So you’re ready to start moving your data center from on-premise servers into the cloud.
Where do you start?
Migrating into the cloud has plenty of long-term benefits for your company – cloud infrastructure is secure, affordable, and easy for your team to use anywhere.
However, the initial migration process can be daunting, especially if you’ve had the same on-premise setup for years. In this post, I’ll share my essential cloud migration checklist, which you can use to develop your company’s cloud migration strategy.
What is cloud migration?
Cloud migration is the process of moving some or all of your on-premise data center into the cloud. If your organization is already in the cloud, you could use cloud migration to switch to a different cloud provider.
At their core, cloud providers are actually just massive data centers. Google, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and other major public cloud providers are powered by their own data centers. Instead of having your data stored on-premise at your office, your data is stored in the provider’s secure data center, which you can access via the internet. These cloud data centers are extremely powerful – it’s estimated that Amazon’s AWS controls about one-third of the internet!
Three Types of Migrations
There are three main types of cloud migrations that you might complete. Each comes with its own unique challenges and approach.
This is sometimes called a shallow cloud integration. With this type of migration, you are moving your data from physical, on-premise servers to a cloud server through a cloud service provider like AWS or Azure. Although your data is no longer stored on site, the structure of your server remains essentially the same.
The biggest difference here is that you no longer have to maintain on-premise infrastructure. However, when you complete this type of migration, you aren’t taking advantage of everything the cloud provider has to offer.
In this situation, I would move some data to the cloud while maintaining an on-premise data center. This is usually for security reasons or to be compliant with industry regulations. For example, many law firms and healthcare providers prefer to keep their document management on-premise.
However, keeping any data on-premise can be a nightmare in an emergency. One of the best examples of this is a natural disaster – what happens if your servers get wet? Since your in-house servers won’t automatically make backups, you could end up losing some very important data.
This type of migration really takes advantage of all the features the cloud offers. This would be considered a deep cloud integration. You’re not just moving your cloud service from one place to the other – you’re taking a look at what services your cloud provider offers and making changes to implement them.
This type of migration has a longer learning curve, but it can really pay off in the long run. Working with a managed service provider (MSP) can make this process easier.
Cloud Migration Checklist
1. Take inventory of your applications.
Before you can migrate your data to the cloud, you need to assess your current setup. The first step is to look at all of the applications you use and where they run. What type of system are they running on – Windows or Linux? How much CPU and RAM are they taking up? There’s a good chance you’re underutilizing the amount of CPU and RAM you have available with your on-premise service.
You’ll also need to assess where each application stores data. Applications like Google Docs and DropBox are already storing data in the cloud, but other applications may rely entirely on your on-premise server system.
2. Determine which applications are transferable to the cloud.
Once you’ve assessed your applications, you’ll need to determine which ones are transferable to the cloud. Because cloud infrastructure has become so widespread, most applications today can work in this environment.
However, there are some applications that need a lot of RAM and other resources in order to run. Auto-CAD is a great example of an application that may still need a physical server. In this case, you may still need to keep a server in-house to ensure that the application works correctly. There are also some instances where application licensing can prevent a cloud migration, but this is rare.
You’ll also need to consider dependencies between applications. If you have applications that rely on each other in order to run properly, that’s going to affect the way they migrate to the cloud.
3. Prioritize the order of migration.
Now that you have a good idea of how your applications work and if they can transfer to the cloud, it’s time to determine how you’re going to migrate everything. For small businesses with a relatively simple set-up, you may be able to migrate everything in one weekend.
If you have applications that are dependent on each other, you’ll need to make sure that those applications migrate together. If you migrate them separately, it could result in data loss and disrupt your overall IT infrastructure.
However, there are many instances where you need to spread out your migration so as to not disrupt operations. For example, if the end of the fiscal year is coming up, you may need to leave accounting software on-premise until key tasks get done.
4. Retrain end users.
The final step is to retrain your end users, as there will be a learning curve once your system has migrated to the cloud. In some cases, this is as simple as showing them where applications are now located and how to access them. However, there also may be instances where you have to replace an application, which means that your team will have to learn something entirely new.
After your migration is complete, you will need to monitor it using KPIs. Specifically, you’ll need to track your system’s performance to ensure that everything is running as smoothly or better than it was before. While tracking these KPIs, it’s important to make sure you have a strong Iinternet connection to rule out any network or WiFi issues.
You should be able to access all of the applications and files just as quickly as you could prior to the migration. If an application is sluggish after the migration, this is usually an indication that it does not have the resources it needs and that things should be adjusted.
Common Missteps to Avoid
A cloud migration is a massive move, and it’s easy to make mistakes. Here are some of the most common cloud migration missteps to avoid.
1. Underestimating the amount of time you need.
Cloud migrations can be very time-consuming to get right. Even if your data center is fairly simple, challenges can pop up at any time during the migration. Budget more time than you need to get everything done correctly.
2. Inaccurately sizing the resources you need to move to the cloud.
It’s important to make sure you have enough resources to move each application so that everything stays running correctly. However, if you budget too much space for each application, you’ll end up spending more money than needed. Cloud infrastructure is very easy to scale, so you can always upgrade later if you need it.
3. Failing to communicate with all relevant stakeholders.
Cloud migrations are complex and have a lot of moving parts. If you don’t communicate with everyone involved, you could end up hitting unexpected roadblocks during the transition or holding up important work processes.
4. Failing to inventory every application.
This is a very common issue with cloud migrations – you think you’ve assessed everything and then you find a new application at the last minute. While taking inventory, be sure to double or even triple check to make sure you’re not missing anything.
How To Calculate The Cost Of Cloud Migration
While cloud migration requires an up front investment, it saves money in the long run in most cases. Here are some financial considerations to make when migrating to a new cloud platform.
The first thing to consider is that you’ll be eliminating or minimizing many of your on-premise costs by switching to the cloud. You’ll immediately see reductions in your electric and A/C bills, and you also won’t need to pay for hardware updates, maintenance, and warranties.
You’re also reducing the risk of expensive emergencies happening. Downtime alone can be very costly for your business. If an emergency were to damage your servers, that would be even more expensive. These are factors that you are completely eliminating by moving to the cloud.
Migration Costs: MSP vs. In-House IT Team
You’ll also need to consider the cost of the migration itself. There are two options with this – you can have your in-house IT team handle it or work with an MSP to switch.
Having your in-house IT team do it is going to be cheaper, but can be tricky if they haven’t done a similar cloud migration before. Many MSPs offer migration tools as part of their plans. Although you will need to pay to hire a managed service provider, they can help the process go a bit more smoothly. Additionally, some MSPs will waive the initial migration fee if you commit to moving everything to the cloud going forward.
Cloud Service Costs
This is the most straightforward expense relating to cloud migration. This is the monthly fee you will pay for the cloud service. This is dependent on how much RAM, CPU, and storage space you need, but should be easy to calculate.
Cloud migration is a complex process, but a very worthwhile one for any growing business. It’s important not to rush when migrating to the cloud. Carefully planning your migration ensures that everything gets done correctly.