Things to Consider When Migrating to the Cloud

by Kristen Hardwick
Published July 01, 2014

After the decision is made to make use of a cloud solution like Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure, there is one main question that needs to be answered – “What’s next?...”

There are many factors to consider when migrating to the cloud, and this post will discuss the major steps for completing the transition.

Gather background information

Before getting started, it’s important to have a clear picture of what is meant to be accomplished in order to call the transition a success.Keeping the following questions at the forefront during the planning stages will help guide your process and ensure the success of the migration.

What are the reasons for moving to the cloud?

  • There are many benefits of moving to the cloud, and it is important to know what the focus of the transition should be. If the cost savings are the primary driver, vendor choice may be important. Prices between vendors vary, as do the support services that are offered–that might make a difference in future iterations. In other cases, the elasticity of hardware may be the main appeal. It will be important to ensure that the customization options are available at the desired level.

Which applications are being moved?

  • When beginning the migration process, it is important to make sure that the scope of the effort is clear. Consider the option of moving data and applications to the cloud selectively in order to ease the transition. Once the organization has completed a successful small-scale migration into the cloud, a second iteration of the process can take care of additional applications.

What is the anticipated cost?

  • A cloud solution will have variable costs associated with it, but it is important to have some estimation of what is expected. This will help when selecting vendors, and it will allow for guidance in configuring the system.

What is the long-term plan?

  • Is the new environment intended to eventually replace the legacy system? To work alongside it? Begin to think about the plan beyond the initial migration. Ensure that the selected vendor provides service guarantees that may become requirements in the future, like disaster recovery options or automatic backup services.

Determine your actual cloud needs

One important thing to maximize the benefits of making use of the cloud is to ensure that your resources are sufficient for your needs. Cloud computing services are billed based on actual usage, including processing power, storage, and network bandwidth. Configuring too few nodes will limit the ability to support the required applications, and too many nodes will inflate costs.

Determine the list of applications and features that need to be present in the selected cloud vendor. Some vendors include backup services or disaster recovery options as add-on services that will impact the cost, so it important to decide whether or not these services are necessary. A benefit with most vendors is that these services are extremely configurable, so subscriptions can be modified. However, it is important to choose a vendor with packages that make sense for your current and future needs as much as possible, since transitioning between vendors is not typically desirable.

Implement security policies

Since the data and applications in the cloud are accessed over the Internet, it is of the utmost importance to ensure that all available vendor security policies are implemented correctly. In addition to the main access policies, determine if data security is a concern. Sensitive data such as PII or PCI may have regulations that impact data encryption rules, especially when being accessed through the cloud. Ensure that the selected vendor is reliable in order to safeguard this information properly.

In some cases, applications that are being migrated will need to be refactored so that they will work in the cloud. Sometimes this means making adjustments to connection information or networking protocols. In other cases, this means adjusting access policies or opening ports. In all cases, a detailed plan needs to be made at the networking, software, and data levels in order to make the transition smooth.

Let’s get to work!

Once all of the decisions have been made and the security policies have been established and implemented, the data appropriate for the project can be uploaded to the cloud. After the data is transferred, it is important to ensure that everything was successful by performing data validation and testing of data access policies. At this point, everything will be configured and any application-specific refactoring or testing can begin.

In order to ensure the success of the project, consider hiring a consulting firm with cloud experience that can help guide the process. In any case, the vendor, virtual machine specifications, configured applications and services, and privacy settings must be carefully considered in order to ensure that the cloud services provide the solution necessary for the project. Once the initial migration is complete, the plan can be revised in order to facilitate the migration of additional datasets or processes into the cloud environment.

About the author

Kristen Hardwick has been gaining professional experience with software development in parallel computing environments in the private, public, and government sectors since 2007. She has interfaced with several different parallel paradigms, including Grid, Cluster, and Cloud. She started her software development career with Dynetics in Huntsville, AL, and then moved to Baltimore, MD, to work for Dynamics Research Corporation. She now works at Spry where her focus is on designing and developing big data analytics for the Hadoop ecosystem.

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