10 Steps for More Successful Cloud Migrations

June 29, 2022
Cloud, Data Migration

Updated: January 28, 2023

No matter what the online ads or salespeople say, cloud migrations aren’t easy and certainly not free. But that doesn’t mean they have to be difficult or costly. As with many things, how smoothly a cloud migration project goes depends greatly on the planning that goes into it at the front end ─ and on the expectations set for success.

While every project is different, the following are the key cloud migration planning steps that can help yours succeed.

Step 1: Make the Business Case

Gather costs and identify pain points for current IT systems to establish a baseline. Project what the migration timeline and the new cloud environment costs will be. There are a number of online calculators and tools that can help you estimate these costs. The CSP you choose to work with can help with this as well.

Determine what the rationale is for migrating to the cloud ─ cost savings, greater flexibility, support for digital transformation, something else? What does the organization wish to migrate ─ everything or just a workload or two? What are the expectations for success? What benefits will be derived and how will they align with and support strategic goals and business requirements?

Keep in mind that as the migration process continues, you may discover some information that changes the original case ─ and could affect expectations and success measurements. Make sure to go back to the business case and update it.

Step 2: Get Executive Buy-In and Set Realistic Expectations

Data migration project and budget approval isn't enough. You need upper management support to ensure all aspects of the cloud migration are embraced. That means support for any required training, communications, and additional resources. Share examples of migration projects from other companies, if possible. Help upper management understand both best- and worst-case scenarios and how they could affect budgets and timelines. Make sure they understand that much of the value and cost savings of a cloud migration happen over a period of time, on an ongoing basis.

Step 3: Select a Migration Partner

Sure, you can go it alone but cloud migrations require time and resources. If you don’t have plenty of both, success will be more likely if you either work with a data migration partner or another third-party company that can help you with the migration. Their experience and expertise will both streamline and simplify the process.

Going with a cloud service provider (CSP) means going with the cloud services it provides. Make sure to do your due diligence and check out both the CSP’s services and what it offers in terms of its cloud environments. That includes things like technical support (24/7 is optimal) and service level agreements. Always insist upon references. Ask lots of questions.

The big name CSPs ─ Amazon, Google, Microsoft Azure, etc. ─ offer numerous benefits and resources. But don’t discount the smaller organizations. They may not have the global reach but they may have other benefits that can better meet your needs such as more personalized support.

The company you choose to partner with can help you out with the steps that follow, as needed, which will all be part of your overall migration project plan.

Step 4. Determine What Will Move

If you haven’t already conducted an audit of all your apps and data, do so. Make sure to account for shadow IT. It’s important to know what you have, who uses what, when, and for what purposes. Among the questions to ask:

  • How important is the app to the company or line of business?
  • Is the app up for a refresh or approaching retirement?
  • Can or should it be refactored or rewritten to ensure it will perform optimally in the cloud?
  • Would it be better to replace it with a SaaS solution?
  • Is it monolithic, two-tier, three-tier, or n-tier? Should you be considering microservices?
  • Does it scale out or scale up?
  • Who are the users of the app and what is their usage rate?
  • What are its demand fluctuations? Will moving it to the cloud affect demand?
  • What are the dependencies between the app being migrated and other systems?
  • How much data exchange will occur between the components of the app and between the app and the user?
  • Are there compliance, security, dependencies, or other issues that will prevent legacy apps from moving to the new environment?
  • If an app can’t move, what are the plans for it?
  • Do your apps need to be highly available?

Step 5: Determine the Migration Approach(es)

Depending on how apps are architected, they may or may not work optimally – or at all – when moved to the cloud. You’ll have to assess what you plan to move and determine if the apps can be moved and what it will take to move them and ensure they work as expected. Options typically include one of the “6 R’s.”

  • Rehost, also known as a lift and shift, is taking your existing IT infrastructure and directly moving it to AWS.
  • Replatform, sometimes known as a lift-turn-shift, is when an organization moves its data to a managed service.
  • Re-architect or refactor is when you re-imagine your application with cloud-native capabilities with the goal of improving availability, scalability, and reliability.
  • Repurchase is generally when you move your application from perpetual licenses to software-as-a-service.
  • Retire is an option to consider if the application is no longer needed. The data remains on internal devices for further review.
  • Retain is when you decide to delay the migration to a later point and do nothing for now.

The choice of migration approach can affect overall migration costs and the timeline so keep this in mind.

Step 6: Choose the Cloud Environment and Deployment Model

Determine the target environment that best reflects your organization’s business needs. Typically, the options will be a private cloud, public cloud, and hybrid cloud.

There are several approaches used to access services from a cloud. Each model varies in its level of convenience and user control.

  • Infrastructure as a service (IaaS) delivers cloud resources that closely mimic traditional data center infrastructures, such as servers, storage, networking, and monitoring. Cloud architects assemble these elements to construct a detailed infrastructure that hosts the organization's workload. IaaS is the typical model for most cloud migrations.
  • Platform as a service (PaaS) generally offers a more highly integrated deployment environment. It extends beyond hardware-based resources to include software such as databases, development tools, integration layers, runtimes, and other ready-made components that replace one or more traditional local tools. For example, software developers may use a development PaaS rather than hosting a development and testing toolchain in-house.
  • Software as a service (SaaS) provides a ready-made app, which alleviates the need for a business to deploy its own workload in the cloud. The SaaS provider handles all of the workload's development and maintenance. Common SaaS offerings include email and productivity apps, as well as financial and HR workloads.

Step 7: Design the Architecture

A cloud architect will need to design the cloud environment that is best suited to host the workload. The design typically assembles virtualized compute, storage, and networking instances, along with other services such as databases, logging/monitoring tools, security, and event-driven computing.

Step 8: Test the Architecture

Make sure testing is done to validate the architecture and ensure that the workload will function properly once deployed and cut over for production. This may entail a proof-of-concept with iterations and refinements before an actual migration/cutover takes place.

Step 9: Outline the Migration Steps and Execute

Every migration project is different but generally will involve these actions:

  • Establish a timeline that includes checkpoints/benchmarks.
  • Determine when and how the migration will take place and what preparation will be needed.
  • Determine how the migration process may impact daily operations and communicate that information to stakeholders.
  • Assign responsibilities and how communications will work. Open, frequent communication is extremely important, particularly between the CSP and the customer.
  • Keep users/customer base apprised of what’s going on and what to expect.
  • Establish contingency plans, including rollbacks or recoveries.
  • Quiesce and back up the local deployment.
  • Transfer and synchronize data that the workload will need.
  • Move or install the workload and its cloud infrastructure.
  • Test and validate the completed migration.
  • Prepare documentation and the help desk staff to respond to queries and troubleshoot
  • Open the migrated workload to some (or all) users
  • Implement and conduct workload monitoring, support/troubleshooting, adjustments, refinements, and other general upkeep. Tasks may include:
  • Monitoring the workload's performance to foresee utilization trends, spot bottlenecks, or support troubleshooting
  • Reviewing the deployment configuration for adequate security and compliance
  • Checking the monthly bill and ensure that the workload stays within the cloud budget
  • Evaluating the cost and performance of the migrated workload to ensure that it achieves intended benefits for the business.

Step 10: Gather and Review Lessons Learned

Before moving ahead with more workload migrations, review how the initial process went. What worked well? What could have worked better?

Migrate with US Signal

US Signal’s professional services team can migrate your workloads from virtually any source to your US Signal cloud service. Utilizing established tools, technologies, frequent communication, and methods of procedures (MOPs), they can simplify the process, and minimize business disruption.

Depending on your specific needs, the US Signal team can also take on some or all of the data migration process, including assessing application cloud-readiness, determining and executing the appropriate migration methodology, and creating a post-migration plan. They've successfully handled numerous cloud migrations for other clients and will make sure yours goes smoothly as well. Contact us at 866.274.4625 or [email protected] for information.

Additional Cloud Migration Resources

To learn more about cloud migration, check out these articles below from our blog or visit our resource center for whitepapers, e-books and more!