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4 common cloud migration challenges and how to avoid them

Ready to move to the cloud? Review these common mistakes users tend to make when moving data, and avoid them during your cloud migration.

The cloud provides a great opportunity to modernize IT infrastructure and gain operational efficiency through cloud-native design practices, DevOps, containers and more. However, moving to the cloud isn't easy.

Cloud migrations can bring unexpected results and unforeseen consequences. In some instances, IT teams aren't initially aware something is amiss. To avoid these issues, cloud admins should familiarize themselves with common cloud migration challenges and missteps.

Forget to build a cloud migration strategy

Too often enterprises jump into cloud migrations without a concrete plan.

"Cloud success begins with a defined cloud strategy … that communicates a clear vision and change management plan," said Samir Datt, a managing director at consulting firm Protiviti in Houston. Without this upfront effort, organizations risk being adrift without a clear goal or direction.

An enterprise should also know why it wants to migrate, and IT teams must understand how the shift will really benefit the business. "There should be a meaningful driver, maybe the need for greater availability, a desire to move cost from CapEx to OpEx or a need for greater scalability," said Mike Lombardo, principal at consulting firm Maven Wave in Chicago.

However, some applications are often better off kept on premises. For example, some mission-critical, high-throughput, low-latency applications or applications that include data with strict geographic stewardship requirements -- such as under GDPR -- could be problematic in a cloud environment.

The key to cloud success begins with a defined cloud strategy … that communicates a clear vision and change management plan.
Samir DattManaging director at Protiviti

Once you evaluate your applications, prepare for new technologies available on the cloud. Enterprises can't fully utilize these platforms unless they're in a modernization mindset, such as scaling out, introducing containers or using infrastructure as code. Pick the right services to manage, monitor and optimize your processes and workloads.

Additionally, don't forget about the IT staff. The evolution from traditional server-based infrastructure to virtualization and then to cloud involves several mental leaps. "The cloud requires you to adjust your mindset and be open to ways of doing things differently," Lombardo said.

Rush the migration

Some IT pros think a cloud migration is as simple as hosting workloads on a new server that just happens to be in the cloud, but in reality it involves many steps and activities.

Organizations often start their move with non-mission-critical applications, which are typically the easiest to migrate, said Sriram Subramanian, research director at IDC. That should only be the starting point.

Enterprises may need to refactor some applications to function as cloud-native or distributed applications, and that transition can require even more time, Subramanian said.

In those cases, migrate data and applications in phases, recommended Shayne Sherman, CEO of TechLoris, a PC support site in Brookline, Mass. That approach not only mitigates risk, but also helps track down issues. "If you move it all at once, you're left debugging the entire application when an issue arises," Sherman said.

Likewise, avoid siloed efforts within your organization to minimize cloud migration challenges. "[Similar to] most transformative initiatives, a key to success is involving a cross-functional team to consider the strategy, organizational goals and financial models," Datt said.

Don't look at cloud migrations from just an application or workload perspective. That could lead to insufficient examination or consideration of potential costs such as data management and cloud egress charges.

Underestimate or overlook costs

Understand all the factors that contribute to billing before your organization makes the move to the cloud, since cost management changes can lead to problems after the cloud migration. Cloud platforms often appear cheaper than on-premises options, which require substantial upfront investments, said Stephanie Snaith, managing director at Gradient Consulting in Cambridge, Mass.

Cloud services are generally billed once a month, or follow a pay-as-you-go pricing model. However, users must factor in hidden fees, such as data transfer costs, and additional support and training. These budget surprises can pose a cloud migration challenge if not addressed.

cloud computing costs
Don't overspend in cloud

It's also important to anticipate how much time could go into a migration, Subramanian said. Consider ways to automate the migration as much as possible to keep things on track and minimize impact on staff and operations.

Fail to secure data

Security practices must change once an organization moves data to the cloud. While assets are normally well-locked down, it is easy to inadvertently create vulnerabilities in the cloud since customers are responsible for setting many security controls around their apps and data.

"As soon as you start saying, 'I need some more access,' that can be too much access and leaks can happen," Lombardo said. Changes to improve access for a specific purpose are often made at scale, which can magnify risks for users.

Top concerns of moving to public cloud
Top concerns of moving to public cloud

"What makes it tougher, especially in the public cloud, is that all clouds have a different set of best practices and design principles," Lombardo said. Therefore, knowing those practices up front will help cloud admins avoid headaches later.

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