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Cloud migration considerations: Test the waters before jumping in

By Adiel Kader and Uthmaan Hendricks, Enterprise Solutions 365

So, you want to migrate to the cloud. It seems that everyone does. In a world changed by a virus outbreak, there isn’t one industry saying, “I don’t think cloud is for me”. Cloud solutions have become increasingly popular as businesses, individuals and even government agencies realise the importance of mobility, accessibility, visibility and control for critical data and information. Cloud infrastructure is hailed for improving operational efficiency and reducing operating costs. However, in our experience, cloud needs to be approached with caution. More importantly, it must be approached with direction.

We have been in the enterprise architecture business since the time when “cloud” was purely a weather-related term. We have seen the best and worst examples of cloud migration, and here is what we have learnt.

  1. Think about what you want

It’s all good and well to say you want to reduce costs and improve the way you work, but what are you actually trying to achieve? What does it look like in practice? We believe that your solution must be driven by your objectives, not the other way around. Do you want to replace outdated legacy systems? Are you more focussed on productivity, and less on costs?

Definitive, measurable and quality objectives will help guide your cloud adoption strategy. If you decide to move the cloud, and that’s the extent of your thought process, you might end up spending more money than you are currently spending on your on-premise solution. Many of our projects have proven that cloud can decrease data storage costs by 25-30%, but this was only after a careful workload analysis and a close look at the actual day-to-day business requirements. This evaluation has ensured that our customers only pay for what they need. This brings us to our next piece of advice.

  • Create a plan, and stick to it

A typical “lift and shift” cloud migration takes three to six months, but about half of that time is spent planning. In addition to considering your actual business needs, a big part of the planning process is looking at your current business infrastructure and ensuring that you are making an informed decision.

For example, many businesses decide they want to migrate to the cloud, but they don’t form a proper strategy for “weaning” themselves off their data centres. This means they end up paying for both off- and on-prem storage, increasing their costs. It is important to see your migration plan through to the desired end-result. Further, many businesses pick the “biggest and best” cloud package without understanding that they could rather choose  a smaller package, and then just pay for their additional needs at peak times, as required.  

Another important consideration is the lifespan of your existing IT infrastructure assets. If you purchased a load of new servers last year, you are wasting your money by migrating to the cloud this year (unless you want to go hybrid). Rather sweat your assets, and plan your cloud migration to start from year four of your equipment’s five-year lifespan. 

Of course, during the migration, there will be a stage where you are using both your legacy system and the new cloud infrastructure. We always advise our clients to budget for this phase, and not to be disheartened when costs seem to increase at first. This is simply the cost of a well-executed migration.

Once migration has been achieved and on-prem storage can be retired, the budget allocated to physical infrastructure maintenance/replacement must now be allocated to upgrading your cloud plan, improving security or scaling your cloud solution to meet your changing business requirements.

  • Implement with expertise

Successful cloud migration is not just about choosing a plan and going for it. There are many other considerations. For example, who are you actually choosing as your cloud vendor? What is their local support like? Will they have technical personnel on hand to assist you when problems arise?

Businesses should also pay attention to their data security and governance policies. Cloud is praised for enabling easy access to and sharing of information, but this comes with risks which should be addressed through comprehensive user policies and monitoring processes. This is especially important in the context of the POPI Act and GDPR.

Finally, it is important to remember that you can continue to scale and adapt as you go. Gone are the days where your IT capabilities dictate your business. Now you can change what technology you use, and how, to support your business growth. For example, we have noticed that up to 75% of companies who migrate to the cloud adopt Platform-as-a-service within 18 months after a simple lift-and-shift migration.

Partner for success

Just about any business can benefit from moving to the cloud. South Africa is in the midst of a cloud boom, illustrated by the rapid increase of cloud facilities being developed here by Google, AWS, and now Azure. However, there are many elements to consider in your cloud migration strategy. We recommend partnering with the right enterprise solutions specialists with the appropriate bank of experience so that your cloud strategy meets your business objectives.  

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