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Making the Move to Cloud Services

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Migrating to public cloud services can be an exciting time. It also can be a stressful time. Here are some tips to help make it easier.

1. Assess your goals.

What are your objectives in moving to the cloud? Are you looking to offload cumbersome big data so your in-house physical IT environment is more productive? Are you looking to improve performance? Do you want to unload your physical production and capitalize on the flexibility, uptime and disaster recovery (DR) services that the cloud offers? 

2. Take an inventory of your assets.

Assess your existing infrastructure and its inherent dependencies. Who needs which applications and databases and how do they use them? Then prioritize them in order of importance. Know what performance metrics are acceptable from the users’ point of view, as well as interdependencies between users and departments. Review, update and clearly document security policies, data governance, compliance requirements and data access controls.

3. Determine which workloads to migrate first and why they are the best candidates.

Prepare users for how they may be effected, and solicit their input. Keep in mind that many legacy applications weren’t written with portability or virtualization in mind, and may be tied to very specific environments that can’t be duplicated in the cloud. Others, such as database- or performance-intensive applications, may be best run on bare-metal.

4. Review your migration options.

There are a variety of methods for migrating your data to the cloud.

  • Manual Migration.

    You can obtain access to the new environment from your CSP by copying over your data and configurations via the Internet. Make sure everything migrates to the new environment so no unknown dependencies surface, and the application isn’t attempting to communicate with something that’s not there.

    Offline Media Transfer by Shipping Portable Media. You can perform the conversion and copy to a drive, ship it, import the virtual images and test. Not all CSPs will support attaching physical devices to their environments.  Check before you assume this is an option.

  • Internet Transfer of Virtual Disk Images

    You can upload your workloads in native format or the CSP’s format to a SFTP server or similar system. In this scenario, your provider imports the virtual images to its cloud.

  • Software Agent-Based Data Replication

    Another option is installing replication software on the old server and the new destination server. When the new server catches up with the old server, stop replication and test the new server. Restart synchronization until the new server catches up again. When replication and testing are complete, you can failover.

  • Full Server Failover Using Software Agents.

    Yet another option is to install the software on your old server and replicate the entire source system to a shell VM, agent to agent or to an aggregated target such as a VM appliance. When the new server catches up with the old server, stop replication and test the new servers, and repeat until you failover.

    No matter which option you ultimately choose, you will have clean up tasks. Be sure to account for various tasks such as updating DNS, VPN tunnels and SSL certificates, to name a few.  You may have a long list of other site specific items that will require clean up.  Do not make the assumption that your new CSP is going to take care of all of these independent of your involvement.

5. Determine your time objectives.

What sort of time frame are you looking at to make your migration?  If you’re a small business, you can possibly “forklift” your IT environment. That means to move it all at once. Shut the system down on a Friday. Have it up and running on a Monday. This is a cost-effective approach, but one that comes with risk. You may end up troubleshooting unforeseen issues while simultaneously dealing with production. 
If you are an enterprise business, consider the more methodical “phased migration” in which you migrate workloads over time. The benefits include a more structured approach and less margin of error in computing, compliance and security. 

6. Partner with your CSP.

If the list of options feels long and the variables many, you may want to consider planning your migration with your CSP. A good provider will tailor your migration to your company’s individual needs and goals.  It will make you fully aware of its capabilities, spot potential challenges, help you plan the migration and be there to assist you when moving day comes. 

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About Peak 10

"Our values are the foundation for everything we do at Peak 10, and are ultimately what enable us to earn our customers' business and their trust."
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Board Member, Peak 10 + ViaWest