Migrating to the cloud: Top considerations to ensure a smooth move

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When considering moving some or all business IT services to the cloud, it’s critical that decision-makers ask a number of key questions to ensure they are properly evaluating the vendors and their technologies – and most importantly, the overall impact to the business.

First and foremost businesses need to clearly identify the various needs and requirements as well as technical limitations that are prompting the decision to move to the cloud. Businesses should have a clear understanding of what exactly they are trying to improve or solve with the cloud.

Complications may arise if organizations don’t take ample time to plan out their migration path and clearly identify their needs. Complications usually revolve around overly aggressive migration timetables and not having enough time to sync large amounts of data, or not enough cycles being allocated to mapping out the new workflow for employees on the new cloud platform. It’s critical to not attempt to migrate multiple services, data-sets or interconnected and complicated services with a large number of dependencies without careful planning and a clear understanding of how all the services will operate on the new cloud platform.

Most cloud migration challenges can be easily avoided by allocating ample time to both the planning and execution and migration phases of the project. Businesses need to ensure that they’re working with an experienced vendor, or that their IT team is leveraging a proven method or product for the migration. They also need a robust project plan, clear checklists for each phase of the migration, and a clear back-out plan should it be required.

Businesses should be prepared that securing, managing and controlling data in the cloud is much harder than doing so when it’s living in-house or on dedicated systems. To ensure a smooth migration, businesses should review and understand the security and data policies of their cloud provider to make sure that appropriate measures and protections are in place. Also, decision makers should ask themselves if they’re comfortable trusting a third-party to host and manage their intellectual property and critical assets like email, corporate files, client data and financial information.

Businesses should also ask cloud providers if they are able to secure and withstand, detect and block potential cyber-attacks. They should also understand if the provider’s datacenters are certified for compliance purposes, and who will manage personally identifiable information or conduct credit card transactions, which would require a provider to be PCI compliance.

There are a wide variety of “battle-tested” vendors and migration tools that can make migrating to a cloud provider or service easy and smooth. When identifying a cloud provider or service, businesses should consider items such as, “data lock-in” and “migration reversal” to understand whether it’s possible to easily extract data and services from the provider should the business decide it’s not meeting their needs. For example, what does the “back-out” or reverse migration path look like, or is it even technically feasible, and can the cloud provider effectively guarantee the ongoing security and integrity of business data?

To prepare for the worst, businesses should understand the risk and impact should their cloud provider encounter a technical issue or experience an outage. It’s important that businesses have an aggressive service level agreement in place that protects them and provides tangible recourse in the event of a major outage or security breach. Businesses should also consider the impact to employee workflow should the service go down for a brief period (1-4 hours) versus and extended outage (8+ hours), and whether this is acceptable to the business.

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About Author

Chris Messer is vice president of technology at Coretelligent, a nationwide IT support and private cloud service provider headquartered in the Boston area. He advises businesses of all sizes on their IT strategies, and helps develop custom roadmaps for public, private and hybrid cloud deployments.