Large-scale cloud migrations require the sort of planning you normally reserve for your first-born's wedding. They are complex, fraught with potential risk, and without the right planning, can create headaches at every turn. After all, you're basically extracting your entire corporate IP from the fortress of your on-site server room and throwing it skyward into an esoteric concept that even IT people have trouble describing.
Cloud migrations are a core area of expertise for TACT and we've assisted many of our clients to increase efficiency, reduce operating costs and radically improve the scalability of their business applications by moving their IT infrastructure to the cloud. As this blog goes to press we are delivering a major cloud transformation for an iconic Australian brand (it's still too early to talk about this but we'll spill the beans in the new year). Needless to say, we are reminded every day that just because we do a lot of them, cloud migrations don't get any easier.
We decided to spare you a headache or two and share our top 5 tips for planning and deploying a successful cloud migration. You're welcome!
1. Get your head around your application architecture
Take the time to assess the compatibility of your legacy applications with the cloud – they may not all be a good fit – and determine which cloud environment suits each application. It's a big job and a crucial one because this will enable you to optimise each cloud platform and ensure the smoothest possible transition down the track.
Understanding the relationships between your applications is critical to planning how and when cloud migrations occur, and will help to prevent outages occurring if application dependencies are discovered mid-stream that were not previously considered.
Tip: Make sure your legacy IT management environment is in good shape while you're migrating to the new environment – things like performance monitoring, backups and recovery – because you'll have enough to worry about without the added hassle of unplanned downtime, data loss or losing resources to existing system issues.
2. Assess which cloud deployment is right for you
The next step is to roll out your cloud migration strategy. There are many considerations and often there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Determining whether the public cloud, community cloud, private cloud, hybrid cloud – or a combination of these – is right for you is a decision that will have long-term implications. Many organisations use a mix of cloud deployments to create the right balance of security, scalability and agility to meet their business needs.
To help get your head around a few of the key considerations, read this article on Xero's decision to hedge their bets and use AWS, Google and Azure for their public cloud deployment. It paints a compelling case for not putting all your eggs in one cloud, so to speak.
3. Define team roles and responsibilities
Once you decide on your cloud configuration, another critical piece of the puzzle is to define the roles and responsibilities of your cloud delivery team – both the in-house team and the outsourced vendors who will also be pivotal in delivering the project. It's important you have a trusted team with cloud expertise acting on your behalf. Cloud providers want your business and they can sometimes make things sound easier than they are – when it comes to cloud migrations, nothing is straightforward. If your expectations are mismatched with what is achievable, relationships can go awry and costs can blow out.
With the team in place, develop a communications plan and roll it out far and wide to ensure everyone understands where they fit, who sits above and below them in the chain of command and what is expected of them.
A neat touch is to turn your Gantt charts and milestone achievements into posters and place them around the office to keep your workforce motivated on meeting deadlines. Run collaborative progress meetings and one-on-ones to keep the wheels of your migration program oiled, and to iron out issues as they arise.
4. Understand the implications for security and governance
Understand how your workforce accesses business applications, and how this may change after your cloud migration. Nothing undoes a happy work culture quicker than being lumbered with an IT change program that makes things worse than they were before.
You'll need to look at existing security policies and ensure they meet the future need – including relinquishing or revising any policies that will be managed by your cloud service provider. Proprietary and governance implications need to be fully explored and mitigated by your legal and executive teams, and your change management strategy should be as transparent as possible and be communicated on an ongoing basis to keep your workforce informed and on your side.
5. Get your business apps cloud-ready
A wise strategy for newcomers to the cloud is to test run a few applications first before migrating your entire IP. There are three ways this can be done:
- Lift and shift – move each application directly to the cloud, untouched. This can work well but has the flaw of not always taking advantage of all capabilities offered by the cloud platform.
- Refactoring – by tweaking the coding in your apps you'll often achieve a smoother migration, of course you'll need a developer to assist with this.
- Full redesign – the gold standard is to completely redesign each of your apps before you migrate them to ensure a seamless transition and full compatibility – the trade-off is that this approach can be costly and time consuming.
Budgetary and time constraints, governance considerations, your access to specialist IT expertise and many other factors will all contribute to deciding which approach works best for your organisation.
About the author
Teri Cooper is a writer, marketer and digital communications specialist who writes about technology, business strategy and leadership. She founded digital consultancy Scoot Communications in 2014. When she's not hunched over a keyboard, she can often be found roaming around Melbourne indulging in her two current passions, Instagram and coffee.