Companies in pursuit of more cost-effective and secure computing resources are increasingly opting for cloud storage solutions because of their enhanced security and reliability. What’s more, the normalization of remote work necessitates robust IT systems that enable employees to securely access company data from anywhere. By 2022, Gartner predicts that 75% of all databases will be in the cloud. A 2020 survey found that 41% of enterprise workloads would be run on public cloud platforms by the end of the year, with another 22% using a hybrid option (a mix of on-premise servers and cloud storage platforms).
Why all the fuss? Migrating to the cloud gives you access to virtually limitless computing resources, including servers, storage, databases, analytics, and intelligence. If you deal with large volumes of data and use a variety of software applications, cloud computing might be for you.
According to researcher IDC, spending on cloud infrastructure across dedicated and shared environments increased 6.6% year on year to $18.6 billion in Q3 2021.
What is the difference between cloud storage and on-premise servers?
While on-premise servers constitute onsite hardware that is controlled, administered, and maintained by your company’s in-house IT team, cloud storage outsources the task of server administration to the cloud service provider. This eliminates the costs of procuring and updating hardware and employing a dedicated IT professional to oversee the server. The cloud provider installs and maintains all hardware, software, and other supporting infrastructure in its data centers.
Cloud platforms run on a pay-as-you-go business model. Users pay a subscription fee to the cloud service provider that is commensurate with the amount of storage needed and/or cloud services used. Need to add users or increase your storage capacity? Simply upgrade your plan in a few clicks. Cloud platforms also provide access to advanced computing resources, such as dynamic loading (used to achieve better service provisioning), auto-scaling (automatically scale cloud services up or down based on defined situations), and serverless computing capabilities.
Some organizations opt for hybrid cloud solutions— using different types of IT deployment models including on-premise servers, private cloud, or public cloud.
What types of applications should be migrated to the cloud?
Before you scramble to migrate all your data to the cloud pronto, take note that not all processes benefit from migrating to the cloud. For example, legacy on-premise applications may be difficult to migrate, and botched migrations can prove costly. Legacy software has special attributes that may require application rearchitecting (breaking down applications and rebuilding them in a more modern, scalable design).
However, businesses that run legacy software are at increased risk of data breaches. What’s more, these systems are often not as efficient or easily integrated with other software applications. They may no longer be supported by the original vendor, meaning the vendor is no longer issuing bug fixes or security patches. Aging servers can also slow down a company’s business processes.
Cloud storage vs. on-premise servers: Pros and cons
Best for companies that are growing quickly, and those that have a distributed workforce and global operations.
Best for companies that store sensitive data (eg: patient records or credit card data), large companies that require flexible/customized storage solutions, or those that don’t have access to a high-speed internet connection.
Transitioning to the cloud: How does it work?
Cloud migration is the process of transferring databases, applications, and IT processes into the cloud. Usually, it’s not a simple plug-and-play process, and requires lots of advance planning.
There are various ways to do a cloud migration, from a procedure as simple as a “lift and shift” (migrating your application to the cloud with little or no changes) to a complete application re-architecture.
The most complex, time-consuming step during a cloud migration is migrating data— especially when it involves a large amount of data. In most cases, data can be transferred over the internet (simply upload your databases to the cloud service provider’s website), but for massive databases that would take too long to transfer over the internet, some providers offer physical data transfer methods, such as loading data onto a hard drive and then shipping the device to the provider.
Before you migrate to the cloud: a checklist1. Determine how you’d like to migrate your data
There are two ways to perform a cloud migration: shallow cloud integration or deep cloud integration.
Shallow cloud integration (AKA “lift and shift,” “rehosting,” or the “forklift approach”) entails moving the on-premise application while making limited or no changes to the cloud servers or the application code, except whatever is required to run the application in the new environment. In other words, ite means moving the application as is.
Benefits of shallow integration
Tends to be a less costly, labor-intensive migration that can be performed relatively quickly.
- Fewer security problems
Does not pose additional security risks, so long as the application is secure, up-to-date, and patched before the migration.
- An easy way to get started in cloud computing
Moving mission-critical IT infrastructure from on-premise servers to the cloud constitutes a major commitment of time and money, although these costs are justified in the long term. A shallow cloud integration is a good starting point for complex cloud integrations in the future.
Deep cloud integration involves modifying the application so you can use advanced cloud services. This is usually a necessary step when migrating legacy software to the cloud. You can even opt to upgrade legacy software to a cloud-native framework for better overall performance, efficiency, and scalability—currently one of the biggest trends in the software industry.
Benefits of deep cloud integration:
- Faster deployment
You can deploy your apps and services faster and scale them more quickly.
- Enables edge computing
Certain applications that require low latency (no delays) can only be enabled after a deep cloud integration.
- Facilitates remote work
Authorized employees can access applications over the internet from any location. Enables businesses to operate in distributed work environments.
2. Determine which applications to move to the cloud
Some of your applications may already be optimized for on-premise servers and don’t need to be migrated to the cloud. You may wish to keep applications that hold sensitive data (eg: medical records or credit card numbers) stored on on-premise servers. Certain industries like finance and healthcare require businesses to use on-premise servers for security reasons.
3. Establish KPIs for cloud migration
As with any new technology adoption, organizations should establish KPIs to evaluate the success of a cloud migration. More importantly, KPIs reveal unexpected problems and help you determine when the migration is complete.
For each KPI, set a baseline metric so you can compare the pre-migration performance of your application to its post-migration performance.
Sample KPIs for cloud migration include:
- Response time
- Page load time
- Error rates
- CPU usage %
- Memory usage
4. Set your budget and choose a cloud service provider
Before you set a budget and start searching for vendors, make sure you’re clear on your specific business needs. Create a checklist of requirements (technical, security, data governance, service management) and minimum expectations to reference while shopping around.
At minimum, choose a provider who can help you optimize your budget, manage your cloud infrastructure, and offer 24/7 support.
Most organizations underestimate the actual costs of cloud migration, so do your homework. According to a ‘State of the Cloud 2020’ report by Flexera, “organizations are over budget for cloud spend by an average of 23% and expect cloud spend to increase by 47% next year.”
A pay-as-you-go model might work well for an organization that doesn’t have a lot of data and plans on slow but steady growth, but not such a good idea for a large enterprise with reams of data.
After you migrate to the cloud...
- Establish cloud security
Shut down and remove any redundant systems, and sever any superfluous network connectivity. Migrations provide the opportunity to review your security measures. While your cloud provider maintains your databases for you, security is a shared responsibility between you and your cloud service provider.
- Monitor the cloud
Your cloud provider will monitor systems for basic health and availability, but you need to do your own monitoring. Monitor virtual machines, operating system resources, and application availability. Monitor system and application performance and ask your employees for feedback so you can make any necessary adjustments.
- Determine if the migration was successful
Keep an eye on the KPIs that were defined as part of the audit you did right before carrying out the migration. It may also help to review the business case that was formed during the project initiation phase.
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