How to Plan a Pain-Free Cloud Migration

Are cloud migration fears keeping you awake at night? Sleep well, friend. When properly planned, moving digital assets into the cloud can be easier than you think.

John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author

January 25, 2022

4 Min Read
Cut-out clouds floating on a sky blue background
simon bratt via Alamy Stock

When it comes to IT project challenges, few are more intimidating than a full-fledged cloud migration. Fortunately, with the help of some careful planning, a cloud transition can be successfully accomplished with minimal effort and disruption.

The way organizations approach mass migrations to the cloud are rapidly changing. “Methodical and strategic modernizations have replaced the expedited ‘lift and shift’ approach,” says Alicia Johnson, consulting principal, technology transformation, at professional services firm EY.

The ability to compete at today’s locally and globally required speeds continues to be a driving force for companies heading into the cloud. For enterprises looking to the cloud for agility gains, an operating model transformation is more often than not required to optimize cloud benefits, Johnson observes. “Organizations that implement product operating model optimization, and change the way they work and operate, often reap the most benefits,” she adds.

First Steps: Cloud Migration

When planning a cloud migration, it's important to work closely with senior management, the entire IT team, and the employees who will be directly impacted by the transition, says Jeremy Rambarran, cloud solutions manager at the New York College of Podiatric Medicine and a professor at the Touro College Graduate School of Technology. “Senior management will need to be aware of the major changes taking place within their technical infrastructure and be willing to allocate the funds necessary for moving internal assets and their data to the cloud,” he adds.

Before planning begins, it's important to resolve several key questions, says Lee Voigt, a principal with audit, tax, and consulting services provider RSM US. “Why are you migrating to the cloud? What is your ultimate cloud play? What are your core expectations for the cloud? How have you solved the cloud technical competency gap? What is the plan for your business applications? How will you manage your cloud assets once they are in place?” Finding the answers to these questions, and other issues that may arise during the planning process, will help ensure a pain-free cloud migration, he notes.

Cloud migration should never be addressed as a purely technical project. “When it is, the divide between business and IT often widens,” warns Cindi Howson, chief data strategy officer at business intelligence analytics software provider ThoughtSpot. Infrastructure modernization without visible business benefits is rarely successful. “To realize the full potential of the shift to cloud, business stakeholders are key to ensuring that cloud migrations are driving real business impact,” she says.

Migration Planning Points

Think big but start small, Howson advises. Begin with a single use case that's high enough in value and low enough in complexity, she suggests. “Use this as a learning opportunity to show what will change with the cloud in terms of technology, people, and process.”

Business and engineering groups should work as a single team, Johnson says. When the cloud is approached as an IT-only effort, it can stymie innovation and will usually fail to bring new capabilities. “Organizations that implement product operating model optimization, and change the way they work and operate, often reap the most benefits,” she notes.

Avoiding Cloud Migration Mistakes

The biggest mistake organizations make when planning a cloud migration is failing to reach their desired outcomes or even meet their minimum requirements. “When an organization doesn’t spend enough time plotting out their desired outcomes, they often end up implementing a first-phase cloud for a specific workload that gets completely rebuilt when subsequent workloads are plotted for migration,” Voigt says. “When an organization doesn’t spend enough time capturing its minimum requirements, adoption suffers when internal and external customers are adversely impacted by the migration.”

Another cloud migration mistake is believing that operational costs will immediately decrease as soon as digital assets are pulled into the cloud. “When migrating to the cloud, your costs for electrical and cooling needs will eventually decrease as you move more servers and storage to the online environment,” Rambarran says. “This will eventually reduce your organization's operational costs, as you will then be utilizing your cloud provider's hardware for your hosted solutions.” Just don't expect the change to happen overnight.

Yet another potentially costly error is assuming that data will always be backed up and secured by the cloud provider. This is not always the case since providers are as subject to attacks as any other enterprise -- perhaps even more so since they're such a data-rich target. Rambarran advises protecting enterprise data with additional firewalls and other strong security protection measures.

Cloud Migration Takeaway

Planning is just one part of the migration process. Culture, people, change management, and process are the other parts, Howson says. “Throwing new technology at employees without giving them sufficient time and training to adapt and figure out new skills and processes is not effective,” she cautions. “CTOs, CIOs, CDOs and [other] leaders within the organization also need to make a plan for upskilling employees to take full advantage of the new technology,” Howson explains.

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About the Author(s)

John Edwards

Technology Journalist & Author

John Edwards is a veteran business technology journalist. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and numerous business and technology publications, including Computerworld, CFO Magazine, IBM Data Management Magazine, RFID Journal, and Electronic Design. He has also written columns for The Economist's Business Intelligence Unit and PricewaterhouseCoopers' Communications Direct. John has authored several books on business technology topics. His work began appearing online as early as 1983. Throughout the 1980s and 90s, he wrote daily news and feature articles for both the CompuServe and Prodigy online services. His "Behind the Screens" commentaries made him the world's first known professional blogger.

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