What is Cloud Migration? A Beginner’s Guide to Moving to the Cloud

9 minutes
September 22, 2021

Poorly executed cloud migration is like concrete shoes on a drowning man, dragging down your entire organization.

If you’re thinking about cloud migration, you should put in the time to understand what it is and how it works - as well as the benefits, challenges, and migration strategy options.

We’ll use this post to introduce you to all those details and more. So keep reading to learn more about cloud migration and decide the best approach for your business.

What Is Cloud Migration?

Cloud migration means transitioning from legacy on-premise IT systems to a cloud computing environment that relies on the internet to host and deliver digital assets

When you migrate to the cloud, you move all or part of your data, applications, and computing capabilities of your legacy systems to a cloud-based infrastructure hosted by a third-party provider.

Think of it like packing a suitcase (or your whole house) and moving your things somewhere else, only you’re packing IT resources instead of clothing and kitchen appliances. You still have access to everything, but it’s in a different location.

What Are the Benefits of Cloud Migration?

Cloud migration is a vital part of the present and future of business IT.

According to IDG, 92% of businesses use the cloud for at least part of their IT operations, while the global cloud computing market will swell from $371.4 billion in 2020 to $823.1 billion by 2025.

Why are so many organizations embracing cloud computing and moving their IT resources and operations to the cloud? The answer is simple: cloud adoption offers a long list of benefits traditional on-prem models can’t match.

  • (Almost) Limitless Scalability

IT requirements change as projects come and go, workloads ebb and flow, and user numbers fluctuate. Cloud computing allows you to scale your IT resource up and down in response to real-time business demands instead of investing in costly hardware you may or may not need.

  • Increased Flexibility

Cloud computing gives your team members and customers more flexibility without sacrificing by making it possible to access your data and applications anytime from anywhere - which is the main reason why organizations decide to move to the cloud.

  • Lower Cost

Cloud computing operates on a completely different cost model than traditional models. Instead of investing capital in physical hardware and paying for its maintenance, you pay for your IT resources based on the “pay as you go” model, i.e., the same way you pay for your utilities. 

In other words, you only pay for the resources you use when you use them. For many companies, this results in significant IT cost savings. 

  • Enhanced Security

Cloud providers take responsibility for IT infrastructure security, and they take the security of their systems very seriously. In most cases, they offer cybersecurity protection much more advanced than what you could provide on your own.

  • Much Less Maintenance

One of the best things about life after cloud migration is there’s much less maintenance to worry about. Cloud providers handle maintenance and upgrades, meaning you don’t have to invest time and money to do that yourself.

  • Greater Operational Efficiency

Without the need to worry about constant maintenance and upgrades, your IT team can operate much more efficiently and dedicate their time to high-value tasks like innovation and improvements to critical applications and company processes.

  • Faster Speed & Better Performance

Cloud-based applications and processes tend to run faster and exhibit more consistent performance as you can scale resources up and down based on demand. Running apps in the cloud also results in fewer latency issues, giving users a better, faster experience.

What Are the Challenges of Cloud Migration?

While the benefits of cloud migration are real, so are the challenges. None of them are unavoidable — if you have the expertise to recognize the risks and prepare to mitigate them.

  • Downtime

Cloud migration often requires a small amount of planned downtime. However, without proper planning and execution, that can easily snowball into large amounts of unplanned downtime you don’t want.

  • Data Loss

One of the biggest risks is data loss as large volumes of valuable data are moved between systems. To avoid detrimental impacts on your business, you should have a disaster recovery plan ready if some data goes missing.

  • Process Disruption

Cloud migration can become a source of significant process disruptions across the entire organization as its members need to go through a learning curve to learn how to use new software. For that reason, it is critical to create a solid onboarding process and go the extra mile to ensure a rich UX right from the start.

  • Compliance & Security Risks

More than 60% of companies see security risks as the biggest stumbling block to cloud adoption. Data migration is high risk from a security perspective, and you may need special encryption or expertise to maintain security and compliance during the transfer.

  • Compatibility Issues

Legacy applications and databases may not be compatible with modern cloud technology, especially if they’ve been around awhile and are full of custom workarounds implemented over the years.

What Are the Most Common Cloud Migration Strategies?

Whether it’s SaaS, PaaS, or IaaS, there are five common cloud migration strategies. They were first named by Gartner and are now affectionately known as the “5 Rs”.

  • Rehost

In this strategy, you lift your existing data and applications as they are and shift them to a cloud-based architecture provided by a third party. It’s the same concept as packing up all your belongings and simply moving them to an identical house belonging to someone else.

  • Refactor

When you choose to refactor, you transition as if you were rehosting with the addition of some minor code tweaks to run your apps using a third-party PaaS (platform as a service) instead of your own environment. Your core application architecture doesn’t change, but you make minor adjustments to take advantage of the scalability and flexibility of the cloud.

  • Revise

The strategy is more complex and involves more risk than rehosting or refactoring since revising involves making significant changes to your application code and frameworks.

  • Rebuild

This strategy involves exactly what its name implies: rebuilding internal apps from the ground up to make them compatible with PaaS and ready for migration. Developing a new code base is a lot of work, and companies typically opt to rebuild vs. revise or refactor when their existing codebase no longer works or cannot meet business requirements.

  • Replace

If you choose this option, you replace your legacy apps with equivalent third-party apps from a vendor. Your data is migrated, but your old apps are replaced by modern SaaS (software as a service) programs.

What Are the Most Common Cloud Deployment Methods

So far, we’ve covered definitions, benefits, challenges, and cloud migration strategies. Now we’ll introduce you to the three most common cloud deployment methods.

  1. Single Cloud Deployment

In a single cloud deployment, all your digital assets are migrated to a cloud provided by a single cloud vendor. You can opt for a public cloud and share the infrastructure with other customers or choose a private cloud with resources for your exclusive use. Either way, you will only deal with a single cloud provider.

  1. Multicloud Deployment

A multicloud deployment involves the use of multiple clouds from different vendors. For example, you could migrate some of your resources to a cloud hosted by AWS while choosing to migrate others to a Google Cloud environment. Being the most popular deployment model for large businesses, it allows you to take advantage of unique features and favorable pricing models from different cloud providers.

  1. Hybrid Deployment

A hybrid deployment involves a combination of either public and private clouds or cloud and on-premise systems.

The Overview of the Cloud Migration Process

We’ll wrap up this guide with a simplified overview of the complex cloud migration process to help you see the big picture. 

  • Planning & Goal Setting

This step lays the groundwork for the whole process as you need to consider which data and applications you want to migrate and what you hope to accomplish by doing so.

You should also take some time to assess your current environment and identify potential problems that may occur when you attempt to migrate your legacy data, internal applications, and business-critical processes to a cloud-based system. Think about security, compliance, and performance and determine which migration strategy and deployment model is right for you.

For more helpful tips on the planning process, check out this guide.

  • Selecting the Right Cloud Provider & Automation Tools

All cloud providers offer unique features and have their pros and cons. Research cloud vendors and migration tools to find one who meets your requirements for features, cost, deployment models, and ongoing customer support. 

Do your best to choose wisely — it’s difficult and expensive to switch cloud providers after your migration.

  • Executing the Migration

Once you’ve made your plan, it’s time to execute your migration. To complete the migration without disrupting your business, you’ll need to migrate your assets in the order you’ve planned while maintaining compliance and security and dealing with any challenges you face.

It’s a complex process with lots of opportunities for disastrous consequences, so make sure you’re well prepared before you begin.

  • Maintenance & Support

After the migration, you should monitor all your systems to rule out the possibility of data loss and make sure everything is working correctly. 

You should repeat your inspection periodically and contact your cloud provider for support as needed.

Meet Your Reliable Technology Partner

We’ve packed a lot of information into this guide to make sure you fully appreciate the complexity of cloud migration and understand that just because everyone is doing it doesn’t mean it’s easy or risk-free. 

We have the expertise to ensure your cloud migration goes smoothly and brings all the benefits you expect.

From guiding you through the planning process to executing the migration and providing ongoing support, we’re the trusted technology partner you need to make your migration a success.

Contact us to learn more about our cloud migration services. We’ll be happy to answer all your questions and help you get started on your journey to the cloud.

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