According to the Flexera 2021 State of the Cloud Report, the cloud has already become “mainstream,” with organizations in almost every industry migrating into it in increasing numbers.

Cloud migration refers to moving an organization’s digital assets from legacy, “on-premise” (on-prem) infrastructure to the cloud. That would include IT assets such as:

  • Data
  • Workloads
  • IT resources
  • Applications
  • Software

Soon, 59 percent of organizations plan to focus on cloud migration.

But should you migrate your workloads and data to the cloud?

This article outlines two considerations: the benefits of the cloud and the key strategies to streamline the cloud migration process. By understanding both aspects, you can make a better, more informed decision and maximize your chances of a successful cloud data migration.

Benefits of the Cloud

1. Scalability

All public clouds, including Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud, provide a highly elastic and scalable cloud infrastructure. This infrastructure is designed to grow and shrink to meet your business demands. This means you can add or remove resources as needed instead of making permanent — and usually expensive — investments that may or may not yield a healthy Return on Investment (ROI). Public clouds also offer “auto-scaling,” so you can automatically scale resources up or down, monitor applications for resource use, and adjust capacity without wasting much time or effort on capacity planning.

2. Lower Costs and Increased Revenues

With the cloud, there are no hefty Capital Expenditures (CAPEX), such as investments in data center infrastructure. Instead, you get more predictable Operating Expenses (OPEX) with on-demand resources and a cost-effective, pay-as-you-go pricing model. Since you don’t get locked into significant, long-term expenses, you can lower your total cost of ownership and improve your ROI. Cost savings can also boost your revenues and profits.

3. Data Security and Compliance

Public cloud companies invest time and technical resources to design policies and controls to protect your applications, workloads, and identities and prevent data loss. Moreover, some public clouds like AWS follow the “shared responsibility model” of security, where the provider operates, manages, and controls the cloud infrastructure. It thus secures your assets and relieves your operational burden. The provider also assures the cloud meets compliance requirements with strong security controls and policies. You have complete visibility into your cloud data and can control its storage, who can access it, why, and when. Plus, keeping data in the cloud versus storing it in on-premise devices protects it, which can always happen if the device is misplaced, stolen, or compromised.

4. Speed and Availability

Application availability and reliability are two of the most significant advantages of migrating to the cloud. The larger cloud providers create and manage “local zones,” which contain their servers, cloud storage, and other services.

These zones are closer to large cities, so you can run applications with low-latency requirements without revamping your entire architecture or investing in expensive components. The cloud also levels the technology field since even smaller companies can access the same resources and tools as larger organizations. As a result, any firm can quickly develop, test, and deploy applications, respond soon as business needs change, and compete better in its industry.

5. Reliable Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery

When an on-premise server goes down, it results in business downtime, which hurts operational productivity and service delivery.

In the cloud, regular, real-time, and ongoing enterprise data backup and 24×7 availability ensure that you can quickly restore what you need without significant disruption to business continuity or performance. Also, cloud-based business continuity is far more reliable than conventional business continuity options.

What Type of Information Should be Migrated to the Cloud?

In migrating information to the cloud, the selection process involves identifying which data and workloads benefit most from the cloud environment. Here’s a breakdown:

  • Scalable Workloads: Certain apps experiencing fluctuations in demand, such as web applications or seasonal data processing, thrive in the cloud’s scalability. It allows for easy adjustments to accommodate varying workloads.
  • Collaborative Data: Documents, files, and databases accessed by multiple users across different locations or teams can greatly benefit from cloud storage, enabling seamless collaboration and functionality improvements.
  • Archival Data: Older data that doesn’t require frequent access but needs to be retained for compliance or historical purposes can be shifted to the cloud for cost-effective long-term storage and optimization.

How Does Workload Migration to the Cloud Work?

Migrating workloads to a cloud platform entails a strategic and systematic process involving the following stages:

  1. Assessment and Planning: Understanding the existing workloads, dependencies, and performance metrics is fundamental for successful migration. Employ modernization methodologies to optimize and ensure a successful cloud migration.
  2. Choosing the Right Model: Determine the most suitable cloud platform—be it public, private, or hybrid cloud—based on workload characteristics, scalability requirements, and strategies for cloud adoption.
  3. Data Migration: Employ automation tools for seamless migration of workloads, ensuring connectivity and compatibility between on-premises workloads and the targeted cloud resources.
  4. Configuration and Optimization: Refactor or rehost workloads to align with the cloud environment, provisioning resources for enhanced functionality, scalability, and cost efficiency.
  5. Testing and Validation: Conduct rigorous end-to-end testing to validate the migrated workloads, identifying areas for upgrades or further optimization, ensuring a successful migration process.
  6. Deployment and Monitoring: Utilize DevOps practices and monitoring tools to deploy workloads in the cloud, continuously tracking performance and making necessary adjustments for optimal cloud platform utilization.

Common challenges in workload migration

Migrating workloads to the cloud is challenging. Compatibility issues arise due to differences in operating systems, architectures, or dependencies between on-premises and cloud environments. These disparities can significantly impact the migration strategy, requiring meticulous planning to transition smoothly from one environment to another.

Data security and compliance stand as paramount concerns throughout the migration process. Ensuring robust measures for data protection and strict adherence to regulations, especially for sensitive information, becomes imperative for the success of the migration. 

Minimizing downtime and disruption emerges as a critical challenge during workload migration. The goal is to achieve a seamless shift to the cloud while causing minimal interruption to existing applications and infrastructure. This necessitates meticulous planning, execution, and deployment of strategies to reduce downtime and optimize performance throughout the migration journey.

Best Practices for Cloud Migration

According to some research, 27 percent of organizations move their workloads back to their on-prem infrastructure after a cloud migration. This suggests that more than one in every five cloud migration efforts fail.

To avoid this situation, here are five strategies that can help increase a successful cloud migration.

Evaluate On-premise Applications Before Migration
Despite the cloud’s many advantages, some applications don’t work well there. These include applications that:

  • They consume more resources and aren’t suitable for cloud “virtualization.”
  • Contains sensitive, mission-critical data.
  • Are non-scalable with fixed resource consumption demand
  • Are highly regulated and need to meet strict compliance requirements

Take your time with cloud migration. Instead, first, assess all on-premise applications and determine which ones can move into the cloud as-is and which ones you should optimize.
Also, identify the applications that should be kept in the migration planning.

1. Perform a Cloud Migration Assessment

How much data do you need to move? Which workloads should you proceed with? What are the critical business and IT objectives driving the need for migration? Get clarity on these issues before the migration with a pre-migration assessment.

An assessment can help determine whether you can meet your business requirements and goals with the cloud. You can also set the right expectations, understand the potential risks, and decide whether or not you’re ready for the move.

Without a proper pre-migration assessment, you may encounter unpleasant surprises later, such as unexpected costs, high latency, and security risks.

2. Create a Cloud Migration Strategy and Plan

A systematic migration strategy is essential to move your IT infrastructure to the cloud. A well-thought-out plan will help you clarify your migration goals, needs, security challenges, resources, dependencies, and costs.

It will also help you identify the most efficient way to migrate applications, workloads, and data (lift and shift, move and improve, rip and replace, etc.) and create the most feasible plan.

You can simplify a complicated migration project with a detailed plan by breaking it down into stages. You can assign timelines to each activity, set milestones, and prepare workloads for a seamless move. A plan will also clarify whether you are better off investing in migration services provided by an external cloud migration expert.

3. Identify the Right Cloud Environment

There are several cloud environments to choose from. In a public cloud, the provider owns and runs all services you can use on a pay-as-you-go basis, and you can leverage all the other benefits we discussed earlier.

With a private cloud, only one organization owns and uses all resources in the cloud. This approach is best if you need advanced customization and maximum control over resources, costs, and security.

Another option is the hybrid cloud model, which combines private and public clouds and allows you to move resources between the two.

Finally, with a multi-cloud environment, you can use multiple cloud services in a single environment to realize the benefits of various cloud providers while reducing your reliance on anyone.

Most organizations find that a hybrid strategy offers the best way to meet their IT and business goals. Still, that may be different for your specific organization. Make sure you assess the various kinds of cloud environments in the context of your particular needs.

Prepare the Workforce

People with the right skills are essential to managing the new dynamic infrastructure, workflows, Virtual Machines (VMs), containerization, microservices, and other assets in a cloud environment. Cloud applications and sensitive data also require different management skills. So, ensure that the right people are in place before the migration.

Provide hands-on training to these employees and other stakeholders so they can quickly adapt to their new roles and responsibilities.

Also, focus on educating employees on critical issues like the pillars of cloud security and compliance so you don’t create new vulnerabilities that make your cloud workloads or data attractive targets for threat actors.

Types of Cloud Data Migration Strategies

The journey to the cloud involves strategic decisions about how data and workloads will seamlessly transition from existing infrastructures to the dynamic world of cloud environments. Understanding the diverse array of migration strategies is paramount in ensuring a smooth and effective migration process. 

Hybrid Cloud Data Migration Model

The Hybrid Cloud Migration Model integrates on-premises infrastructure with cloud services, optimizing functionality and scalability. This approach allows for flexible workload mobility while ensuring control over critical data within existing infrastructure. It’s a strategy that suits a variety of use cases and helps optimize workloads for enhanced functionality and scalability within a hybrid environment.

The Re-Architect Data Migration Model

The Re-Architect Data Migration Model restores applications to leverage cloud-native features like microservices or serverless architectures. This transformation enhances performance, scalability, and cost-efficiency, optimizing applications for a digital transformation that aligns with cloud solutions and modern deployment strategies.

Drop & Shop Cloud Migration Method

The Drop & Shop Migration Method moves applications to the cloud without extensive modifications. Ideal for compatible applications, this method expedites migration while considering functionality and optimization for cloud platform deployment, often complemented by automation and migration tools for efficient deployment.

Lift & Shift Cloud Migration Method

The Lift & Shift Cloud Migration Method rapidly transfers applications to the cloud in their existing state. While ensuring quick migration, this approach may only partially harness cloud-native features, emphasizing speed over optimization. It addresses immediate migration needs but might require additional optimization for scalability and functionality.

ZenGRC Is Designed for Cloud Security Management

There are many reasons for the rapid and wide-scale adoption of cloud computing among organizations: lower operating expenses, accelerated time-to-market, increased business scalability and agility, and improved enterprise resilience, business continuity, and disaster recovery.

These benefits notwithstanding, security can be a concern in the cloud, especially in multi-cloud and hybrid-cloud environments. Seamlessly manage your cloud security and defend your cloud-native infrastructure from existing and emerging threats with Reciprocity’s ZenGRC.

ZenGRC is a single, multi-functional platform that can help you identify threats in the cloud, respond to and remediate security incidents, and protect data from threat actors. Increase visibility into your environment, minimize loss events, and simplify governance.

With ZenGRC, you can do all this and more. Click here for a free demo of ZenGRC.