azure or Google Cloud?
AWS is the clear leader in the market for being the best platform in terms of flexible computing storage and networking. Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud closely follow AWS in popularity factor. Each of the platforms comes with best features for hosting different kinds of applications in the web. And they come equipped with some unique features too. However, all these platforms let you deploy virtual machines in the cloud and scale them as and when required.
For example, if you need high speed in cloud computing solutions, then you can choose Azure. However, developers looking for extra buffer of security prefer to choose Google Cloud. On the other hand, AWS has turned out to be the ultimate choice for successful enterprise mobile app development team.
Now that you have chosen the cloud provider, the next step would be to plan the migration process.
Assess what needs to be migrated
The following factors need to be considered when deciding what needs to be migrated to the cloud.
Database complexity - Database migration is a complex and multiphase process, so it should be done with careful planning. In fact, planning takes up more time than the actual process.
Networking capacity - The networking capacity of the cloud migration can be analyzed through an asset discovery tool that could be either open source or commercial. The tool would help you identify the server configurations within a particular network, complete with connectivity details and all. It gives you the bird’s eye view of the system in totality.
Application design complexity - The application architecture must be loosely coupled in order for it to be suitable for cloud migration. If not, the application’s design and architecture might require some sort of modification before it is migrated to the cloud, especially if does not follow the distributed cloud architecture. This mostly happens with traditional applications that are tightly coupled. A migration can be successful only when the app follows distributed architecture and can be scaled as and when required.
Integration complexity - Analyze the integration points like payment gateways, SMTP servers, web services, external storage, and third party vendors before planning to migrate. Or else, it would begin to affect the dependencies leading to authentication or connectivity challenges.
Host OS compatibility - Have an idea of the host operating system, and check whether you can deploy the application on the same OS. If there are compatibility issues, then you will have to look for a substitute solution or change the cloud provider.
Create a migration plan
You can hire a manager to plan and oversee the entire migration process to help cover all the critical aspects. Planning and preparation are the most important concepts in migration.
You can start by deciding what needs to be moved first. And you also need to decide whether to go for a single provider or choose different vendors for different requirements (multi-cloud option). You can start by moving the easier applications and the critical ones later. This way, you can test the waters before plunging.
The changes required in application architecture also need to be considered at this point. You can update parts of your system so they migrate well. There are servers, networks and data services that may work one way in your computing environment and differently in the cloud.
Additionally, you will need to have a plan in place to deal with:
Code changes - Significant code changes may have to be performed to ensure the app works optimally after migration.
Performance issues – Lack of proper resources can affect the performance of the application. And it can also happen when the application architecture is not properly distributed over the cloud resources.
Downtime - Downtime is a crucial and commonly faced challenge during migration. You can counter this problem by having a backup environment and allocate resources to run the app until the migration is truly completed.
Security compliance - It is important to increase security and adhere to compliance standards while migrating sensitive data. All the standards, guidelines, regulatory and compliance requirements must be addressed.
Brief the team
Ultimately, it is the team’s expertise and skill that translates the entire migration process into a successful act, so make sure they are sufficiently briefed well in advance.
Planning the actual migration process can make the entire exercise smooth and hassle-free. There are different techniques to copy the files and databases, and this depends on their size and complexity. If you have very large data sets, then it would be a good idea to compress them. If the data is still big enough, you can ship them over to the cloud service provider and control your bandwidth costs. You can also back up the data and applications before migrating.
Once you set up the cloud environment, ensure provisioning, components and connections are in order.
Security is also very important during migration. You are sending a lot of information and code, so even the temporary storage must be highly secured, so there should be no leak of any sort. Using cloud migration tools would help greatly in moving all the data and applications securely.
Once the migration has been successfully completed, you need to make sure that everything is good. There is an automated testing strategy to ensure the following:
- Were you able to transfer all the data?
- Are the internal components able to communicate optimally
- How is the monitoring of the app in the cloud going on?
- Is your app accessible to all?
Check all the key metrics to ensure migration has been completely successful.
Migrating to the cloud is definitely not a simple activity, but you can make it easy by following these best practices:
- Having the right team is very important because the expertise of the team aids in cloud migration.
- Getting a trusted vendor is equally vital, and you need to double check their claims.
- Have enough clarity on what needs to be migrated and what doesn’t.
- Create multiple backups to make sure you don’t lose any data.
- Perform thorough testing to ensure all gaps are filled.
It is no secret that cloud migration is fraught with risks and dangers. It is almost like stepping into a minefield if you don’t know where the risks lie. Most trusted cloud service providers are able to provide 99% uptime, with very little risk of failure. Still, it is important to have a solid migration strategy to help ease the process. Follow the steps mentioned above, hire the right cloud service provider, make use of the expert skills and talents in your team and you can reap benefits.
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