Cloud migration is a digital transformation initiative where an organization reconfigures its IT resources to rely on cloud resources for some form of data migration to relocate company data and applications to a cloud service provider’s platform.

An enterprise operating its private network infrastructure may choose to migrate its operations to the cloud and reduce its infrastructure costs and management. They would identify a suitable cloud service provider and migrate their applications and data to the CSPs infrastructure, but not necessarily as a complete migration. Compliance requirements may demand some special cloud configurations, and enterprises can choose a hybrid cloud configuration, thereby securely sharing their private cloud with a public cloud provider in partial data migration to the CSP, all while maintaining sensitive data on-premises.

Later, successful enterprises may outstrip their current cloud service provider’s capabilities and must look for alternatives. Equally so, diversifying over several different CSPs to ensure redundancy may prompt a search for partner alternatives and the enterprise may simply manage multiple CSP relationships in their pursuit of better service uptime and quality. In each case, data must be transferred.

Though there is a high level of standardization with most leading cloud platforms, migrating applications and data still requires a sophisticated level of integration between CSPs for a successful and seamless migration.

Cloud providers also act as a capacity option for enterprise systems. In peak times, when workloads can inundate an enterprise system, local systems can take advantage of the cloud’s flexible capabilities by invoking cloud bursting, where network traffic is routed to cloud resources, virtually on standby, to help carry extra server load.

For enterprises, there are many compelling technical benefits and business reasons to adopt cloud services. Top of the list is risk mitigation and reduced total cost of ownership. By migrating capacity to the cloud, IT departments are choosing to offload the burden of managing and maintaining on-premise infrastructure used to support services, and instead, reclaim valuable time to focus on core capabilities. Likewise, when service level agreements are agreed to between partner CSPs, then enterprises can rely on a set quality level and capacity for a fixed cost, effectively reducing a portion of in-house IT operations to a single line item.

Among those overarching benefits, the following are significant cloud benefits:

  • Flexibility, Elasticity, and Scalability — The cloud's capability to be highly malleable is one of its greatest advantages. Flexibility for enterprises to customize and configure environments and architectures allows for rapid innovation. Scalability allows enterprises to scale workloads upon a fixed amount of hardware, while elasticity is the capacity to shrink and grow resource pools dynamically on-demand.
  • Cost Controls — The high customizability of the cloud lends itself easily to the subscription or pay-as-you-go payment schemes. IT teams are free to add features, environments, compute, and storage capacity as needed and pay only for the services they utilize. This predictability allows enterprises to easily control their capital and operational IT expenditures.
  • Heightened Security — Though CSP security policies should always be reviewed, leading cloud data centers will tend to maintain higher security standards than private on-premise infrastructures. Leading CSPs to adhere to government regulations and industry standards, while maintaining best practices and updating policies regularly. Because of economies of scale, they can deploy more advanced security measures, and software and hardware protections, than individual companies, could cost-effectively.
  • Accelerated Digital Transformation — Like installing the first mainframe at the office, migrating to the cloud is the first step in a modern company’s digital transformation. As cloud becomes more familiar within a company’s culture and workflow, more innovative services will quickly be found useful and valuable, accelerating digital cloud adoption.
  • Decreased Footprint — Closely coupled with accelerated digital transformation, an enterprise can reduce its IT footprint while increasing their IT capacity when moving to the cloud. Digital transformation allows new ways of working virtually and accessing services without the hardware burden.
  • Disaster Recovery — An exceptionally useful feature of cloud computing is redundancy. Redundant data centers are a boon for enterprise disaster recovery efforts. By running sophisticated syncing software, and backing-up data at multiple sites, enterprises can ensure maximum uptime, and protect data in the worst cases.

Even with leading cloud provider migration tools, planning must precede every cloud migration. Without adequate forethought, IT teams can be hampered by several common cloud migration challenges.

  • Data Integrity and Massive Databases — Enterprise data is undergoing exponential growth. The size of data and the fact that data migration takes place over physical transit lines prone to interference may lead to data loss during migration. Data must undergo integrity checks during and after migration to ensure a complete data transfer free of errors and holes. In some cases, for the security of simply the size of data, a data backup on a physical storage device can be couriered to the cloud provider for upload to the cloud. Today, leading CSPs are offering secure appliances for petabyte-sized data relocations.
  • Downtime — A large part of cloud migration is scheduling. Choosing the right time to perform a cloud migration, especially if critical systems must be brought offline, can save the company money, and user anguish. Typically, cloud migrations are performed during low bandwidth hours, and usually cutovers are not in a single final go, but migration is performed over several syncing intervals, and checks are performed before the final cutover.
  • Application Interoperability — During cloud migrations, legacy apps may struggle with cloud environment interoperability. While it is a cloud advantage to be working with the latest innovative platforms, organizations that rely on outmoded software may be faced with refactoring or porting legacy data to a new software package.

The cloud migration process is highly dependent on the source IT setup and the cloud migration circumstances. While leading cloud service providers do provide tools that help streamline the process to migrate to other popular cloud providers, data stored in legacy or proprietary formats may require custom preparation for migration. There is, however, a general cloud migration process that can guide IT teams in mapping their specific journey.

  • Establish Goals — The main business aim must be clearly established, and then it must be supported by key performance indicators to indicate the success of the cloud migration during post-testing.
  • Set Security Strategy — Because in the cloud the threat surface is multiplied, cloud security must be top of mind. Using identity access management (IAM), zero-trust models, continuous network monitoring, multi-factor identification, and advanced endpoint security can help bolster security in the cloud.
  • Data Migration — Working with reliable and trusted cloud partners should go without mention, however, the importance is only as much as the worth of safeguarding the integrity of your data. Choose reputable over cheap.
  • Migrate Business Logic — Application and their operating environments must then be considered. Enterprises have several options if hosts cannot provide an adequate configuration, they can rehost their app, revise, refactor, replace, or retire.
  • Final Cutover — Likely an enterprise migration will require staged cutovers while ramping down source systems. However, some organizations may simply be able to turn off their old systems and immediately switch over to their Cloud Setup.

The movement of any significant portion of IT resources to the cloud or amongst cloud providers is a cloud migration.

  • Cloud Service Provider Migration — The migration of data between cloud providers is cloud service provider migration. The reasons for choosing one cloud provider over another vary, but many drivers include better reliability, cost comparison, diversification, redundancy, and growth. Vendor lock-in is a situation that occurs when a cloud consumer tries to migrate, but a circumstance prevents it, either cost or inability to export data. It is advisable to understand what format your data will be stored in and the CSP’s protocols for data migration.
  • PaaS or SaaS Migration — These two migrations can be quick but do deserve special attention. SaaS migrations involve porting application data to a new SaaS or cloud application. PaaS migrates an app and its data to a new virtual machine but beneficially may cost less in subscription fees. For example, for a SaaS email migration, the mailboxes from the local exchange would be migrated over to the SaaS app, whereas, in a PaaS email migration the local Exchange server, with all the mailboxes included, would need to be exported and then imported into the CSPs virtualized platform.
  • Database Migration — Quite common in the cloud space is database migrations, so much so that the leading providers, like Azure, and AWS, offer database migration services. Cross-service migration tools will help organizations move from one database to another, e.g. from Oracle to SQL Server or PostgreSQL to MySQL.

Cloud migration service providers assist companies with migrations, specifically those with large volumes and various types of files. These cloud migration services provide expertise in preparing and implementing cloud migration plans for companies with limited experience. For large companies, the task may simply be too unwieldy and complex to rely on in-house departments alone. These services can then step in and help organizations move business data and applications securely from private infrastructure to cloud environments.

Cloud-native capabilities are in many ways better than legacy capabilities. The ease of flexibility and scaling is usually top of mind when considering storing data in the cloud. But migrating legacy applications to the cloud may prove more challenging if cloud providers cannot support an environment for those applications. When addressing the lack of appropriate hosting environments for their business applications, organizations need to consider the necessity for these applications, if they’re vital but incompatible, companies have several strategies to follow to try and remedy the issue:

  • Rehosting — Rehosting is the most popular approach to migrating applications. Legacy apps that are incompatible with modern cloud environments will have to follow a different option below, however, most modern application code bases will easily port to other leading cloud providers.
  • Revising — Environment incompatible legacy apps can undergo a partial rewrite to bring incompatible features in alignment with cloud support. After revising the app, then it can be hosted on a CSP platform.
  • Refactoring — True legacy applications may simply be so outdated that the systems that run them are decades out of production. In these cases, and many others, refactoring business-critical applications is the only option. A complete rewrite can be advantageous, though expensive because the legacy app can be written to utilize cloud-native technologies that are superior to older systems.
  • Replacing — Much like refactoring, replacing intends to do away with the old code but keep the functional role of the application. Today, the SaaS space has thousands of vendor cloud applications that can replace many antiquated software packages with updated and more efficient versions. If the business logic is common, like accounting or sales software, replacing on-premise software with SaaS solutions may be the best and least expensive route.
  • Retiring — Faced with migrating huge volumes of data to the cloud, companies are provided an opportunity for evaluating the relevance of their software by asking which ones truly support the business. Beyond cutting costs, companies should evaluate their processes as well for redundancy. With careful reflection, migration can be a strategic inflection point for improving overall systems. Discard the applications that serve no purposes, or which features are obsolete, redundant, or unutilized.

Cloud migration services are good for easily overcoming the data migration learning curve. However, there are cloud migrations tools if IT teams find themselves in a situation where they plan on migrating without third-party support. Assessment tools help teams evaluate current IT infrastructure in preparation for cloud migration, and cloud migration software assists in relocating files.

Cloud Migration Assessment Tools — Migrations are complex processes where assessment tools can help evaluate the viability of such a move. Assessment tools analyze company IT resources and infrastructure to produce readiness reports highlighting cost benefits, risk assessments, and security before migrating to the cloud. For enterprises, sophisticated analytics and visualizations can help in determining areas of less or more readiness.

Cloud Migration Software — After completing a cloud migration feasibility and readiness plan, companies can use cloud migration software to backup, encrypt, and document the company’s data ready for migration. Many leading cloud providers have cloud migration software packages that integrate with their entire cloud suite making it exceptionally convenient to migrate volumes of calendars, contacts, data, documents, and email to a cloud provider. Without these tools, significant time would be spent conducting a cloud migration.