Cloud hosting has rapidly become one of the most defining technologies in IT and it represents a very attractive option for many organisations looking to host their business systems and applications, due to its scalability, ease of management and cost efficiency.
Cloud adoption continues to grow, with, according to a survey carried out among IT professionals in the UK by RightScale, 96% of respondents using a cloud solution in 2018.
Despite all the benefits of cloud hosting and the significant growth within the industry, the idea of moving services into the cloud, or from one cloud hosting provider to another, is for many business owners and IT professionals, still met with trepidation.
How do you ensure as smooth and stress-free a migration of your systems, applications and data to a new cloud platform as possible?
In this Insights article, I will explore some of the concerns that exist around the migration of services to the cloud and provide an overview on how best to prepare for a migration project, for those looking for advice, knowledge and reassurance on making the move to a new cloud environment.
As described by Techopedia, “cloud migration is the process of partially or completely deploying an organisation’s digital assets, services, IT resources or applications to the cloud”.
For Secura, this involves a migration methodology which is carefully planned out with each of our customers, to help them move their business data and applications from their internal infrastructure or previous provider, on to the Secura cloud in a safe, effective and efficient way.
When looking to move your business’s systems into the cloud or to a new hosting provider, the migration process involved can sometimes feel like a daunting and overwhelming task and one which many IT professionals avoid, and often dread.
Even with the clear benefits for cloud adoption (to cut costs in the long term, improve security, scalability and accessibility) the incurred costs of migrating data and services acts as a barrier for many businesses, with 40% of Cloud Migration Learnings report respondents across the UK, France, Germany and the US stating that a few years into the process, migration costs were higher than they had originally anticipated.
Migrating applications and services, depending on the nature of your applications and the amount of data you have, can make for a complicated and lengthy project, so ensuring you work closely with your chosen hosting provider on a clearly defined strategy before carrying out the migration is key. This will help to define a specified and realistic timeframe for the migration, clear roles and tasks for everyone involved, and streamline the project to make things as straightforward as possible, ensuring costs do not overrun.
In a survey conducted by THINKstrategies and INetU, only 27% of the survey respondents expressed extreme satisfaction with their overall cloud migration experience, highlighting that migration is still a major cause for concern and that many hosting providers could be doing a lot more to ease this process for their customers.
Migrating to the cloud does not need to be an all-consuming and stressful process. In fact, with careful planning, testing and communication with your new hosting provider and customers, migrating your services to the cloud should be a straightforward and stress-free experience.
Every cloud environment is different so has a special set of requirements for migration, however, the standard migration process can be defined and then adapted to suit different needs.
To help kickstart your cloud migration planning, here’s a list of a few of the main considerations when planning your migration to the cloud:
Your new hosting provider and their migration team will need to get a good understanding of your current applications, servers and infrastructure to create a comprehensive and informed migration plan, including clear indication of roles within the migration – who is responsible for doing what and when.
At Secura, our first step is a meeting with the customer to gain a good understanding of their business and platform, and to discuss the overall migration strategy. A migration project manager is assigned by Secura to become the primary point of contact and ensure tasks and milestones are completed.
At this stage we would organise lowering the Time To Live records (TTL) to enable a smooth Domain Name Service (DNS) transfer and avoid any caching issues, and request access to the customer servers to ensure our engineers have a comprehensive understanding of the customer’s applications.
2. Cloud Migration Planning
Thorough planning is essential and key in helping to mitigate any disruption to your business and your customers. Which applications and services can be migrated without disruption and which need migrating out of hours?
As part of the planning process it will be important to discuss with your hosting provider whether you will need a ‘like for like’, or ‘application by application’ migration.
Like for like is where the server image is restored completely the same as it was taken from your previous provider. Application by application is where individual applications are restored to a new build server.
Dependency mapping is a key part of this planning phase, as it is essential to make sure all supporting services are available to applications when they are migrated. Some services may have to be moved first as other parts of the infrastructure require them to function correctly.
For larger estates a phased migration may be required, often using a combination of new build and image based migrations. There may well be a transitional phase where different services are running in different hosting provider’s infrastructures.
Your hosting provider should be able to advise you on this based on your desired outcomes and the new platform you are migrating your business to.
Testing is a key part of the migration which should be carefully considered and scheduled to ensure that everything is running correctly on the new platform ahead of the ‘live’ date in case of any issues. These can then be resolved in advance to ensure no disruption or downtime to end users.
As a starting point, your new hosting provider should take a full copy of your servers onto their infrastructure as a backup. Depending on the scale of the migration, this can be done as a whole or on a VM by VM basis, as per the agreed migration project plan.
A test migration should then be scheduled in to deliver you the server or platform in its fully migrated state for you to perform testing and check that everything is running ok.
4. Live Migration
Once your test migration has been fully tested and any problems have been resolved, the migration of live services can be scheduled.
Arrange this with your new hosting provider at a convenient and least disruptive time for you and your customers – out of core business hours, when your website or application is used the least.
A ‘data change freeze’ window would be agreed to ensure the services on the new cloud can be up to date and in sync with the existing platform. Your new hosting provider will be able to give you a guideline of how long the final migration of live services will take so you can plan and communicate the change to your customers if required.
When migrating your applications and data to a new cloud environment, careful consideration to choose the right fit hosting partner, that can provide a comprehensive planning and support service, is vital to the success of your migration.
The process of migrating services to the cloud or between clouds will always vary based on application and service architectures, technology and the downtime and disruption tolerances involved. However, the fundamental building blocks of a smooth and successful migration always remain the same:
> Good communication between provider and the customer is essential
> Your new provider should commit to understanding your applications and services
> Thorough and detailed planning needs to happen first
> Someone needs to take ownership for the project and ensure people deliver
> Always test before a migration of live services!
Transparent communication with your hosting provider and your customers, accurate assessment of all applications and systems, a comprehensive test migration, and detailed planning can all help to mitigate any risks to your business and customers, ensuring a smooth and stress-free transition to your new cloud platform.
If you’d like to find out more about Secura’s cloud migration methodology, get in touch, and we’d be happy to discuss this with you.
Anthony advises and guides customers and designs our cloud solutions. He's literally made of VMware.
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