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What are Cloud Migration Services? Here are the ABCs

There are many advantages in moving your software and services to the cloud, and at first glance, migration to the cloud may seem overwhelming. Moving to the cloud requires shifts in your technological philosophies, perspectives, and strategies. The end result is worth it, but you’ll face your share of worries, doubts, and growing pains along the way.

The good news is that it doesn’t need to be that complicated – as long as you follow best practices and engage experts. One of the best ways to minimize these issues – aka risks – is to utilize professional cloud migration services you can trust.

But before we get into those, let’s pause to consider what a cloud migration really means.

What is Cloud Migration?

We look at cloud migration in three ways:

(1) The most common definition of cloud migration is the process of transferring data, services, and/or applications from on-premise networks to a cloud platform.

(2) You can also migrate from cloud to cloud. We see this in situations where an organization chooses to move email and collaboration tools from Microsoft Office 365 to G Suite or workloads from AWS to Azure or Google Cloud Platform (GCP).

(3) The third way to look at cloud migration is from concept to cloud. You may only have an idea as to what tool you wish you had, and with the right guidance you can build it yourself.

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Once “in the cloud,” your systems will run on a cloud platform. These platforms consist of cloud computing services – such as the hosting, storage, and delivery of apps – that enable users to access and interact with programs through the internet.

The Google Cloud Platform (GCP), for instance, includes Google App Engine for hosting, Google Compute Engine for its virtual machine service, and Bigtable as its massive database structure. These same infrastructural underpinnings support such powerhouses as Google Search and YouTube.

The best part about the cloud platform is the ability to simply port all your existing systems into the cloud. Although you can save money by doing this, in order to get the most value and to take advantage of features like scalability, device independence, security, automatic updates, etc. an architecture is needed. You’ll need new software, new IT policies, and even new ways of conducting business.

Why Do It? The Benefits of the Cloud

If moving to the cloud is such a challenge, why do it? Wouldn’t your time and resources be better spent on strategic and mission critical projects?

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The reality is that moving to the cloud is strategic – and maybe mission critical, too. In Dell's 2015 Global Technology Adoption Index, the top three reasons for moving to the cloud were cost savings, getting things done faster, and better allocation of IT resources.

You can't get much more strategic than that when it comes to your IT spend. Usually, benefits like these come with significant risks or trade-offs. But, once completed, a transition to cloud computing should improve your:

  • Security
  • Reliability
  • Scalability
  • Ability to integrate

As for cost savings, many companies focus on their upfront costs of software and misjudge their total costs of ownership – costs such as support, hardware, administration, installations, upgrades, etc. With cloud computing, many of these costs simply disappear. Instead, you pay for subscription levels based on your actual usage of selected cloud services. This gives every company on the platform access to a level of security, reliability, and scale that even the largest corporations can't match on their own.

Other notable benefits of the cloud include:

  • Remote access from anywhere and collaboration on-the-go
  • Automatic updating
  • Built-in data storage and technology infrastructure
  • Real-time data and analytics
  • Improved flexibility and responsiveness
  • Broad compatibility with internet enabled devices

This is just a small sampling of ways in which cloud computing can transform your business. These benefits can dramatically reduce your IT costs on the support and maintenance side, allowing you to allocate more spending to strategic initiatives and development.

When is It Time to Migrate to the Cloud?

With all those benefits, it's easy to make a case for migrating your systems now. And many companies are doing just that, taking advantage of those benefits and staying in front of the technology curve at the same time. Others are waiting for the right time in terms of key circumstances or events to trigger their moves.

So when are the best times to consider migrating to the cloud?

  • When you need a competitive advantage. Real-time data and mobile access are two of the big ones here. With a multitude of opportunities, leveraging the cloud to "beat the competition" is limited only by your imagination.
  • When your competitors arrive there first. The dangers here are not only losses of market share from cloud-enabled competition, but also a loss of influence and bargaining power in your supply chain
  •  When your B2B partners require it. As they implement their own cloud systems, some of your B2B partners might require you to do the same as a cost of doing business with them.
  • When you need to upgrade or replace software. What if you could eliminate most of your software installation, launch, maintenance, and support costs? You can if you start replacing your out-of-date software with cloud-based applications.
  • When your system infrastructure needs changes or updates. Upgrading your capacity and/or infrastructure is a huge headache and expense for most companies. When you start moving into the cloud, however, you often alleviate some strains on your internal networks. This can potentially improve your network's performance, and in some cases, might even eliminate the need to upgrade your infrastructure altogether.
  • When you need to better allocate IT staff to help the business. Maybe you’re needing more people to dedicate to an internal project that will drive the company forward, maybe you find yourself in an economic downturn and are being asked to let employees go. Regardless of the situation, when you need more staff for whatever it may be, chances are some employees aren’t being utilized to their full potential when you’re not taking advantage of cloud solutions.

Any of these scenarios can provide the justifications you need to get your cloud migration into your timetable and your budget. And since most companies are facing one or more of those conditions at any given time, the question of when becomes academic.

The sooner you start moving to the cloud, the sooner you can start taking advantages of the benefits... such as reallocating your IT resources into business enhancing projects and development.

Cloud Migration Myths

Like most things dealing with the internet, not everything you’ve heard about the cloud is true. Challenges are presented through the eyes of those who have struggled – often without proper migration services. At the same time, those who relied completely on such services may present an all too simplistic view.

The article, 10 Cloud Migration Myths, debunks ideas such as:

  • A migration requires downtime. See how to avoid any interruptions to your business with a carefully planned migration.
  • Change management isn’t required. It is. At least, it is if you want your migration to go smoothly, user productivity to increase, and not disrupt business as usual.
  • If we move business data to the cloud, we don't own it anymore. A common, and uninformed misconception.
  • The cloud is not as safe as our on-site servers. Who do you think invests more in security: you or the massively scaled, multi-industry cloud computing platforms such as Google, Microsoft, and Amazon?
  • Employees will learn cloud apps on their own. They'll waste a lot of time and miss out on a lot of important features that will make them highly productive if they don't take advantage of user training.

These are just a few of the misconceptions discussed in detail. Discover why each item is untrue… and how you can conduct a cloud migration without running into those problems.

What Cloud Migration Services Do You Need?

Once you've decided to take advantage of the cloud, you'll want to start moving your systems there. And for that, you're going to want some help to get it done quickly – and done right. That's where cloud migration services come in.

Cloud migration services include all the professional services, tools, technologies, and software you'll need to get your cloud-enabled systems setup, moved, and operational. Think of it as a transfer of training and skills from an expert to your organization.

Here are just a few of the cloud migration services[h] you'll want to consider including in your project:

  • Technical assessment (environment review)
  • Change management
  • Data collection, transfer, and transformation
  • Data integration
  • Data streaming and management
  • Backup and recovery solutions
  • Archiving, storage, and retrieval
  • Data analysis and visualization
  • Monitoring systems and performance
  • App development and customization
  • Windows and office productivity specialists
  • Security setup and planning
  • End-user training and support (user adoption)
  • Consulting (what to do next and strategy)

Some of these services are general, while others are extremely specialized. Your exact needs will depend on the software being migrated and the tools and capabilities you want to implement.

Cloud-Based Analytics Tools

All the "big data" collected by these highly integrated, cloud-based systems caused an explosion in the business intelligence industry. Today's real-time reporting and analytics gives managers the data they need to make decisions on-the-spot. This has led to a level of responsiveness never imagined before.

At the same time, marketing tools and automations grow more targeted by the day. Sophisticated artificial intelligence programs not only suggest the best possible choices, but also predict outcomes with uncanny accuracy.

This new wave of analytics is already a real game-changer, offering significant competitive advantage to those who implement them.

Forbes’ Business Intelligence and Analytics In The Cloud, 2017 breaks down a study from BARC Research and Eckerson Group titled "Business Intelligence and Data Management in the Cloud: Issues and Trends."

This study found that 78% of respondents planned to increase their cloud usage in the areas of business intelligence and data management over the next twelve months. As for the actual tools being used, the top three currently in use are:

  • Dashboard-based reporting (76%)
  • Ad-hoc analysis and exploration (57%)
  • Dashboard authoring (55%)

But the shift towards more strategic uses is extremely telling. These same respondents reported that they are most interested in implementing advanced and predictive analytics (53%), operational planning and forecasting (44%), and strategic planning and simulation (44%) over the next year.

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Source: BARC Research

InformationWeek presents a glimpse of some of these cutting edge analytics tools in 10 Cloud Analytics and BI Platforms For Business. These range from simple dashboard visualizations to data warehousing and reporting tools to full business intelligence suites.

Even not-for-profit organizations are making the investment in data. One Summer Chicago is a great example of how programs can flourish with the capturing and analyzing of data. Their work alongside MHA Labs and Cloudbakers is making Chicago a better place for youth to live and thrive.

What is Involved in a Cloud-to-Cloud Migration?

A cloud-to-cloud migration is when you move your cloud-based systems from one cloud platform to another. While it might sound simple, this is not as easy as moving a web app between hosting services. In fact, cloud-to-cloud migrations can be just as challenging as the original migration was.

That's because each cloud computing platform is built with its own tools and architecture. You can't pluck a system out of one platform, plop it into another and expect it to work. It won't.

Instead, you'll need to employ many of those same cloud migration services we discussed earlier. Some applications written for one cloud platform may need extensive redesigns – or even complete rewrites – to operate on another. Indeed, you could encounter issues at every level of your application – from data to networking to operating systems and drivers.

So why would you want to switch cloud computing platforms anyway? There are several reasons to consider this:

  • If your systems will perform better on the new platform
  • If the new platform offers exclusive software and tools you want for your business
  • If you can negotiate a better deal with the new platform to lower your costs
  • If the new platform allows better integration between your systems and those of your business partners
  • If your current platform is not keeping up with your needs or providing satisfactory service

As an example, let's say your company is currently on Microsoft’s Office 365 platform. Your team decides that G Suite software will make the best sense for an office productivity solution. You know there are benefits to operating G Suite within Google Cloud, but that would require a cloud-to-cloud migration. Is it worth it? That's what you'll have to decide by weighing not only the costs against the benefits, but also your long-term expectations for each platform.

Success Tips for Cloud-to-Cloud Migrations

If you do face a situation where you need to migrate from one cloud provider to another, here are a few recommendations to consider:

  • The fewer custom-built apps, the better. Many commercial apps will include configurations for each of the major cloud computing providers. Smaller apps – such as those custom-built for your own proprietary use – are less likely to be portable from one platform to the next. Each application custom-built for your current platform will ratchet up the challenge level of a cloud-to-cloud migration.
  • Research the best method to migrate your data. There are a growing number of tools and utilities designed to migrate data between clouds. In some cases, however, these might not even be necessary. If you keep copies of all cloud data in a local cache, for example, it might be as simple as repointing your cache to the new cloud. Drawing your data back into in-house storage and then porting it out to the new cloud can sometimes be easier than a direct cloud-to-cloud transformation, too.
  • Design your apps with future possibilities in mind. When creating applications for the cloud, design them to be as interoperable as possible. You might be 100% devoted to your current cloud platform now, but that might not always be the case.

If most of your cloud presence involves web app interfaces and data, a cloud-to-cloud migration might not be so difficult. But if you're taking full advantage of your cloud computing platform with highly specialized or custom-built software, make sure to investigate your options thoroughly before committing to the cloud-to-cloud route. During your investigation, be sure to also look into the Partner Programs that the big cloud providers (Google, Microsoft, Amazon, etc.) offer. Their partner networks include organizations that might specialize in the exact project you are about to take on, and could mean more savings on your end when all is said and done.

Overcoming Cloud Migration Roadblocks

It would be great if every cloud transition were smooth and worry-free. But even a well-planned migration can go astray. The best defense is to anticipate where problems may occur and devise strategies to avoid them. 

That’s exactly what Cloudbakers' provides in 9 Roadblocks to a Successful Cloud Migration. Among the roadblocks discussed are:

  • The data migration doesn’t work as planned
  • Scope creep
  • Leadership and users losing interest
  • Not learning your lessons from previous projects

These and several more potential roadblocks are fully explained, along with valuable tips on:

  • How to avoid cloud migration roadblocks
  • What to do when these roadblocks occur

After hundreds upon hundreds of migrations, Cloudbakers has seen it all and we can share valuable information about some of the situations we were brought in to fix. In the article, you’ll learn why setting the right tone in your communications – and maintaining communications throughout the migration – is such a key strategy. That’s because most of your cloud migration roadblocks have more to do with people than technology.

Keeping Users Motivated During a Cloud Migration

Keeping your users motivated during a lengthy migration can be one of your most difficult – and important – challenges.

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If they lose interest, become discouraged, or lose their enthusiasm, it can slow the migration or even sabotage it completely.

Many cloud projects begin with plenty of fanfare and enthusiasm. But as the effort continues, this enthusiasm wanes in a phenomenon, which Seth Godin labels “The Dip.”

Source: http://projectlifemastery.com/seth-godin-the-dip-book-review/

Understanding this dip and knowing how to navigate to that upswell on the backend is crucial for your cloud migration project. Some of the strategies we’ve found to be successful are:

  • Emphasize all of the benefits of moving to cloud-based apps
  • Create a plan to answer any objections and obstacles that might come up
  • Work one-on-one with those who have had difficulties in previous transitions and have assumed there will be with this one too
  • Provide one-on-one instruction to those who continually resist
  • Allow for exceptions

With proper attention and care, even your staunchest resistors can become champions. Take the time to understand their concerns… and then offer solutions from their point of view.

How to Choose a Cloud Migration Services Partner

For each cloud migration service you require, you'll also need to find a partner to fulfill it. This is not always easy, as cloud migrations encompass so many services on both the technical as well as humanistic side and there are so many providers out there to consider.

Here are some general rules to follow when choosing your cloud migration service partners:

  • Find partners with your platform expertise. Each major cloud computing platform provides its own certification and partnership programs. This is a great place to start your search — and you might even get better support in the long run from the cloud computing provider if you rely on their certified partners.
  • Find partners with your industry expertise. Naturally, a partner who's already migrated other companies in industries similar to yours is more likely to understand your own unique needs and constraints. They might even have new ideas and workarounds for overcoming common problems in a highly regulated industry versus one that isn’t.
  • Find partners with the right location and scale expertise. If you're a large international company, you don't want a partner who's only dealt with small domestic firms. On the other hand, if you're a small business you don't want to be "oversold" by partners dealing mainly with the complexities of much larger clients.
  • Find partners with excellent customer satisfaction ratings. This might seem obvious, but all too often companies don't look far enough beyond the canned testimonials and marketing content. Make sure you do your due diligence. Find a few companies – as similar to yours as possible – and investigate how their migrations went.

You'll also need to decide on how many partners you want to engage. You could opt for a different, highly specialized partner for every migration service you need. But dealing with that many partners is difficult to manage and could bog down your progress instead. On the other end of the spectrum, you could find a single partner providing every migration service you need in one large package. But they might not be as nimble, innovative, or as attentive to detail as a smaller specialty firm.

Like most business cases, your optimal solution is usually somewhere in the middle of those two extremes. A migration partner that can deliver the vast majority of your needs, and able to tightly manage a handful of smaller, specialized partners (if you opt not to do so yourself), will often do the trick.

Planning Your Cloud Migration

Now that we've covered the benefits of the cloud and discussed the role of cloud migration services within that process, it's time to start planning your own migration.

A great way to start is by selecting a best-in-class change management program. This will impact every facet of your migration – and can greatly improve the ROI of your cloud initiatives.

For ideas on which systems to migrate and how to gain a competitive advantage in the cloud, check out our case studies.These cover a wide variety of industries, commercial software solutions, and custom-built applications.

You can also find content regarding specific tools and industries on our website, such as our popular Healthcare Cloud Migration Toolkit.

And when you're ready for that next step, our All-Inclusive Guide to Designing Your Company's Cloud Platform is a great self-starter to help you visualize what your cloud presence should be. Use it to design your platform... and then contact us at Cloudbakers to share your vision and learn how we can help you get there and implement it now.

Originally published on December 05, 2017

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