Any business owner or IT manager pondering cloud migration needs to take the guesswork out of the equation by understanding and assessing the opportunities that such a move presents, and the threats that it might bring.
Cloud migration has the potential to have a positive impact on the finances and efficiency of a business, offering greater flexibility and agility in reacting to business needs, while at the same time reducing upfront costs. A successful migration requires detailed analysis, careful planning, and structured execution to be effective.
What is happening too often is what Mark Shirman, president and CEO of RiverMeadow Software, describes as “rogue” IT spending where ad-hoc migration to cloud services is done by departments outside of the IT function. As he points out, this shadow form of cloud migration can in fact have a negative effect on both cost and efficiency, not to mention security, as an uncontrolled “cloud sprawl” spreads throughout an organization.
Key Questions to Ask Before Cloud Adoption
Every business and organization is different and the cloud absolutely does not offer a one-size-fits-all solution. Any business contemplating migration needs to ask some key questions to properly assess the opportunities that a move to the cloud might offer. These include:
- Will a move to the cloud meet and indeed improve the needs of the business?
- If the answer above is ‘yes,’ articulate specifically how.
- Does the business have to meet any regulatory, compliance or industry requirements that make a move to the cloud impractical or unsuitable?
- Will there be any cost implications for existing infrastructure or any future plans?
- Are the people in the business, particularly in IT, ready for the change?
- Which business services and applications are most suitable for cloud migration and how should they be prioritized?
The Business Benefits Cloud Technology Affords
In answering these questions, attention should be paid to the key areas where business benefits to cloud adoption can be realized. These include:
Optimization of servers. It’s not uncommon that any operation with its own in house servers will most probably either overestimate or underestimate their capacity requirements from time to time. Cloud computing services enable the optimization of server usage to meet a fluctuating demand. With cloud, you can get the capacity you need, when you need it, which can have a big impact on the bottom line.
Dynamic scalability. The ability to scale, and scale quickly, is integral to business success. Cloud based applications add the capability to dynamically adjust the resources available to an application in a very short time frame. Services are paid for as they are used, so that for applications that see sharp variations in usage, resources are deployed at maximum efficiency and minimum cost.
Financial benefits. Taking advantage of the economies of scale that can reduce operational costs in terms of overheads for premises, power, and people can provide organizations with significant cost savings from a move to cloud services. Even better? Investment in hardware and the premises to house your servers also becomes someone else’s responsibility, freeing up capital that can be invested in other areas of the business.
Reduced implementation times. Traditionally, a new business initiative can take weeks, or even months to be brought online while the appropriate processing power and data storage requirements are built and tested. Cloud computing can provide an agile environment in which innovation can thrive, with the ability to allow real-time response to business needs.
Maintenance and reliability. Ongoing maintenance and regular updates can place heavy demands on business resources in terms of people, time, and expenses. Cloud migration covers these needs, backed up by SLAs that guarantee a high level of service and uptime, freeing up both people and resources to focus on other things.
The Technical and Business Risks of Cloud Migration
Of course, where potential benefits lie, there are also technical and business risks that should be considered with regard to any cloud migration assessment. Things you should be thinking about include:
Security and privacy. Security of data and privacy are top of mind for most businesses, particularly for those who operate in regulated environments. Those in the healthcare sector for instance need to pay heed to their relationship with their cloud provider and how it understands and provides security and compliance with HIPAA legislation.
Data location and ownership. Before you make the decision to migrate to cloud, it’s critical that you have your arms around the data. For instance, understanding who owns the data and where geographically it will be stored are questions to put at the top of your list. Also, understanding what consequences flow from that is equally as important. Will data be stored in servers on a multi-tenant basis and what security safeguards are in place? Is end-to-end encryption available? These are all important questions about data storage that must be satisfied.
Disaster recovery. There is always the potential for things to go wrong, so as part of your assessment, disaster recovery plans must be verified. Ask questions like what backups are in place? Is data storage sub-contracted to third parties? What recovery plans do they have? Storing your own data in your own servers gives more control over security and recovery. Cloud migration can add layers of complexity that must be checked and understood, before processes are tested by a disaster.
What Pitfalls Can Be Expected With a Cloud Migration?
I’m a strategist, so for me the most valuable part of any assessment is the ability to consider in advance what pitfalls to expect and to plan around them. When it comes to any big change in business processes, it’s a given that stuff happens. Cloud migration is no different. Here are some things to factor into your assessment that might save you some headaches down the line:
- Start by planning for delays. Things rarely go as planned, and cloud migration is no exception. Expect delays and have a backup plan in place.
- Keep reduction of downtime top of mind and test, test, and test some more while the original server is still live.
- Have a firm understanding (and documentation) of the architecture of an application to be migrated, how it performed before the migration, and where the heaviest loads are experienced. Your monitoring, testing, and assessment after the migration will depend on this.
- Make sure you and your team have a firm understanding of all compliance issues that could impact a migration.
- Remember that the DNS propagation takes time and there’s nothing you can do to hurry it along. Bake that into your plan.
- When doing a cloud migration assessment, make sure that suitable procedures to monitor and control costs are in place to avoid uncontrolled spending in this respect.
In summary, cloud technology has the potential to provide benefits to almost any type of organization and any size organization, whatever their stage of development. What is essential though is to ask the right questions before moving forward with a cloud migration so that the opportunities, as well as the challenges and threats, are fully understood. Only then can the technological, business, and risk considerations be correctly assessed so that the business can plot a safe and profitable route to the cloud.
Hopefully these questions to ask and things to consider along the way are helpful if you’re planning a cloud migration. For those of you who’ve undertaken this to some extent already, do you have anything to add to the potential benefits, the challenges, and the pitfalls of cloud migration based on your experiences? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.
Other Resources on this Topic:
This post was written as part of the Dell Insight Partners program, which provides news and analysis about the evolving world of tech. For more on these topics, visit Dell’s thought leadership site Power More. Dell sponsored this article, but the opinions are my own and don’t necessarily represent Dell’s positions or strategies.