Why and how to successfully transition to the cloud
Your organization can gain competitive advantages from cloud computing such as higher efficiency, greater flexibility, lower costs, and better performance for your applications and services. Because cloud computing represents a shift from the traditional way of thinking about IT resources, making the transition to the cloud requires careful planning and strategy.
Cloud migrations can also include transitioning from one provider’s cloud to another. This also requires careful planning, and many of the same considerations apply.
Evaluate your costs and needs
Here are some initial points to consider as you explore a cloud migration.
Evaluate your existing investment
Weigh the existing investment in your on-premises data center and consider the costs of moving to the cloud to determine whether it’s right for your organization. For many smaller or younger companies, migrating to the cloud can be a no-brainer. With cloud computing, you can quickly gain access to enterprise-class resources on a pay-as-you-go basis, resources that may otherwise be cost-prohibitive.
Consider your applications and data
Which applications would you migrate to the cloud? Will they perform well in the cloud, or, for instance, do they depend on your current, customized on-premises infrastructure? Older applications may not be supported by your target cloud, so make sure the cloud platform you’re migrating to supports your application’s language. Also, consider whether the data you want to move to the cloud—is right for the cloud. For example, highly sensitive data may require a more secure cloud deployment.
Determine how much resources each application uses
The cloud can provide great benefits for scaling resources up or down for your applications. Determine which of your applications can benefit from a pay-as-you-go resource consumption model.
The right fit: public, private, or hybrid cloud?
The cloud is not one size fits all. A primary benefit of the cloud is that it lets you configure your deployment in a way that makes the most sense for your organization. For example, you can choose to deploy cloud computing through the public cloud, a private cloud, or a hybrid cloud:
This is the most common way of deploying cloud computing. Resources are owned and operated by a third-party cloud services provider and shared with other organizations who also use the service.
In a private cloud, resources are used exclusively by one business or organization. Private clouds are often used when stronger security or higher control over the infrastructure is required.
A combination of public and private, a hybrid cloud taps into public cloud resources and your private cloud or existing on-premises resources. A connection is made between the different environments to help you capitalize on the advantages of all.
Learn more about the options with What are public, private, and hybrid clouds?
When to migrate?
When to migrate to the cloud is a business decision—based on multiple factors unique to each organization. However, a key time to consider the cloud is when your business is on the verge of an expansion or upgrade. For instance, maybe your server hardware is reaching the end of its lifecycle, or you need to add capacity to your data center. Or, it’s time to upgrade to the latest version of software that’s critical to your business operations. These can be opportune moments to consider the cloud as part of your new or upgraded infrastructure.
When migrating to the cloud, an organization must evaluate its security and regulatory compliance needs and plan its deployment accordingly. When you migrate to the cloud, you’ll be relying less on your organization’s internal security and control, so you’ll need to work with your provider to ensure the right levels of security and compliance. For example, if your organization is managing sensitive data, you may need dedicated hardware, software, and networking equipment (private cloud) in your deployment—or a public cloud that offers compliance tools and resources that are specific to your industry.
Get help with cloud migration strategy and implementation
To help ensure a smooth transition, consider working with an outside partner to get your cloud computing environment up and running. A third-party can help you formulate a cloud migration strategy. And, some technology partners build ready-made solutions or help you design, build, and manage a solution that’s customized to your organization’s needs. Another option is to work with your cloud service provider to implement a solution for your organization.
Consider starting small
You’ll need to have a migration timeline for moving to the cloud. While some organizations choose to migrate everything at once, it can be easier—and less risky—to migrate an application or workload at a time. For example, you may choose to start with less critical workloads like a development and test environment rather than your production environment. Virtualization can also simplify your migration. It can be much easier to move various workloads to the cloud if they’ve already been virtualized within your on-premises server environment.
Migrating from one cloud to another
You may already be taking advantage of cloud computing. If so, your cloud migration scenario could involve transitioning from one cloud provider to another. Over time, you may find that another provider offers distinctive features and capabilities—and you want to take advantage of them. Careful consideration of how the new provider’s service will benefit your environment, and a carefully planned migration will help ensure a successful transition.
Choose a cloud services provider
Once you’ve decided to make the move to cloud computing, your next step is to choose a cloud service provider. It’s vital to assess the reliability and capability of a service provider that you plan to entrust with your organization’s applications and data. Some things to consider:
Business health and processes
The provider should have a track record of stability, and a formal management structure. Established risk management policies are essential, as is the provider’s ability to validate compliance with all your requirements. And don’t underestimate your instincts. You should trust the company. Check its reputation and research its partners. Make sure you fully understand its level of cloud experience.
Your provider should be able to promise you a basic level of service that you’re comfortable with. Understand its service level agreements (SLAs). The provider should also deliver performance reports, and, be able to track and monitor your services and any changes made to your systems. Billing should be automatic and seamless.
Technical capabilities and processes
Your provider should make it easy for you to deploy, manage, and upgrade your environment. Also, make sure the provider is using standard APIs and data transforms; that it has a formal system for event management that’s integrated with its monitoring/management system; and that the provider has documented and formal processes for requesting, logging, approving, testing, and accepting changes. And even if you don’t plan to use a hybrid cloud, make sure the provider can support that model in case you want it later.
Make sure the provider has a comprehensive security infrastructure. There should be policies and procedures in place for controlling access to provider and customer systems, as well as ones that ensure integrity of customer data. Evaluate physical security, too. Is the provider’s co-located hardware protected? Do data centers have environmental safeguards to protect against disruptive events? There should also be redundant networking and power and a documented disaster recovery and business continuity plan. To learn more, see Microsoft Azure Trust Center: Security.
There’s a lot to consider when it comes to cloud migration. But a carefully planned deployment—whether it’s your first foray into the cloud or you’re switching to a new provider—can help your organization get the most from your deployment. Make sure you have a solid strategy and consider working with a trusted provider and technology partner.