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Migration to the cloud has been rapidly picking up pace over the past few years.
A 2023 survey by Microsoft suggests that 82% of organizations view cloud migration as a key driver of digital transformation – in fact, 62% of organizations already have a modernization or cloud migration strategy in place right now.
Below, we examine the reasons for this, and why cloud data centers are such an attractive proposition for so many organizations. We’ll also provide some information and best practices for beginning your own cloud migration.
Cloud vs on-premise data centers: what’s the difference?
Let’s start with IT giant Cisco’s definition of a data center, for clarity:
“A data center is a physical facility that organizations use to house their critical applications and data. The key components of data center design include routers, switches, firewalls, storage systems, servers, and application delivery controllers.”
On-premise data centers use physical servers located on-site to store this data. They are usually run privately by your organization, which takes responsibility for hardware maintenance, security and staffing.
Cloud data centers are run by a third party. Your organization rents space in these data centers as a service, with hardware maintenance, security and staffing all taken care of as part of the package.
Why on-premise data centers are increasingly outdated?
If your organization runs your own on-premise data center, you’re probably aware of the amount of maintenance they require and the costs they induce. These include:
- Purchasing and replacing hardware
- IT, cybersecurity and physical security staff
- Maintenance of both hardware and physical premises
Previously, organizations have seen these costs as a trade off for ownership over security – but on-premise data centers aren’t inherently more secure than their cloud counterparts. In fact, the opposite is often true.
Running an on-premise data center gives you more visibility into day-to-day operations. However, unless you can attract top global IT security talent and invest in market-leading physical security measures, you’re unlikely to match the security provided by cloud data centers.
Crucially, on-premise data centers also negatively impact business agility. In an environment where scalability, agility and flexibility are key, on-premise data centers can be limiting. To scale, you’ll either need to:
- Purchase and implement new hardware when you need it, building significant delays into your growth plans
- Scale your storage ahead of time so you can expand immediately when needed, but spend money on storage you won’t use until that point
The resources it takes to ensure adequate security and their limitations when it comes to scalability mean that for many organizations, an exclusively on-premise data strategy is no longer fit for purpose.
The benefits of migrating to a cloud data center
Migrating to a cloud data center can offer several benefits to organizations, including:
- No maintenance costs: By migrating to a third party data-center, you no longer need to maintain your own hardware, employ your own staff, power your own infrastructure or pay for building upkeep. Your cloud provider takes care of these things for you.
- Easily scalable: You can scale the capacity of your cloud data center immediately – all you need to do is inform your cloud provider. This makes your organization immediately more agile, as you don’t need to plan capacity increases in advance.
- Pay per use: On a similar note, you only pay for the capacity you use. There’s no need to use valuable resources to keep excess capacity on standby.
- Access to the latest tech: Data storage is a core competency for cloud providers, so they can afford to invest in the most up-to-date tech. You don’t need to budget for tech redundancy, or battle for budget for much-needed upgrades.
- Accessibility: Cloud data centers are much easier to access remotely. This is a significant advantage for remote and hybrid working, and allows your organization to expand its talent pool globally.
- Security: The top cloud providers have their pick of the most talented cybersecurity professionals in the world, and have huge budgets for physical security measures too.
- High availability: It’s easy to set up and maintain a high availability environment using cloud data centers. High availability environments maximize your access to data and minimize downtime, both planned and unplanned.
How to migrate to a cloud data center successfully?
There are three main types of cloud migration:
- Full migration: your entire infrastructure is transferred to the cloud. This works well for SMBs with relatively simple IT needs.
- Partial migration: you transfer some of your infrastructure to the cloud, whilst retaining the rest on-premise. This is ideal for organizations testing new cloud procedures, businesses with strict compliance needs or for larger businesses wanting to break down a cloud migration into more manageable phases.
- Parallel optimized migration: you redesign your infrastructure during the migration to optimize your use of cloud technology. For example, you may change the way applications interact with the database.
According to the Microsoft report cited above, partial migration seems to be the most commonly followed route currently, with 64% of workloads scheduled for migration in the next 18 months deemed non critical.
3 cloud migration best practices
- Find the right cloud provider: Identify and survey major stakeholders across your organization to understand your key requirements. Potential providers should give you a test period to assess the potential of their solution before you need to commit. Outline your needs in a service level agreement.
- Build a migration roadmap: A well-planned roadmap helps you deliver your migration on time and on budget whilst minimizing errors. As well as defining and prioritizing workflows, it’s important to assign a timeline for each stage and establish key security protocols to follow.
- Find the right expertise: One of the most common reasons for cloud migration delay or failure is a lack of expertise. To reap the benefits cloud offers, you’ll need a high degree of IT literacy in automation, corporate IT services and testing. If you don’t have this in-house, it’s worth looking for external consultants who can use their experience to direct your migration successfully.
Cloud migration example: a partial migration for a financial services institution
Imagine you’re a financial services institution aiming to improve business agility whilst reducing costs. You want to migrate non-essential workloads to the cloud, whilst retaining critical workloads on premise for compliance reasons.
Here’s how you would go about it.
- Take an inventory of your data and applications, where they are stored and whether they are being transferred to the cloud.
- Survey IT, data, compliance, security and legal stakeholders to understand key requirements, and find a cloud provider that can meet these. You might look for providers that are licensed to store sensitive data to meet compliance requirements, for example.
- Build a roadmap for the phased transfer of your data to the cloud provider, having agreed on an SLA.
- Transfer data and integrate with any data/applications that you’ve kept on premise, testing extensively to identify and fix potential issues.
When planned and implemented effectively, leaving on-premise behind and migrating to a cloud data center can be transformative for your business. The key to success is having the right expertise to hand.
If you lack experience of data migration at scale, it’s worth onboarding trusted partners with experience in this area. They will be able to apply hard-won knowledge from many previous projects to your own situation, ensuring the best possible outcomes for your organization.
Our global team at Kellton has a huge amount of experience in cloud migration projects, using market-leading automation expertise and lengthy association with leading cloud providers to achieve long-term success for our partners.