Almost every business today uses the cloud to some extent. Indeed, figures from Rightscale suggest 94% of enterprises use cloud technologies. But just because firms are using this technology, doesn't mean they're getting the most out of it, or are anywhere near being a fully cloud-enabled business.
Research by IBM found that most companies are only 20% of the way through their cloud journeys, with only the simplest workloads migrated. This leaves 80% of workloads still remaining on-premise.
This is often because migrating to the cloud can be a lengthy and complex task, and there are a range of challenges to overcome. IBM highlights three key issues that businesses face, these are:
- Unique needs, such as security, compliance and location, that prevent specific workloads being easily migrated
- The complexity of dealing with multiple cloud vendors
- A lack of relevant skills within the business
Therefore, to overcome these issues and give yourself the best chance of success, it pays to have a clear roadmap you can follow. Here are a few key steps that should be part of everyone's journey to the cloud. Check them off as you go along to ensure your migration is as effective as possible.
Step 1: set out a clear strategy
You need to have a clear idea of what you want to achieve as the result of the move to the cloud. Will it be to cut costs, increase productivity, or offer access to new services? Having this understanding will help guide your decision-making throughout the process and ensure you stay on track. Developing a clear strategy can also help you identify 'quick wins' that you can use to demonstrate the benefits of the cloud, as well as longer-term goals.
Step 2: identify the key stakeholders
Ask who are the key people within the organization that need to be consulted and involved throughout the process. As well as senior members of the IT team and those directly involved with the migration itself, this should include business units and department heads, as they’ll be the ones using the tools, so their input on usability and functionality will be vital. Board-level members also need to be involved, as they’ll want reassurances their investment will get results.
Step 3: assess your existing applications
Performing a complete audit of your existing applications will help you know where you currently stand and what should - and shouldn’t - be migrated. It may be tempting to jump in and move entire systems, but there may be some applications that aren't suitable for cloud operations due to security or compliance issues, or legacy tools that’ll require complex redesigns.
This is also an opportunity to spot any shadow IT applications that are already being used within the business. The use of unapproved, consumer cloud apps can cause a range of problems, so it's important to clamp down on this practice, but it can also tell you where current authorized tools aren't good enough.
Step 4: identify key priorities for migration
Determining which parts of your IT estate to prioritize during the cloud migration process is vital, and there are a couple of ways to approach this. For many firms, it might make sense to start with smaller or less essential systems that can help you fine-tune your processes, where any missteps won't have a major impact on the running of the business. You should also identify any mission-critical operations that need to be handled with extra care or will require more complex work, so you can allocate the appropriate level of resources.
Step 5: create a clear migration plan
Once you've identified what systems you'll be moving, the next question is how you'll move them. For instance, are you looking to perform a relatively straightforward 'lift and shift' migration where applications are migrated with few or no changes and simply continue in the new environment, or do you go for a deeper cloud integration where applications are modified and updated to take advantage of unique cloud capabilities? The latter approach may be more costly and add time, but is likely to give better results.
There’s also the question of what type of cloud service you want to use. Do you go for a public or private solution, or a hybrid of both? Will you rely on a single cloud provider or opt for a multi-cloud approach, which can provide greater flexibility, but may again add complexity to the operation?
Step 6: identify critical KPIs to monitor
Once the cloud is up and running, you'll need to prove it's making a difference, so taking the time prior to deployment to identify the KPIs you'll measure is essential. Which one you choose will depend on what your overriding goals are. For instance, if you're looking to improve user experience for a consumer-facing app, KPIs could include session duration, page load time or lag. Meanwhile, if you're aiming to improve the performance of services, consider KPIs like error rates, availability and throughput. Knowing which areas to hone in on can make it much easier to assess whether or not your migration is working.
Step 7: secure the right cloud provider
Choosing a cloud partner is one of the most important steps in the process, but you shouldn't make this decision too early, before you have a full idea of exactly what you'll need to meet your goals. Once you have a comprehensive list of requirements, you should be able to narrow down your options more easily and be able to ask much more specific questions of potential partners.
As well as ensuring the systems will meet your technical specifications, key questions to ask include the level of experience the provider has, what level of support it can offer during and after the migration, and what contingencies it has should anything go wrong.
Step 8: start with small-scale pilots
Once you're ready to make the move, it's important not to jump in all at once. Small-scale pilot schemes can help identify any potential issues with a migration and teach you how to overcome challenges before you go all-in with mission-critical services. If you do everything at once, it may speed the process, but if anything does go wrong, you may have no option but to completely roll back and start again or risk major disruption.
Step 9: execute the migration
Once you're sure you know what you're doing and trials have been successful, switching over production to the cloud and switching off legacy systems should be a fairly straightforward process. You'll still have to determine whether to move everything over at once, or take a more phased approach, by perhaps moving certain customers or employees over to the new system a few at a time. However, with the right planning, you should by now have a clear idea or what needs to be done, and when.
Step 10: review and optimize your cloud resources
Finally, it's important not to think that once the new cloud system is in production, it's job done. You should constantly review and monitor your operations, referring back to the KPIs you assigned earlier, and look for ways to improve the operations. It's unlikely that you'll have a fully-optimized cloud solution right away, but as you gain experience, you’ll be better able to allocate resources in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible.