Are you thinking about migrating to the cloud for your business but unsure where to begin or how it will benefit your bottom line? Maybe you have questions about how to do it? Here’s some good news: If you plan correctly, moving to the cloud can be easier than moving to a new office location. It helps, though, to understand the motivations and processes that drive successful cloud migrations.
For years, organizations have maintained infrastructure, applications and workload in a physical location, either onsite or offsite. Migrating to the cloud involves moving some or all of these to a cloud vendor to reduce the cost of ownership and add the ability to provision infrastructure on demand. Additionally, cloud migration offers benefits such as enhanced security, better logging, monitoring and alerting, improved developer workflow, greater flexibility and agility, less complexity, cost savings and much more.
Network provider Cloudflare writes, “Cloud migration is sort of like a physical move, except it involves moving data, applications and IT processes from some data centers to other data centers, instead of packing up and moving physical goods.”(1)
Successfully migrating to the cloud begins with a well-defined plan.
Some companies jump right into their cloud migration without a thoroughly vetted plan. This can lead to serious mistakes in security, architecture and cost. Mitigating these risks starts with a thorough discovery process to identify both pain points and fears. What challenges is your business currently facing that a cloud project might solve? Here are common questions:
What are the advantages of moving to the cloud?
Is the migration process complex?
Do our teams have the knowhow to pull it off?
To what degree will migrating to the cloud disrupt current operations?
How does one calculate the benefits of moving to the cloud?
If we move to a certain cloud vendor, are we locked in or is it easy to switch suppliers?
Change can be scary, and your stakeholders will raise questions like these. To get their buy-in, you’ll need to answer these questions when making your case for change. First, articulate your business goals for moving to the cloud and then build your case from there. Are you aiming for cost savings? Improved developer velocity, a better product, on-demand infrastructure? What other objectives do you need to achieve? How will moving to the cloud make your business more agile and your team’s life easier in the long run?
It is vital to get buy-in, up front, from affected stakeholders before embarking on a cloud migration project. Your organization needs a basic understanding of the new technology, and most importantly, its business purpose.
Tip: Did you know the right learning partner can help with this discovery process, the development of your cloud business case and the training for your team members?
How do we pick the right cloud solution for our technical goals?
Thoroughly explore the technology possibilities. Cloud vendors offer hundreds of services and many different ways to do similar things. There’s likely more than one reasonable course of action. Identify pros and cons, cost differences, technical complexity and so forth to arrive at a recommended approach to present in your business case.
Tip: The three biggest cloud vendors, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud (GCP), offer similar but slightly different services. Your ideal learning partner can help you identify the cloud vendor best aligned to your goals.
How will your team learn the new technologies and best practices?
Migrating to the cloud often requires upskilling current employees and possibly onboarding some new hires. What do they need to learn in order to ensure a successful cloud project? And what’s the best way to prepare them to hit the ground running on your cloud implementation? Some companies handle their cloud training with internal resources. Some outsource the instructional design and delivery. And many choose a combination of in-house and external resources.
Learning programs for cloud migration projects typically begin with training on cloud fundamentals for all roles from executives to developers. Then, select employees will need instruction on new cloud architecture paradigms and specific technologies. Also, moving to the cloud affords new opportunities, such as improved DevOps processes, better security and enhanced reporting and alerting. After the migration process has commenced, many organizations offer ongoing training to help teams leverage these new opportunities.
Well-designed training helps ensure that executives, managers and their employees understand the benefits of cloud migration. As well, teams need to know how to prepare applications for the cloud and support those applications into the future.
Tips: You reduce organizational and individual fear when your team understands the goals and has the right knowledge to implement the migration. Additionally, of the hundreds of cloud services available, most of them are irrelevant to your needs. Your learning partner can focus on teaching employees the particular technologies they will be using in your specific migration effort.
Finally, what are your implementation specifics?
What tasks need to be accomplished, in what sequence and by when? Here’s a partial list of questions to consider:
Which workloads will move to the cloud; which will you replace or retain on-premises?
What can you move to the cloud as is, and what needs refactoring?
What parts of the stack will the cloud vendor maintain; which ones will your organization maintain? Depending on how your applications run in the cloud, for example, you may be responsible for operating system updates.
Who in your organization will configure and maintain security? (Hint: You will retain primary responsibility for security, not the cloud vendor.)
What are your backup and disaster recovery plans? You need these for the cloud, too.
Before starting the project, determine how you will ensure employees are using the new technologies correctly and securely.
Tip: Many business leaders mistakenly assume that migrating to the cloud is a big “lift and shift” done all at once. In reality, most organizations take a selective, iterative approach, moving pieces to the cloud over time.
How do you mitigate risks?
The prospect of change can seem overwhelming, but a clear plan can align goals, assuage fear and minimize risks such as these:
Slowing an organization’s current velocity.
Using new solutions incorrectly.
Refactoring applications that do not need to be refactored (or vice versa).
Failing to plan for cybersecurity.
Moving the wrong workloads to the cloud, or moving too much too fast.
Estimating costs, savings and/or implementation time incorrectly.
Throwing employees into the deep end of the pool, without swimming lessons.
A proper plan and training are keys to reducing these risks.
Drew Michael is a Google Cloud Certified Professional Cloud Architect with over 20 years of experience in software development, systems architecture and development team management. He has helped migrate dozens of applications from on-premises to the cloud. In his role as Senior Technologist with DevelopIntelligence, Drew helps Fortune 500 companies plan for successful cloud migrations.
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