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Cloud Migration: FAQ

In this article, we put together answers to some of the most frequently asked questions we’ve heard about cloud migration. If you’re new to the matter or consider the idea of moving to the cloud, this FAQ will help you better understand the concepts of cloud computing, cloud migration, as well as its main benefits and challenges. 

General questions

What is cloud computing?

 Cloud computing is the availability of different services, including data storage, servers, software and databases, through the Internet. Cloud computing allows both enterprises and small businesses to minimize or even avoid upfront IT infrastructure costs, make their applications up and running faster, and helps their IT teams flexibly manage resources in accordance with demand, which is often changeable and unpredictable.

What is cloud migration?

In most cases, cloud migration is the process of moving mission-critical operations from on-premises or legacy infrastructure to a virtual data center of a cloud provider, or from one cloud provider to another. It involves migrating your data, applications, databases, and IT processes to remote data centers. 

Cloud migration is a great leap towards business digital transformation that changes the way the processes and policies flow.

What are the benefits of moving to the cloud?

 Here are the most notable benefits of using cloud computing

  1. Agility and Scalability. Many CIOs see business agility as the main driver for adopting cloud. Cloud services not only automatically scale capacity to meet growing or changing demand, but also enable teams to collaborate on app updates or troubleshoot issues from anywhere rather than locally. This level of continuity can give businesses a real competitive edge.
  2. Reduced hosting costs. With the cloud, you no longer need to worry about the costs connected with maintaining physical servers. In this case, a third-party data center manages the servers – often on a subscription-based model – which reduces capital costs, converting them to operational costs.
  3. Security. The cloud provides more security than data centers – sensitive data and applications are stored on a centralized basis. Most cloud providers also prevent unwanted traffic to your data by regularly updating their security systems, which helps you avoid threats and allows you to concentrate on important business processes. What’s more, for some utterly critical data, the so-called private clouds are at your disposal. Unlike public clouds, these clouds provide a high level of isolation and are available only to select users instead of the general public. 
  4. Disaster Recovery possibilities. This feature is important for businesses of all sizes, but it used to be unaffordable for small businesses until recently. Today, cloud computing is on the rise, helping more and more organizations to implement backup and recovery solutions and becoming less time and investment demanding. Among the most frequently used disaster recovery-related services are cross-cloud disaster recovery, when an organization’s workloads are deployed in multiple public clouds, and cloud backup, which refers to keeping data backed up on a remote server.
  5. Resource savings. Since the cloud capacity is continuously adjusting to meet your organization’s needs, it utilizes resources that are necessary, which is much more efficient than having an enormous on-premises server infrastructure that requires high maintenance costs.

 

Is it safe to move to the cloud?

The cloud is a safe place to store mission-critical data, and now, given the rising popularity of the cloud, it surpassed the capabilities of most on-premises systems in terms of security. The recent pandemic gave a further boost to the even-rising cloud market, so many IT security companies decided to focus their RnD efforts on cloud computing security.

What are the main challenges in moving to the cloud?

There are numerous cloud migration challenges that warrant careful planning, testing and resource allocation. We’ll consider the most important of them.

  1. Downtime. During the migration process, you will most probably need to temporarily shut down your own servers. That being said, proper backups or resource allocation will be required to make sure that such downtime won’t have disastrous consequences for application performance and, thus, business operations.
  2. Data loss. When moving to the cloud, your company’s data is at its most vulnerable. Some of it may become unavailable or be exposed to risk of unauthorized access. Special measures must be taken to minimize this risk — for instance, implementation of cloud security control procedures, such as privileged access management and application encryption.
  3. Resource management. Let’s face it: not all IT professionals trust the cloud. Employees accustomed to managing physical servers may need training under the new circumstances. Sometimes the adoption of the cloud requires the introduction of new roles for IT resource management or the transformation of the very foundation of business operations.
  4. Compatibility issues. In most cases, it will be challenging to get existing applications to interact properly with new cloud environments. This may require adapting your processes to those of your cloud provider — it entirely depends on the chosen cloud migration strategy.

It should be noted that those challenges can be successfully tackled with the help of a proper cloud migration software. With it, companies can avoid downtime, minimize data loss risks, efficiently manage resources, and get rid of compatibility issues.

Technical questions

How do our organization prepare for moving to the cloud?

To prepare for cloud migration, you will need to outline a cloud migration strategy. It usually consists of four necessary steps and one optional, but nonetheless important and often overlooked, step – orchestration.

  1. Cloud migration planning. To put together a cloud migration plan, you should start with defining the reasons for the migration and the appropriate cloud migration type (it could be lift-and-shift, replatforming, refactoring, rebuilding or repurchasing – to learn more about them, refer to the next question). Then, you need to assess the current state of your IT infrastructure, estimate the resource demands and appropriate costs.
  2. Cloud environment choice and replication. In this step, you will choose the cloud type (public, hybrid, private or multi-cloud) and service provider (it can be GCP, Azure or AWS), which depends on your current and future needs, and start the replication process of business applications and data.
  3. Migration testing. In this step, you will run a set of functional and performance tests to make sure that everything works well before you fully migrate to the cloud.
  4. Final cutover. Final cutover is actual migration to the cloud. If the migration was properly planned and tested beforehand, it should run smoothly. 

There is an important step that comes right before the migration testing – orchestration. It refers to managing the interconnections and interactions among workloads and applications in the new cloud environment, and is realized by a specialized cloud migration software.

Why is orchestration important for cloud migration?

First, cloud orchestration helps ensure data integrity and avoid deployment errors during cloud migration. Then, it offers many important benefits for cloud management: improved optimization, visibility and control, long-term cost savings, increased business agility, and many more.

Now, orchestration is merely a “nice to have” for most companies; however, with cloud deployment and management becoming an increasingly complicated task, it will very soon become a “must have”.

What are the cloud migration strategy types?

  1. Lift-and-Shift or Rehosting. Being the fastest, the easiest, least expensive and least risky approach to migrate to the cloud, lift-and-shift means migrating a part of the infrastructure or the entire system from the on-premises environment to the cloud without changing the architecture at all. 
  2. Replatforming. Unlike lift-and-shift, a replatform approach involves some software modification, connected with the way the program interacts with the cloud database and how it utilizes the resources of the cloud environment.
  3. Refactoring. Refactoring is the most complex, labor-intensive, and costly migration strategy that involves re-coding applications to better suit the cloud environment.
  4. Rebuilding. It’s a type of complete application adjustment that allows the software to fit into the target cloud platform.
  5. Repurchasing. Repurchasing means replacing features or components of an existing workload with another service that is compatible with the cloud platform.

What migration strategy type should we use?

When migrating to the cloud, you should take into consideration such parameters as security, data protection, resilience and availability. For instance, if you feel that you just want to replicate your data in the cloud, you may be good to go with lift-and-shift. Just remember, to ensure the highest return on cloud investment in the long term, you need to choose a cloud migration approach responsibly.

How often do we need to update migration plans?

You need to update migration plans every time you change your original infrastructure — this way, you’ll have the same environment on a target side.

Why do we need to choose specific regions or AZ for a proper cloud migration?

There are several parameters you should consider when choosing the suitable region:

  • latency and proximity – the closer the region to a user, the lower the latency
  • regulatory compliance – every country has its own set of regulations, which you have to comply with
  • availability worldwide – if you provide worldwide services, you should consider using multiple regions

It’s a good idea to use several AZ within each region, since it will prevent service outages. Each availability zone is an independent data center with its own power, cooling and network.

How to group machines correctly for cloud migration and why these groups should be created?

Groups are necessary for logical combinations of machines. Association principles can be different: general purpose of machines, geographical location, general rules for storing snapshots and replication schedule. A particularly important and convenient groups feature is the ability to manage common parameters of replication schedule and snapshot storage rules at a time, that significantly simplifies flexible configuration of business application replication.

Can I set a replication schedule for critical parts of business applications?

Setting a replication schedule that deals with a part of IT infrastructure is a complicated task that can be executed with the help of a cloud migration tool, such as Hystax Acura. Settings for schedules and snapshot storage policies can be carried out for all machines as well as for individual groups and individual machines. Detailed overview of this functionality can be found on the cloud migration tool documentation page.

Conclusion

Today, the importance of cloud computing for almost any organization is too high to ignore it. On the other hand, it takes much knowledge of the field to get the most out of cloud migration and to avoid pitfalls. In this article, we addressed the most frequent and critical questions related to the cloud so that you know what to start with – and what should be avoided.

Nick Smirnov, CEO and Co-Founder

Nick Smirnov, CEO at Hystax

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