When developing a cloud migration strategy, having all your bases covered ahead of time is essential to achieving success. By asking 12 key questions, you’ll set your business up for the successful transition of data and systems to the cloud.
The “cloud” has become so much of a buzzword in the modern computing era that it’s easy to both underestimate the complexity of transferring all your company’s data to off-site, anywhere-accessible storage.
With the right plan in place, you can ensure your company’s data, code and documents are securely transferred on a reasonable timeline. But on the other hand, not shoring up your current systems or deploying the necessary resources during your migration can lead to data loss, an out-of-control budget, and lengthy delays that have serious business consequences.
When putting together your company’s cloud migration strategy, you should be asking yourself 11 key questions. The answers to these questions will steer your cloud migration strategy and ensure successful data transmission and improved productivity throughout your business.
Why Are We Evolving to the Cloud?
The absolute first thing you should consider is what’s driving your evolution to the cloud.
Is it for security reasons? Has your company outgrown its localized IT setup? Are there too many sources of data with not enough coordination between those sources?
It could be some combination of these and any other number of factors leading your evolution to cloud architecture. But one reason that shouldn’t be a factor is that everyone else is doing it and it seems like the right thing to do.
The cloud has any number of strengths and benefits, but smaller businesses without large-scale data and security needs might still be able to save time and money with local storage. The answer really depends on your size, your goals, and whether the budget of moving to the cloud is less than or in line with your local setup (although it should be noted that even small businesses could experience significant savings moving their data to the cloud, particularly if they can remove power-consuming local servers and other resource-intensive systems).
All this to say: make sure you have a valid reason for moving to the cloud.
Who Are the Key Stakeholders Driving the Cloud Migration?
Once you’ve finalized your decision to actually migrate to the cloud, you must determine who at your company will oversee the migration and what their different responsibilities are.
At the top is usually the Chief Technology Officer, although sometimes the Chief Information Officer may fill this role depending on your company’s leadership setup. They’ll likely oversee the migration and make critical decisions based on the feedback of all others involved in the project, including third party cloud migration consultants.
You’ll also want to clearly delineate responsibilities among your IT team. Software engineers, network implementation specialists, and IT support staff all have roles to play during the migration process.
Depending on the size of your company and the scope of the migration, a project manager or multiple project managers may be required to drive progress throughout the duration, with goals chunked out into multiple sprints. Eventually, you may even need to involve your marketing or communications team to coordinate messaging and host question-and-answer sessions with affected employees.
Who Will Host Our Data?
Amazon and their AWS Cloud Computing Services garner plenty of attention due to their market dominance and a significant marketing blitz that shows no signs of letting up. But you should know you have many, many safe and secure cloud hosting options:
- AWS (Amazon)
- Azure (Microsoft)
- Google Cloud
If it’s a recognizable name in IT, they probably have a cloud hosting solution. And rumors suggest Apple might be getting into the cloud hosting business soon as well. Stay tuned.
We should also note the hundreds of “boutique” cloud storage providers you can rely on as well. But if you go this route, definitely do your research into your chosen providers, as many of them may just be using one of the above big-name cloud companies to host your data. The company you hire, then, would essentially act as a go-between. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, but just be sure you know what you’re getting into.
What Data Needs to Transfer Over?
Now we get into the actual process of the cloud migration. And it starts by determining what, exactly, you’ll be transferring.
A complete data migration to the cloud is the most straight-forward, but that’s not always the right choice. You may find that certain systems and tools aren’t necessary to migrate. Maybe their volume of data is limited, it’s outdated, or so few people use it that keeping it on-site remains a viable option. You may also find that a particular data stream may need to remain on-site because you run into a stakeholder or business influencer within the company who likes things the way they are and makes it clear his or her department will not be cooperating with the transition.
Choosing your data typically requires a full accounting of in-use databases as well as legacy databases that have stuck around for auditing, accounting, legal or other purposes. Once you’ve accounted for all drives and databases, you’ll be in a good place to evaluate what, precisely, will need to migrate.
Who Will Need Access, and What Data Should They Have Access To?
Once you’ve accounted for all data that will be migrated to the cloud, you should also have a good idea of who needs access to that data.
A full list of who will be granted access is essential. When that list is complete, you can break down what data will need to be accessible to whom, unless, of course, you want everyone to have access to everything (which, for security purposes, we wouldn’t recommend).
Start at the top, with your admins, IT executives, and other systems overseers who will need access to everything. Then, go department by department and, if necessary, individual by individual and delineate what each person will have access to. Creating a list of these permissions at the start will make it easier to get everybody moved over to the cloud quickly and reduce the number of access requests that come in after the migration is complete.
You’ll want to check your work against the needs of your various teams by talking to representatives of each department. They might reveal aspects of their work you weren’t privy to, which informs their permissions. They can also inform you of data or tools that you weren’t aware of and that may need to get added to the migration process.
What Security Protocols Need to Be Developed?
Migrating from local data storage to a cloud storage system means a rethink of your previous security protocols. A VPN, for instance, may no longer be necessary. Instead, you may find your team placing greater emphasis on precise user management, two-factor authentication, sharing and download permission administration, and more.
Uploading your data to the cloud doesn’t mean you can rest on your laurels in regard to security. Breaches of cloud infrastructure are still possible, and you’ll want to develop protections internally or work with your cloud migration company, if you’ve hired one, to develop security protocols that meet the needs of your new setup.
When Will We Roll This Out?
A timeline of your cloud migration can keep your team focused and the migration optimized. Create an end date that takes into consideration the scale of the project, the size of the company, and builds a cushion for any unforeseen setbacks.
We recommend breaking the migration project itself down into sprints of two weeks (or even less). That way, you can have highly visible, highly reachable goals throughout the course of the migration, and you can adjust work streams as necessary as you learn more about your data, the migration process and any challenges you encounter. This lets you alter your goals to accommodate a successful deployment.
How Will We Roll This Out?
If you’ve done enough planning, the actual process of moving files, folders, code and applications to the cloud should be relatively straightforward. You’ll want to let employees and, if applicable, customers know what’s happening ahead of time and choose times of the day where there will be minimal disruption to business.
The somewhat more difficult component of the migration is getting all your teams access to the data in a condensed timeframe. Hopefully, your company has programs that will let you push out folders and new applications directly to employees’ computers and/or browsers. But if this isn’t the case, don’t be surprised if you have to go computer by computer to get each member of your team set up with the new software and processes.
What Will We Do with Localized Data After the Migration Is Complete?
Once you’ve verified that all necessary data has been stored in the cloud, you have a dilemma on your hands: what to do with the local servers that are no longer necessary.
You could purchase a sledgehammer, wheel the servers out into a warehouse or open field, and let your hard-working IT team have the time of their lives destroying it. But that’s maybe not the best option.
Instead, decide if you want to keep the servers in place to maintain redundancies for your historic databases (just know, however, that the moment anything goes even slightly wrong with the cloud, be it connectivity or accessibility, a non-IT person accustomed to the old ways will recommend switching back to those servers. Do you really want to fight that battle?). You could also wipe the servers and sell them on a third-party marketplace.
Whatever you decide, just double- and triple-check that your data is truly and completely uploaded and backed up to the cloud before you move forward.
How Do We Communicate to Our Team?
Education will be necessary, not just to inform employees of the adoption of cloud infrastructure, but to teach your team how to log in to the cloud and retrieve and use data and applications.
Speak with your marketing and internal communications team to get their recommendations on the best way to inform employees of the move. They will be able to provide communication best practices for email, company Slack channels, intranet, posters in heavily trafficked employee areas, and other forums where team members get their information.
To address the learning curve, you might even work with marketing to set up a webinar or a live question-and-answer session. The more outreach you do, the easier it will be to get widespread adoption and manage any potential pushback to change.
How Will We Manage Cloud Data in the Long-Term?
You worked so hard to ensure the cloud migration was successful that it can be somewhat stultifying to come all that way only to think about what comes next. But having a plan for long-term cloud data management is essential.
The nature of databases is such that unification can easily begin to fracture if not carefully managed. Employees will find workarounds to cloud storage, they’ll save versions of documents on their local hard drives, they’ll share data over email or in direct message, etc.
You’ll want to regularly monitor usage of the cloud and send periodic reminders of best practices. You’ll also need to keep up with security protocols and your company’s changing needs. At some point, you might even need to consider migrating data from one cloud to another! This isn’t ideal, but it can happen as technology evolves.
If you have the answers to the above questions, you’re in a good spot to embark upon your cloud migration strategy. And if you need help, our cloud migration consultants have worked with numerous businesses and government entities to help them securely and successfully move their data to the cloud. We’d be happy to help you develop and deploy your own cloud migration process. Let’s talk when that time comes.