For most companies, cloud migration is a big project with a lot of moving parts. Between the planning and preparation that go into a cloud migration strategy, the rearchitecting of applications, and the actual migration itself, there’s a lot that can go wrong. And, with the proper preparation, a lot that can go right! In most cases, it’s a little bit of both: some things go according to plan while others go a little bit haywire.
Here’s the good news: You and your team can learn valuable lessons from both the successes and failures of your cloud migration. If—and this is a big if—you’re willing to put in the work.
There’s no teacher like experience. Post-migration, your cloud migration team will be experts on your company’s transition to the cloud. Without actively trying to capture and document the knowledge they’ve gained, however, most of it will dissipate with time or remain siloed within that team.
In this post, we’ll give you strategies for capturing and sharing the knowledge you gain from a cloud migration, go over common lessons learned from cloud migration, and equip you to get the most from your cloud data migration experience.
Expectation vs. reality during cloud migration
Most companies that attempt an on-premise to cloud migration share a common experience: their expectations, either of the process itself or the result, aren’t fully realized. At least not immediately.
If you’re about to begin cloud data migration or already knee-deep in the process, this isn’t something you want to hear. Fortunately, there are two solutions.
First, you’ll want to temper your expectations. Don’t be pessimistic about the cloud migration process, but be realistic. Do your research. Take the time to create an in-depth cloud migration strategy. The more you prepare, the more you know what to realistically expect.
Second, and this goes hand-in-hand with the previous step, learn from the experiences of other companies. As we said before, most companies experience some sort of letdown—their expectations aren’t met. The best way to avoid similar letdowns is to plan for them. Look at how others handled the cloud migration process. What went smoothly? What went poorly? Where did their expectations exceed reality? It’s all about being realistic, and what’s more realistic than actual experience?
To help out, we’ve listed some of the common ways that the realities of cloud data migration differ from expectations:
Cost: Cost is the driving factor behind a lot of business decisions, and cloud migration is no exception. Many businesses begin migrating to the cloud because it will lower the costs of maintaining IT systems and processes.
While cloud-based systems and applications are often more cost effective than their on-premise alternatives, this isn’t always the case. To really see any cost benefit, your applications and systems need to be optimized for the cloud, a process which requires time and money. The real cost benefit of cloud-based applications comes in scalability— you don’t have to pay for any storage that you don’t need. However, you can only take advantage of this feature if your applications are cloud-optimized.
Here’s the bottom line: migrating to the cloud won’t inherently save your business money. In order to see long-term cost benefits, you need to pay the upfront cost to optimize your applications for the cloud.
Security: Cloud service providers store data for thousands of companies around the world. And, as more and more companies migrate to the cloud, those numbers keep on growing. So cloud-based applications must be secure, right? And because they’re secure, that means your IT team no longer has to worry about security, right? Yes and no.
By migrating to the cloud, you’re putting your data in someone else’s hands. This is always a risk. Too many companies leave it at that—they simply trust the security of their vendor and don’t look back.
When you migrate to the cloud, your cloud service provider (CSP) takes on most security responsibilities. That being said, there’s still a lot you and your team can and should do to make sure your data is protected. Some strategies you can adopt to maximize cloud security are:
- Familiarize yourself with your CSP’s security measures
- Stay up to date on the latest security threats
- Have a plan in place in case of a security breach
Required expertise: It’s not a bad thing to put faith in your team members. If you expect big things from your employees, they might rise up to the challenge. That being said, your expectations for team members have to be realistic. We all want to believe our team is equipped for cloud migration, but sometimes they just aren’t. This can be hard to admit, but it’s important to acknowledge it.
Too often, companies expect their teams to migrate to the cloud without any additional help. In other words, they expect their team to already have the expertise required for migration.
In reality, on-premise to cloud data migration usually requires cloud security and migration experts. Post-migration, your company will be structured differently. There will be new and evolving roles to fill. Sometimes, this means hiring new individuals.
Vendor lock-in: Picture this: After weighing your options, you and your team find a cloud service provider that meets all of your requirements. Pricing is good, security checks out, and you’re all ready to migrate your apps to their environment. So you optimize your apps for that CSP and that CSP only. Vendor lock-in isn’t a problem if you’re happy with that vendor, right? Not exactly.
It’s risky to expect to be happy with the same CSP forever. In a few years down the road, pricing might change. Or they might have a security breach. Or, for a whole variety of other reasons, you might just want to change your CSP. That process is going to be a much bigger headache if you have pigeonholed your apps to one provider.
Reviewing the cloud migration process as a team
As you and your team extract and document key learnings from your cloud data migration, communication and collaboration are crucial. This means meeting together frequently. Meet as you develop a cloud migration strategy. Meet as you begin the migration itself. Meet when you’re knee-deep in the migration and things are going wrong. You and your team should be meeting a lot. And at each of these meetings, carefully document what you’ve discussed.
One of the most important and most overlooked meetings occurs after the migration. Each team member’s experience of the migration process will vary depending on their role and responsibilities. And so each team member will walk away from the process with slightly different knowledge. After the migration, hold a cloud migration review meeting to capture the various knowledge silos that will have emerged.
Every team member involved in the migration process should attend. Your goal is simple: document all of the knowledge your team has gained. For best results, give attendees a few days’ notice to brainstorm the key lessons they’ve learned from the process. Prepare a Lucidspark board beforehand with groups of sticky notes to sort ideas.
The documentation generated in this meeting should make cloud maintenance, service provider changes, and other future tasks much simpler.
Key learnings from cloud migration
At this point, we’ve covered the expectations vs. reality of cloud migration and gone over strategies for capturing the knowledge gained from cloud data migration. Now it’s time to take a look at what that knowledge might contain. In other words, what are some common key learnings from cloud migration?
Every cloud migration is different, but there are certain migration experiences that most companies share. And from those experiences, most companies learn valuable lessons. We’ve compiled some of the most common below:
- Take into account cloud migration costs: It’s easy to focus on your end goals. In the case of cloud migration, this often means reduced operating costs, but don’t forget to factor in the cost of migration itself. Refactoring and re-architecting applications isn’t easy—it takes time and money.
- Evaluate what cloud migration tools are needed: Before you dive into the migration process, carefully consider the cloud migration tools your team needs for a smooth transition. This might mean services provided by CSPs or creating and filling additional roles on your team.
- Establish and maintain momentum: Cloud migration doesn’t happen overnight, but it also doesn’t need to be a drawn-out process. Set goals ambitious enough to help your team establish momentum but realistic enough to prevent burn out.
- Collaborate on strategy: Your cloud migration strategy is the single most important factor that will contribute to a smooth migration. Remember, nothing is set in stone. As you and your team embark on the migration process, meet regularly to adjust your cloud migration strategy based on the input of all team members.
- Consider data security: What security requirements do you have? What security standards does your CSP have? What will your team need to do to ensure your security standards are met? You’ll want to ask these questions before you begin the migration process, not after.
Once you’ve compiled your team’s key learnings into a single source of truth, refer back to it often! And remember, it’s a living document. Cloud migration is an ongoing process. After the initial migration you may still adjust applications, change providers, or make other changes to your cloud environment. Record these changes and the lessons you learn from them.
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