What to include on your cloud migration strategy checklist

With worldwide spending on public cloud services anticipated to hit $362.2 billion in 2022, up from $257.5 billion in 2020, it’s clear that many companies have and will continue to embrace the cloud’s value proposition as an on-demand, scalable service that businesses can rely on to digitally transform and expand in a cost-efficient manner. But, transitioning applications, workloads, data, and entire business operations to the cloud isn’t something that happens overnight. In fact, it’s a pretty involved process that requires careful planning and execution, otherwise known as a cloud migration strategy.

What is a cloud migration strategy?

Despite increased efficiency being one of the primary benefits of turning to the cloud, a comprehensive cloud migration strategy requires a commitment of time and resources.

If done well, you’ll reap the benefits of a cloud service, such as enhanced performance and reduced costs. Without proper planning and commitment, however, you’ll likely incur some technical debt that you’ll end up paying for in even more time and resources, as well as potentially worse consequences, down the road.

Cloud migration checklist: Here’s what your strategy must include

As with most things in life, a checklist can be of great assistance when developing a strategy. It’s important to note that strategies won’t be the same from organization to organization, as everyone has different business needs, applications, and processes. At a high-level, your strategy should include:

  • Dedicated individuals or teams to lead the migration
  • A documented process or roadmap
  • A thorough discovery process
  • Defined migration approaches
  • Workload prioritization
  • A reputable public cloud service provider

Let’s dive a little deeper into what each of these items entail.

Designate a project lead

Because cloud migration is such a detailed process, this can’t be an add-on task to already-overwhelmed IT departments, as it could lead to oversights and careless (but costly) mistakes. Instead, organizations should designate an individual or team with expertise to handle this process and ensure it’s properly planned and executed.

Document the cloud migration process

With a project lead and task force in place, they can create a roadmap for the entire cloud migration process. It should include clearly outlined steps, objectives, expectations, milestones, goals, time estimates, and acknowledgment of potential risks or roadblocks with prevention or response measures for each.

Organizations will need to establish and agree upon pre-migration key performance indicators (KPIs) for things like duration and cost, as well as post-migration KPIs for application performance, user experience, and cost and time savings, which can be used to ensure everything is going to plan. Once documented, this migration strategy should be shared with and understood by your entire workforce to help mitigate security risks once the process is underway.

Conduct a thorough discovery operation

In order to know how to migrate and what to prioritize, you’ll need to assess your current environment. This will provide you with a clear understanding of each workload’s maturity, the needs of each application, and what sensitive data you possess and need to protect during the migration.

Define migration approaches

There are a number of ways to migrate applications to the cloud, and your discovery findings will inform the approach or approaches you take.

  • Rehosting: One of the quicker, lower-cost options for cloud migrations, this approach transfers applications and data from on-premise locations to the cloud, as is. Rehosting is ideal for large-scale migrations, but keep in mind that not all applications are compatible with cloud environments – or at least, they may need to be adjusted in order to be so, and moving them in this way can cause lags and poor functionality.
  • Replatforming: Like rehosting, replatforming is one of the quicker migration options, but it enables complex applications to be configured for the cloud environment for peak functionality.
  • Refactoring: This process requires more time and money, as you’d be completely rewriting applications to make them native to the cloud, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s a worthwhile investment as the applications would perform better and be more suited for scalability. In cases where legacy applications can’t be modified to be cloud-compatible, refactoring is one of your only options.
    Repurchasing: The other option for a cloud-incompatible application is repurchasing it as a cloud-native option. You would need to end your on-premise license and begin a new license with the cloud solution, which would incur a fee, but you’ll end up saving over time in the form of reduced storage and maintenance costs.
  • Retaining: This approach applies to any organization planning to use a hybrid infrastructure to house applications. If an application can’t be replatformed, refactored, or suitably replaced with a cloud-compatible solution, but it’s still essential to business operations, it’s perfectly fine to retain it as is. This approach can even serve as a temporary solution as you take the time to refactor an application or carefully research an alternative to repurchase.
  • Retiring: As the name implies, retiring involves getting rid of applications you no longer need, as well as any that have been refactored for the cloud or repurchased and replaced. This approach will almost always be essential, but it’s not something that can nor should be done quickly. These applications might contain sensitive data, useful or not, that needs to be safely moved or disposed of, so retiring requires careful planning.

Prioritize workloads

Everything can’t be moved all at once, so you’ll need to determine what must be migrated first and what can wait. The first priority group should include any applications that can be rehosted or easily replatformed, as well as any that aren’t essential for day-to-day operations. This will allow you to take your time with applications requiring more extensive migration approaches.

When it’s time to transition those core workloads, business-critical applications, and security tools to the cloud, you’ll have a better understanding of the process and any potential roadblocks, making for a smoother migration.

Choose a cloud platform

There are a number of providers out there, which is sure to increase in the coming years, but top cloud platforms like Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform, and Microsoft Azure are owning the market share for a reason. Some platforms may lend themselves better to certain needs compared to others, so it’s important to identify what your organization’s specific needs are first before making a decision. Overall, however, these providers offer high-quality, comprehensive, and most importantly, secure, cloud solutions for organizations looking to migrate.

Benefits of a cloud migration strategy

One of the top benefits of the cloud itself is enhanced accessibility. Work can be done from anywhere, which is key for the remote work environments popular today and the foreseeable future. Having a solid strategy to support cloud migration allows organizations to move their people, processes, and technology into this remotely accessible future efficiently, for the lowest cost, and with minimal setbacks or disruptions. In addition, the steps necessary for creating a strategy, such as discovering all the components of their existing infrastructures, provide organizations with visibility into redundant or outdated applications and data, which are a risk to enterprise environments.

Cloud migration challenges

Naturally, with so much movement going on, the biggest challenges to cloud migrations are security and compliance. While cloud providers come with their own security features, they operate under a shared responsibility model, meaning customers are responsible for security in the cloud — think operating systems, applications, and data, and the subsequent privacy, retention, or other compliance-specific requirements of that data — while the cloud provider is responsible for the security of it.

For cloud environments, it’s recommended that organizations operate by Zero Trust, a framework that always requires users to be authorized, authenticated, and validated to access applications and sensitive data. Previously, if you were within your organization’s network, gaining access would be less strict. But, because networks can be in the cloud or split among hybrid environments, there’s no longer a traditional “network edge.” While increased accessibility is convenient, it comes with greater security risks. Implementing a Zero Trust approach allows you to enjoy the best of both worlds.

How Spirion enhances cloud migration strategies

Across the board, Spirion solutions inherently support an efficient, more secure cloud migration strategy. From accurate, automated data discovery that lets you know what data you have and the applications where it exists, to persistent data classification that tags data based on its level of sensitivity and privacy compliance regulations, to reliable remediation that ensures data is securely discarded as you migrate to the cloud, you can feel confident that you’re overcoming some of cloud migration’s biggest challenges.

Contact us today to learn how our solutions can assist and enhance each item on your cloud migration checklist for a smoother, less challenging move to the cloud.