Migrating your information systems to the cloud can be a complex process. However, the factors most attributable to the success of the project are not. By addressing these issues well in advance, you will avoid many of the pitfalls that can derail migration projects.
Below are some questions to ask before you initiate the project. Your responses will provide a clear roadmap for the overall project and should make it easier to isolate and resolve more technical issues as they arise.
Why are you migrating your systems to the cloud?
Identify the core reasons for migrating each of your applications to the cloud. Although there is clearly an industry trend toward cloud migration, it is not necessarily the best solution for all of your applications.
If the driving factor is cost savings, be sure that your cost analysis is accurate. While cloud deployments may well provide long term cost savings, they may not always have the immediate impact that many organizations are looking for.
What type of cloud services do you need?
Your reasons for migrating should quickly lead you to which types of cloud services you need.
- Infrastructure as a Service (IAAS): Generally provides only the physical or virtual servers along with the infrastructure to run them.
- Platform as a Service (PAAS): In addition to IAAS services, an operating system and language interpreter is included.
- Software as a Service (SAAS): In addition to PAAS services, the application software is included. This is typically a complete turn-key software solution.
Are you interested in public, private or hybrid clouds?
With public clouds, your applications are run on servers shared with other entities. Private clouds generally require dedicated servers either locally or hosted. Public clouds tend to be more flexible, scalable and affordable while private clouds tend to be more secure. As the name implies hybrid clouds employ a mix of both public and private clouds. Below are some other issues that may affect your decision.
- Regulatory Constraints – If you are associated with the health care or financial industries, there may be privacy or control issues that preclude you from using a public cloud for some of your applications or data. Organizations subject to PCI compliance may have similar issues. Be sure to identify any that may affect you.
- Security Concerns – Even if it is allowed, some organizations are still uncomfortable storing sensitive data in the public cloud. Assess the situation at your particular organization.
- Performance – While the public cloud will frequently improve performance, it can also have negative impacts on some applications or databases. The potential effects on performance should be reviewed for each individual application you hope to migrate.
- Even if limitations on some applications or data mandate a private cloud, it’s likely that you have other applications or data that are perfectly suited to the public cloud. In this case, a hybrid cloud solution may be the best for you.
Which applications should you migrate first (if any)?
The conventional wisdom is that cloud migration should be a gradual process. The easiest applications should be migrated first. These will provide good testing, comfort level and even training for the more difficult applications to come. Here’s what to look for:
- If you are adding new applications that are conducive to the cloud, be sure to focus on these first. If these are replacing an existing system, you may be able to eliminate most of the migration tasks for the old application altogether.
- If you are upgrading existing applications, it may make sense to go ahead and include the cloud migration in the upgrade process.
- Software licensing is a critical issue when it comes to cloud migration. Be sure that you thoroughly review the cost implications for each software license to avoid big surprises when you go live.
- The architecture of some applications is simply not conducive to a cloud environment, particularly when it comes to performance. Review this issue for every application you plan to migrate. Mobile apps, web apps and even some old mainframe based apps may work best. Some client–server applications, however, may be more of a challenge.
- Stand-alone applications without many interfaces to other programs are generally better candidates for migration. Legacy systems with complex spaghetti-like linkages to other systems are the most difficult.
- If you have already virtualized an application on a local server, it will be much easier to migrate to a cloud-based server. Some service providers have tools specifically developed to facilitate this.
Who will be your service provider?
Selecting a service provider that is a good fit for your organization is critical. Look for providers who already provide the same level of service for enterprises similar to yours. Be sure to address issues related to performance, reliability, backup and security with prospective providers.
Work with your provider to set up adequate testing environments. There is no substitution for exhaustive testing. Discuss contingency plans for rolling back the migration if unforeseen issues arise.
Drill down to the actual cost you can expect to pay for the service. Because there may be many cost variables, it might be helpful to estimate the costs associated with some hypothetical scenarios (perhaps light, medium and heavy loads).
Who will be affected by changes?
Once you have a good idea of where you are going with your project, it’s important to identify and communicate the expected impacts on the stakeholders in your organization. Migration projects can potentially change job responsibilities or eliminate positions altogether. These issues should be addressed and communicated to the affected employees on the front-end.
Try to get buy-in from all parties involved before you begin the implementation. An enthusiastic team will greatly contribute to the success of your project.
When properly done, migration to the cloud can transform your business and make you more competitive. Careful planning to develop a safe, measured approach to the project will help to ensure a successful outcome.
By Allison Rice,
Allison works for Amsterdam Printing, a leading provider of promotional products to grow your business and thank customers. Allison writes on Information Technology and marketing topics for the Small Business Know-How blog.