Cloud migrations are now a necessity for most companies, but it would be a stretch to say that businesses have really mastered the process. Estimates list the failure rate for cloud migrations at anywhere from 30-50—making botched migrations a shockingly common occurrence!
There are plenty of reasons why this part of the digital transformation process continues to present a huge challenge for people—and we’ll dig a little deeper into some of those reasons below—but the overarching theme might be this: that companies feel pressure to modernize, but they don’t really know what they’re getting into. While it’s admirable that companies are jumping into new business realities with both feet, it’s critical to consider:
- Which applications are the top migration priorities?
- What cloud service or services should we embrace?
- What does the road map look like before, during, and after migration?
- Who will implement any necessary changes systems impacted by the shift?
Without giving items like these the advanced consideration they deserve, you’re taking a big risk with your IT infrastructure.
What Defines a Successful Cloud Migration?
We’ll spend most of this article talking about what can go wrong when you’re making the shift to the cloud, but first let’s discuss what the process can look like when it goes right. Some CIO and other stakeholders tend to think of cloud services primarily in terms of cost savings, but in point of fact they’re catalysts for much larger operational changes. The trick is to keep those changes in view while you’re making the transition. In a perfect world, this might involve a few steps:
- Preparation: This could be auditing your existing servers and software licenses, preparing any operational data for transfer, assigning roles for who’ll take charge of what tasks, etc.
- Technical review: This is where you figure out which platforms actually meet your needs most effectively—whether that means relying solely on Azure for your entire migration, creating a hybrid model with AWS, etc., as well as choosing the specific applications. Here, you’ll need to get a handle on how your existing infrastructure will slot into these new environments.
- Testing: Before you go live with the new systems, you’ll need to make sure that you haven’t broken anything. As such, you’ll need a comprehensive testing plan that includes business cases relevant to your migration.
- Handover: Finally, it’s time to cut the cord and switch your business over to the new cloud-based system or systems. It might seem like the job is done at this point, but in reality, this is a crucial moment for gaining buy-in from daily software users, getting the entire relevant team or teams on the same page with regards to new best practices, and dealing with any aftercare or troubleshooting that arises.
Seems easy, right? Well, it can be—if you have a strong roadmap in place for managing the transformation. That said, there are some common pitfalls that tend to derail projects like this.
1. Migrating the Wrong Infrastructure
Right now, if you look at the numbers you’ll find that a huge percentage of businesses have migrated some of their infrastructure to the cloud, but the percentage of that infrastructure that’s being migrated is typically pretty low. Even as most businesses are partially cloud-enabled, very few perform a majority of their business functions in the cloud. This isn’t automatically a bad thing, since even businesses that are shooting for 100% cloud coverage shouldn’t make the change all at once. As such, it’s important to choose the right applications and systems for migration—even if you’re going to migrate more later. For this, there are a couple of questions you might ask yourself:
- How sensitive is the information I’m planning to migrate? Cloud-based services can actually be a huge help for compliance and data security, but anything that has strict requirements will call for extra planning and precautions. Even if you’re sure that you’ll eventually want to migrate, say your corporate email and existing digital records, you might not want to start with them—since it’s possible that the first migration processes will be the ones with the most hiccups.
- Do I want to commit to this app or service in the long term? Big IT infrastructure projects are a great chance to basically use the Marie Kondo method on your software solutions. When it comes to any particular piece of the puzzle, it’s important to know whether you really want to migrate it, or whether you’d be better off adopting a new SaaS solution entirely.
- Which specific business cases will benefit from migration? Sure, there are plenty of applications that benefit hugely from a transition away from on-premise hosting—but there are other cases where the benefits won’t be as pronounced. Make sure you’re prioritizing the former.
Without asking yourself questions like these, you might find that you’re spending a ton of money and time and ultimately getting fairly little in return.
“Move fast and break things,” the tech industry’s unofficial motto, might be great for disrupting your industry and providing something new to your users—but it’s not a great strategy for cloud migrations. In fact, no version of “I’ll just make it up as I go” is going to work for you when it comes to a process this complex. Why might that be the case? Simply put, because you need a clear and well-defined roadmap if you’re going to make your deployment a success. What’s your initial timetable? What budget constraints are you looking at? Which teams are in charge of which elements of the transition? Who will make any necessary code changes to be sure that the rest of your systems still work? What will your new technical infrastructure look like? If you can’t answer those questions offhand, you’re going to run into frequent problems. Not only do the relevant teams within your operation need time to prepare themselves for whatever roles they’re going to play, they also need clear guidance to fall back on when they encounter decisions that need to be made. Ideally, your roadmap will provide that guidance.
3. Choosing the Wrong Platform
Given how big of a choice this is for most companies, it might seem like we’ve buried the lede a little bit by listing this as pitfall number three. But, in point of fact, you’re not even ready to make a choice like this until you’ve at least sketched out a roadmap and made an informed choice about what to migrate. After all, answers to the relevant questions in choosing the platform (e.g. “What kind of data do you plan to store?” “What are your compliance requirements like?” “What’s your budget?” etc.) might not be immediately obvious until you better understand the process and your operational goals. That said, it certainly is an important decision, and it’s important to research as much as possible and to use the existing knowledge (both of the cloud providers and of your own needs) you’ve accumulated to make the right choice.
4. Not Thinking Beyond Deployment
We alluded to this pitfall a little bit above when we talked about completing the operational handover from on-premise to cloud, but let’s be a little more explicit: just because you’ve powered down the stack of email servers heating up your back room, that doesn’t mean the job is done. For one thing, you’ve got to get your team and other stakeholders up to speed on what’s different versus what’s staying the same in whatever process or system you’ve updated. This might mean providing trainings internally, and it will almost certainly require some dedicated internal communications efforts. Beyond that, however, you’re also looking at some dedicated maintenance, troubleshooting, and aftercare. Often, CIOs that are pushing for a transition to the cloud labor under the misapprehension that the cloud requires virtually no ongoing maintenance—and while there are some cases where this can be partially true, you will incur maintenance costs and some point, just like you’ll ultimately wind up with some technical debt if you’re not devoting resources to your technology. This can often present a nasty financial shock to operations that aren’t prepared for it.
5. Going It Alone
Last but not least, the final pitfall that tends to plague cloud migrations and deployments: trying to take on the whole project yourself. This kind of infrastructure project requires a huge outlay of time and person-power to get done—to say nothing of the deep knowledge dives that are required to sketch out a roadmap and make the right decisions as you deploy. Sure, the GE’s of the world can usually move some technical resources around to get a project of this scope done on time, but smaller companies are likely to be stretched thin already, especially when it comes to sparse developer and systems architect resources. Ultimately, this could lead to slowdowns due to underscoping, cost overages, and critical decisions and tasks falling through the cracks—resulting in a cloud migration that takes much longer to achieve ROI. This is where finding a trusted premiere partner might be worth considering. Rather than stretching your resources thinner than they can stand, or trying to scale person-power up and down as new migration needs arise, you can work with a partner who has in-house expertise on how to manage and support cloud migration projects. Rather than scrambling to manage a complex project with limited support and technical know-how, you can consider relying on someone for whom cloud migrations are basically routine. Given the cost savings a well-executed cloud migration can bring, anything you can do to smooth out the process is money well spent.
Learn More About About Intertec's Cloud Solutions:
Intertec’s teams have hands-on experience in developing and migrating applications on leading cloud platforms. In addition to design and development, we provide a complete range of application testing, deployment and on-going support services for applications and servers migrated to the cloud. Click here to learn more. Prefer a personal consultation? Go ahead and schedule a meeting with us here!