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What is a cloud migration and why do you need one?

Published: July 4, 2023
Updated: October 03, 2023
In a nutshell:
Cloud migration refers to the transfer of an organisation's data, applications, and workloads to a cloud infrastructure.
"Making sure you adopt the right approach and have the right people in place to carry out large-scale, business critical projects is key to success."

In the past, organisations traditionally stored their data, applications, and resources in on-premises servers located in their building and typically managed by an in-house IT team. However, the modern work landscape has changed significantly, many businesses now prefer to migrate their IT infrastructure from on-premises to servers that are hosted and accessed through the internet, also known as ‘The Cloud’. The shift towards cloud migration started gradually but quickly gained momentum due to global events such as the Covid-19 pandemic, which made remote work essential for organisations hoping to stay afloat during this unpredictable time.

Cloud migration refers to the transfer of an organisation’s data, applications, and workloads to a cloud infrastructure. This process involves relocating computing assets to the cloud, although in many cases, certain applications and services may still remain on-premise. The migration process can involve one or more clouds. Public clouds deliver services over the public internet, while private clouds provide secure cloud infrastructure exclusively accessible to a specific organisation. Often, organisations utilise multiple clouds, combining public and private cloud environments to create a hybrid cloud setup that incorporates on-premise computing assets

What’s the difference between public, private and hybrid cloud environments?

Public cloud

A public cloud environment refers to a cloud infrastructure that is owned and operated by a third-party cloud service provider. It offers computing resources and services to multiple organisations and users over the internet. The infrastructure and data is stored in the provider’s data centres, which are shared among various customers. Public cloud environments are highly scalable and cost-effective as users only pay for the resources they consume.

Pros:

Cost-effective Public clouds follow a pay-as-you-go model, allowing users to reduce expenditure and pay only for the resources they use.

Scalability Public clouds provide virtually unlimited resources, enabling organisations to scale up or down based on demand.

No maintenance The service provider manages the infrastructure, including hardware maintenance, security updates, and system administration.

Global availability Public clouds have a wide network of data centres, ensuring data accessibility from multiple locations worldwide.

Innovation and agility Public cloud providers frequently introduce new services and features, allowing organisations to adopt the latest technologies easily.

Security As data is stored in the cloud, some organisations may have concerns about data security and privacy.  However, a well-designed cloud security strategy vastly reduces the risk of cyber attacks. Even with these risks, cloud computing is often more secure than on-premise computing.

Cons:

Limited control Organisations have limited control over visibility into the underlying hardware or software.

Compliance challenges Certain industries and regions have strict compliance requirements, making it more complex to use public clouds that are subject to shared infrastructure. However, with robust data management and the appropriate access policies in place, often compliance is not an issue.

Private Cloud

A private cloud environment is dedicated to a single organisation and is usually hosted on-premises or in a data centre managed by the organisation itself or a third-party provider. It provides exclusive use of computing resources and services to meet specific business requirements. Private clouds offer enhanced control, security, and customisation options.

Pros:

Security Private clouds provide dedicated resources, enabling organisations to implement their security measures and comply with industry-specific regulations.

Greater control Organisations have complete control over the infrastructure, allowing customisation and fine-tuning according to specific needs.

Increased performance Private clouds offer better performance and reliability since the resources are not shared with other organisations.

Compliance adherence Private clouds enable organisations to meet strict compliance requirements by implementing security measures tailored to their needs.

Cons:

Higher cost Building and maintaining a private cloud infrastructure can be expensive due to upfront costs, hardware investments, and ongoing maintenance.

Limited scalability Private clouds have finite resources, making it challenging to rapidly scale up or down in response to fluctuating demands.

Resource management Organisations are responsible for managing and optimising the infrastructure, which requires skilled personnel and ongoing maintenance efforts.

Hybrid Cloud

A hybrid cloud environment combines both public and private cloud infrastructures, allowing organisations to leverage the benefits of both. It enables seamless data and application portability between the two environments, providing flexibility and scalability.

Pros:

Flexibility Hybrid clouds offer the ability to choose between public and private resources based on specific requirements, optimising costs and performance.

Scalability Organisations can scale their workloads by utilising the public cloud during peak demand periods while keeping sensitive or critical data on the private cloud.

Data control Hybrid clouds enable organisations to retain control over sensitive data by keeping it within the private cloud while utilising the public cloud for less sensitive data or non-critical applications.

Cost optimisation Hybrid clouds allow organisations to balance their infrastructure costs by leveraging the cost-effectiveness of the public cloud for non-sensitive workloads while keeping critical workloads on a private cloud.

Cons:

Complexity Managing a hybrid cloud environment involves dealing with the complexities of integrating and maintaining both public and private cloud infrastructures.

Security convolution Organisations need to implement robust security measures and ensure seamless data encryption and protection across both public and private cloud components.

Skill requirements Hybrid clouds may require specialised knowledge and skills to effectively manage and optimise the two environments, which can increase operational complexity.

Opting for a Cloud Migration

It’s clear that the pro’s vastly outweigh the cons when it comes to adopting a cloud-based infrastructure, and while most of us are familiar with the concept of “cloud computing,” you might wonder why migrating to the Cloud would benefit your organisation.

So, let’s take a deeper look at the benefits:

Affordability

Depending on the size of your business, the average cost to rent a small business dedicated server can cost between $100-$200, more powerful or specialised servers can cost even more. Servers take up room, if you’re hoping to expand your business, you’ll need to move to a larger office space to accommodate them. Additionally, you will need a dedicated, on-site IT team to maintain them, the larger your server requirements, the larger your team will need to be. As you can see, capital and operational expenditure can quickly spiral. Making costs prohibitive for smaller businesses, and unnecessarily high for large organisations.

Your organisation could save a lot of money by moving your data from costly, on-premises servers and into the Cloud. Microsoft Azure is a great physical server alternative, providing the most comprehensive set of cloud technologies, performing 14x faster and costing 94% less than other cloud providers. Implementing Azure into your infrastructure drives your business forward and optimises your efficiency, agility and of course your finances; according to aggregated data collected from organisations in 2022, businesses using Azure saw a 206% return on investment (ROI) over three years with payback in less than six months and a 15% reduction in spending on third-party tools, saving on expenses.

Flexibility

Organisations that embrace the cloud are no longer constrained by a single geographic location, meaning employees are able to work remotely from any location. Geographical borders and time zones no longer pose barriers to conducting business in the modern workplace. This equates to time saved by employees who no longer need to commute to a specific physical location, and fewer HR and IT resources are required for managing physical access to servers housing an organisations data. Once your data is liberated from a specific physical location, employees are no longer bound by the traditional office hours, gaining the flexibility to access data from anywhere in the world, at any time that suits them.

Protection from Disaster

Relying on a single server to store your data within your premises may initially appear secure, however this approach becomes problematic when a disaster strikes. Consider the potential scenarios: What if your office catches fire or gets destroyed by a flood, storm, earthquake, or cybercriminal activity? While some events may be less likely than others, the fact remains that disasters can occur unexpectedly. These circumstances put your data at risk of being lost, breached, or compromised.

In contrast, storing your data in the cloud significantly reduces this risk. The data is distributed across multiple servers, ensuring its availability even in the aftermath of a disaster. By implementing robust data protection and disaster recovery policies, you can effectively safeguard your data. This proactive approach not only protects your valuable information but also demonstrates your commitment to handling sensitive data responsibly.

Security

By storing your business information and data in the Cloud, your organisation can leverage the comprehensive security measures offered by providers like Microsoft. Microsoft, offers an industry-leading range of security features integrated into their services. Migrating your data to the Cloud not only ensures its safety but also helps you navigate the complex landscape of compliance regulations. Violating UK GDPR regulations can result in a maximum fine of £17.5 million or 4% of annual global turnover. Similarly, breaching EU compliance regulations can lead to a penalty of €20 million, (approximately £18 million).

Every organisation remains responsible for maintaining security and compliance standards within their environment, and fortunately Microsoft cloud technologies allow you can utilise the built-in security features, to monitor and manage data at risk. These include a vast array of solutions but the most useful (in our opinion) are the Microsoft Intune (device management), Microsoft Defender (an incredibly vast suite of products) Azure Active Directory (identity governance) and Azure Sentinel (both a SIEM and SOAR solution combined).

Data Analysis

Accessibility to your data for all employees, regardless of their location and preferred time, is a significant advantage for your organisation. However, that’s only one part of the equation. Data becomes truly valuable when you can derive insights from it. Microsoft offers robust data analysis and Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools that consolidate your data, analyse it comprehensively, and help you understand it. These tools enable you to uncover business trends, identify areas of success, and pinpoint areas that require improvement. By utilising these tools, you can transform your business data from a collection of disparate information into a coherent narrative about your organisation. With this narrative in hand, you can craft the next chapter of your business and make informed decisions that foster growth and success.

Types of Cloud Migration

What are the different strategies for cloud migration?

Commonly referred to as the “6 R’s of Migration,” these are the six primary approaches:

Rehosting (“lift and shift”)

The rehost migration strategy entails utilising Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) offerings in the cloud to migrate workloads by redeploying them on cloud instances. This approach enables enterprises to transfer their on-premises applications, along with their dependencies, to the cloud without making significant infrastructure changes. By preserving the core infrastructure, organisations can seamlessly transfer application data and workflows to cloud services that meet the existing storage, networking, and computing needs of the workload. The rehost strategy is straightforward to execute as it maintains the operational and configuration aspects of the workloads, making it a suitable choice for enterprises that may lack in-house cloud-native expertise.

Replatforming

By adopting the replatform strategy, enterprises can migrate their applications to the cloud while implementing platform optimisations to take advantage of cloud-native capabilities. This strategy enables the application to be moved without altering its source code or core architecture, ensuring that legacy applications continue to function while benefiting from enhanced compliance and security offered by the cloud.

The replatform migration strategy brings increased flexibility, agility, and resilience to workloads, leveraging cloud-native features such as automation. It offers time and cost savings since enterprises can modernise workloads without the need to rewrite application code. As the application’s architecture and functionality are retained, teams do not require extensive training to operate the migrated workloads.

Repurchasing

The repurchase migration strategy involves replacing internally managed systems with third-party managed services offered by cloud providers. This strategy enables teams to retire legacy systems and transition to a consumption-based model, where IT costs are aligned with revenue generated through a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) subscription.

By leveraging services provided by third-party vendors, the repurchase model reduces the operational burden on in-house teams, as the infrastructure management responsibility shifts to the service provider. This option simplifies and accelerates the migration process, minimising downtime and improving scalability, as well as ensuring efficient regulatory governance.

The repurchase strategy fully utilises the cloud-native capabilities, making it particularly suitable for workloads that require enhanced application performance and user experience while minimising operational overhead. With this approach, organisations can take advantage of the benefits offered by cloud services and focus on their core business, leaving the management of infrastructure to external experts.

Refactoring

Refactoring, also known as rearchitecting, involves rebuilding applications from scratch. This approach is typically driven by the need to leverage cloud capabilities not available in the existing environment, such as auto-scaling or serverless computing. Refactoring is usually the most expensive option but offers compatibility with future versions.

Retiring

The retiring strategy is employed when discontinuing or reducing the usage of applications that are no longer beneficial in a production environment. This approach involves retiring business-critical workloads that operate on outdated and inefficient legacy frameworks. By retiring these workloads, organisations can take the first step towards embracing modern cloud-native deployments. This strategy allows for the optimisation of resources and paves the way for the adoption of more efficient and scalable solutions in the cloud.

Retaining

The retaining strategy is employed for applications that cannot be retired and need to continue operating within their current framework. Enterprises opt to retain a workload in cases where it is dependent on another application that needs to be migrated first or when there is no immediate business value in moving the application to the cloud. Additionally, for vendor-based applications, an enterprise may choose to retain them if the service provider has future plans to release a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model. This strategy allows organisations to prioritise their migration efforts and make informed decisions based on dependencies, business value, and the evolving offerings of service providers.

Challenges of Cloud Migration

Migrating to the Cloud is a time-consuming and arduous task if you don’t utilise the expertise of a specialist. Done incorrectly, a poorly managed cloud migration can lead to:

  • Increased time
  • Increased inhouse resource
  • Increased financial costs
  • Unnecessary downtime and interoperability

Making sure you adopt the right approach and have the right people in place to carry out large-scale, business critical projects is key to success.

So what can you do to ensure success?

Prepare

Define your project goals and objectives using the SMART framework (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound), objectives might include increased agility, cost savings, improved performance, or enhanced scalability. In this initial phase, organisations must establish clear project scope, timeline, milestones, tasks and resource allocation, to gain visibility over the progression of the project. Before you can move forward with your cloud migration, you must allocate who will be managing and carrying out this project, clearly communicating the responsibilities to a qualified team of experts.

Plan

During this phase, it is crucial to assess the environment and consider factors such as critical application data, legacy data, and application interoperability that will govern the migration. Evaluating the reliance on data, including the need for regular resyncing, compliance requirements, and the migration of non-critical data in early phases, is necessary. Ensure the alignment of project deliverables and business needs by engaging stakeholders and end-users, this step will identify challenges early in the process.

Migrate

As previously mentioned, various techniques of moving data can be employed, such as lift-and-shift, refactoring, or complete application rebuilding, to facilitate the migration process. It is essential to closely monitor the migrations to ensure they are progressing according to the plan and promptly address any issues that arise. Data migration plays a crucial role in this process, as any disruption or inaccessibility to data during the migration can have a significant impact on business operations. This importance persists even after the initial migration, as continued synchronisation and updates are performed on the systems.

Operate

After the successful migration of workloads to the cloud, organisations enter the operate phase. In this phase, the focus is on effectively managing the workloads within the cloud environment. This includes monitoring performance, efficiently allocating resources, and ensuring security and compliance measures are maintained. Organisations should utilise feedback and performance data to continuously refine their operations, making necessary adjustments to optimise cloud operations for better efficiency and effectiveness.

Onboard

Possible obstacles to the change and adoption of Cloud technology can include training requirements and building a company-wide understanding of the communication, collaboration and productivity capabilities of Microsoft 365. It is therefore essential to develop a communication roadmap, mitigating risks and enhancing the uptake of Microsoft 365 within your organisation. It will provide a comprehensive set of recommendations tailored to your specific needs, guiding you through the adoption of relevant tools and applications. You can also arrange adoption workshops involving key stakeholders and departments, designed to ensure that the adoption of Microsoft 365 is a success and to address concerns, provide tailored training, and gather valuable feedback to further refine the adoption process.

Optimise

The optimisation phase is an ongoing endeavour as organisations continuously seek ways to improve their cloud operations. As technologies change and new solutions come into market, modern organisations seek to implement and test new solutions to ensure their ongoing success.

If you’re looking for a team to successfully migrate you to a cloud-first environment, get in touch with our highly accredited Microsoft Cloud Solutions team today.


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