Cloud adoption has grown exponentially over recent years, and for good reason. With global upticks in business demand and growth, migrating to the cloud allows businesses to stay on the cusp of market expansion and remain top competitors in their industries.
That’s according to Anise Madh, general manager of LeanSwift Solutions, a Wipro company and provider of eCommerce and mobile solutions.
While it’s essential to explore how cloud implementation can drive growth, it’s equally critical for organizations to strategize and research to capture the total value of the cloud and unlock its business benefits, he says.
“Failing to acknowledge the cloud as a complete business enablement tool means your business is missing out on untapped potential with the migration, such as reduced costs, accelerated product launches, and improved customer journeys,” Madh says.
Cloud migration is critical in modernizing IT infrastructure to allow companies to achieve the scalability, flexibility, and cost-efficiency they’re looking for, says Sundhar Rajan, chief information officer at Casepoint, a legal technology platform provider.
“But a seamless transition to the cloud doesn’t happen by accident and it doesn’t happen overnight – it requires careful planning and a keen understanding of your organization’s specific needs,” he says.
However, once an organization has decided to transition to the cloud, the burning question almost always is how to get started, says Michael Merfeld, executive vice president of business applications at Avanade, an IT consulting and services company.
“While every cloud migration is unique, general field-tested guidelines and steps apply to nearly any cloud transition strategy,” he says.
Although there are many advantages to migrating to the cloud, companies must proceed cautiously to avoid errors that could lead to costly delays.
Here are six best practices to ensure a successful cloud migration:
1. Align Your Business and IT Objectives
IT budgets aren’t what they used to be, and with remote work becoming the norm, having a strong cloud strategy is critical, says Merfeld. The first step in ensuring a successful cloud migration is to align your business and IT objectives.
“Start by involving all the key players in the planning stage and encourage collaboration between your IT and business teams, he says. “And don’t forget to periodically reassess your IT goals to ensure they align with your long-term vision. Then, work together to create a strong business case explaining the benefits of moving to the cloud.”
Establishing clear communication between business, migration, risk, cybersecurity, and assurance teams is critical to ensuring a successful migration, says Randy Armknecht, a managing director and global cloud practice leader at business advisory firm Protiviti.
“Sometimes a formal structure like a center of excellence with a charter, committees, and communities is needed,” he says. “Some organizations have existing structures to enable the communication that’s needed.”
2. Get Executive/Stakeholder Buy-In Early On
For many organizations, the cultural aspect of moving to the cloud can be one of the biggest barriers to migration, so it’s essential to get the decision makers onboard early on in the process, says John Knieriemen, general manager of North America for Exasol, an analytics database management software company.
Once there’s buy-in from the C-suite, enterprises must determine where they stand with their architectures and whether a complete shift to the cloud is worth the investment. If not, companies should consider a phased approach to the cloud, which offers more flexibility at a lower upfront cost, according to Knieriemen.
Additionally, organizations pursuing these massive modernization projects shouldn’t keep lines of business and their stakeholders in the dark, says Venkata Achanti, vice president of cloud and custom applications at Capgemini America, an IT services and consulting company.
“Bringing in core team leads together at the onset of these discussions can help proactively address cultural change issues tied to reorganizing teams, support any new development and deployment models, and ensure everyone is aligned on the value of these new systems,” he says.
3. Pick the Best Cloud Provider
To ensure they select the best cloud provider, organizations must first assess their requirements, pain points, and struggles, then determine the specific functions, features, compliance standards, and integration capabilities they need, says Nandor Csonka, global practice lead cloud security services at security consultancy NCC Group.
“Look for cloud providers that specialize in your industry or offer industry-specific solutions,” he says. “Evaluate their offerings, features, and reviews from previous or current customers to ensure they align with your business’ needs.”
In addition, companies need to consider the scalability and flexibility of the cloud platform and assess whether it can meet their growth projections and allow for customizations as their needs may change over time.
Merfeld suggests companies explore hybrid and multi-cloud strategies, then select the one that aligns best with their business objectives.
4. Plan Your Cloud Migration
Organizations should develop migration plans to transition their applications, data, and associated services to their cloud providers’ platforms, according to Csonka. Consider factors such as data migration, integration with existing systems, and user training to help transition as smoothly as humanly possible.
“Those that have already undertaken a cloud migration know that even if you have a solid migration plan in place, things will break,” he says. “So give yourself time for troubleshooting.”
When planning their cloud migration journeys, organizations should develop plans with an eye toward cost at the beginning of the project rather than after implementation, says Chris Cochran, co-founder and CEO of ProsperOps, an automated FinOps platform.
“Many companies’ lift and shift’ on-premise workloads like-for-like and only later consider cost optimization, which in some cases can negatively impact the entire economic justification of the migration,” he adds. “Regardless of plans to transition workloads to more cloud-native architectures, companies should immediately take advantage of paying less for whatever they use in the cloud.”
5. Be Thoughtful and Strategic — but Swift and Effective
Companies first need to determine which workloads (if any) should remain on the mainframe and which should be migrated to the cloud, says Achanti.
“Then migrate quickly, meaning don’t try to rewrite customized business-critical applications from scratch in pre-migration limbo or while they still reside on legacy infrastructure; it will be an endless pursuit,” he says. “Rather, think: move first, then re-engineer.”
Companies will often immediately pursue a rewrite strategy because the target platform is different. But that’s not the way to go.
“If you’re looking to go from a monolithic architecture in legacy systems to fully elastic microservices in the cloud, the best strategy is to get workloads into the cloud environment while retaining the monolith or as macroservices, i.e., peeling away major functional pieces with automation/optimization, not re-engineering efforts,” he says. “This drastically simplifies performance and architectural tuning compared to a pre-migration approach to fundamental change.”
6. Address Security Risks
To address the security risks associated with cloud migration, it’s crucial to implement a defense-in-depth approach, combining technical controls, employee training, regular security assessments, i.e., penetration testing and vulnerability scans, and ongoing monitoring, says Csonka.
“Additionally, engaging with experienced cloud security professionals, leveraging cloud provider security services, and staying updated on emerging threats and best practices can help organizations effectively manage and mitigate risks during and following migration,” he adds.
One way organizations can ensure successful cloud migrations and maintain strong security is to streamline security architecture by making use of the integrated capabilities within the cloud providers’ platforms, which reduces costs and enhances protection, according to Merfeld.
Generally, the cloud provides a stronger security posture for data assets; however, organizations need to ensure that they configure the controls correctly, says Adrian Estala, vice president field chief data officer at Starburst, a data analytics platform provider.
Most importantly, he adds that they need to classify their data to ensure that they’re protecting the highest-risk data with the appropriate controls.
“Overall, the cloud is maturing to where it is now a component of business strategy and enablement,” says LeanSwift’s Madh.
To be successful, organizations must have an agile approach and be prepared to move fast in a dynamic environment, he says. And it’s crucial that they acknowledge the impact that the cloud can have on the growth of the business to maximize its potential.
Modernizing legacy systems as soon as possible is often the right move for businesses today, but taking the right steps in the process can help make these massive, complex cloud projects less painful and ensure greater success, says Capgemini’s Achanti.