What is Cloud Migration?

Cloud migration is the process of transferring digital assets, such as data or software, from on-premises infrastructure to off-premises environments.

When “the cloud” as a concept was first introduced, it was something of an anomaly. Before the cloud, important documents and files were nearly always managed and maintained on local servers. Software was delivered in large, integrated packages to be installed fully on in-house systems. Data availability was limited to those with direct access to the machines operating on-site.

And then the cloud changed everything

Today, the cloud has evolved to encompass nearly every aspect of business. By maintaining essential digital resources in cloud environments, companies of every size and in every industry can more effectively back up and retrieve vital data, access third-party software solutions on an as-needed basis, and allow staff to remain connected and productive from anywhere in the world. Unfortunately, many businesses still use legacy systems that rely on centralised servers, on-premises access and manual hardware management.

To overcome these limitations, more and more organisations are investing in cloud migration

Cloud migration is something of an umbrella term, encompassing the methodologies, tasks, strategies, tools etc. involved in transferring data and other resources into the cloud. In most cases, this process refers to the transfer of data from on-site servers to cloud-based environments. However, cloud migration may also include situations where resources are migrated from one cloud to another.

Most cloud migrations fall into one of six categories:

  • Rehosting
    The most basic form of cloud migration, rehosting involves an organisation moving its entire stack as-is from on-premises systems directly into the cloud.

  • Replatforming
    Replatforming is similar to rehosting. The difference is that during the migration the stack undergoes some minor application code changes to optimise it to leverage cloud capabilities more effectively.

  • Rearchitecting
    When applications are not compatible with modern cloud services they may need to be rebuilt from scratch. Rearchitecting can be costly and time consuming, but the results are often much more compatible and scalable within the cloud.

  • Replacing
    When existing legacy applications are not compatible and cannot be rebuilt, replacing them with cloud-native software (usually in the form of an open-source SaaS) is often the best option.

  • Retiring
    If, during a cloud migration, an organisation discovers certain applications that are no longer relevant or viable, those applications may be retired rather than moved to the cloud environment.

  • Retaining
    Although not technically a migration, retaining describes situations where a business investigates the cloud and determines that a move to an off-premises environment may not be the right decision at the current time. They then decide to revisit the option later.

Again, these types of cloud migration may also be applied to situations where data and applications are moved from one cloud to another.

In addition to the various forms a cloud migration may take, there are different cloud deployment options to consider. These deployments refer to how and where the resources are managed:

Hybrid cloud

Sometimes, no individual environment is the correct fit for a business’ needs. Hybrid clouds allow organisations to mix multiple environments in a single solution. This may mean integrating on-premises computing with cloud environments or combining public and private cloud solutions.

Single cloud

When a company chooses to work with only one cloud provider, this is known as a single cloud deployment. A single cloud deployment may be a less complex migration solution but is generally not as flexible as working with multiple vendors.

Multi cloud

Working with multiple cloud providers gives organisations more options when comparing features, pricing and functionality. Multi-cloud deployments are also more resilient, as they allow the company to keep its vital data in multiple locations. The downside is that multi-cloud deployments can become overly complex and difficult to manage.

Moving resources from one computing environment to another can be a difficult, time-consuming and expensive process. So why would an organisation decide to migrate to the cloud? The answer is simple: Because the advantages often far outweigh the costs.

The primary benefits of cloud migration include:

Reduced operational overhead

Probably the most obvious advantage of moving resources to the cloud is the return on investment (ROI). Yes, the cloud vendor charges a fee, but in return it agrees to handle hardware costs, maintenance and upgrades. Not only can this save the migrating business substantial amounts that they would have needed to spend on managing in-house applications, but it also frees up IT personnel to focus on more strategic, revenue building activities.

Increased scalability

Businesses that retain their IT resources in-house may have a hard time scaling to meet demand, with larger workloads demanding the purchase, installation and maintenance of physical computing equipment. Cloud-computing has no such limitations—because the hardware is maintained by the cloud provider, resources can be easily scaled up or down to address current needs more accurately.

Better performance

Thanks to improved scalability and dispersed geographical locations, cloud hosted applications tend to perform better, show decreased latency and offer an improved user experience when compared to on-premises systems.

Enhanced agility

When needs change or disruptive events occur, course correcting using legacy systems can be a slow process. In the cloud, resources are rapidly provisioned, new software solutions are quickly created and deployed, and additional services are added to help businesses pivot to better address market changes.

Unrestricted accessibility

A major advantage of cloud migration in the post-COVID age is accessibility. The cloud makes remote access possible. And whether this means giving customers better access to services from around the globe or empowering authorised employees to work from the safety and comfort of their own homes, migrating applications and data to the cloud improves user experience and encourages digital transformation.

Although migrating IT resources to the cloud may feel like a daunting prospect, the process may be broken down into five basic steps. These stages help define the cloud-migration journey and give organisations an idea of what needs to happen along the way.
Graphic outlining the cloud migration process

Step 1: Ideation and planning

Cloud migration should be prompted by need. As such, identifying that need and defining the business value of the migration should always be the first step. The migration strategy must also be informed by an understanding of the business outcomes.

Step 2: Discovery and assessment

Often performed alongside step 1, discovery and assessment takes an honest look at the business’ current IT situation. Determine what resources need to be moved, what kind of cloud deployment will be the best fit, what kind of infrastructure will be needed, and what the anticipated costs and timelines might look like.

Step 3: Business case

As with any major change to business infrastructure, cloud migration requires buy-in from relevant stakeholders. Build a business case by reviewing every application or resource that is being considered for migration. For each one, compare current costs of ownership with expected costs in the cloud, identify any unique challenges or potential concerns, and highlight the expected benefits. Working directly with cloud providers can help illuminate specific features or options and provide a clearer picture of costs.

Step 4: Migration

With the plan finalised and support from stakeholders secured, it’s time to begin the migration. Depending on the type of migration, this may be as straightforward as simply rehosting the business’ applications or as complex as replacing or rearchitecting them. Test every application one at a time in the new environment to ensure that it works as expected. It is also worth recognising that resources will become unusable while they are being moved, so it is advisable to set up a process for synchronising any data changes made during the migration.

Step 5: Upkeep

Even once the migration is complete, there is still one final, ongoing step that should not be overlooked. Review the new environment and evaluate how the applications are functioning in real-time. Monitoring IT resources that have been transferred to the cloud will help determine whether regulatory compliance is being maintained, if data security needs are being met, and how well the reality of the migration lines up with the company’s goals, key performance indicators (KPIs) and expectations.

In the majority of cases, cloud migration provides a positive ROI. But that does not mean it’s always a seamless process. Here are some of the challenges an organisation may experience as they migrate to the cloud:

  • Unclear goals or KPIs to evaluate the impact of the migration.

  • Lack of a clear cloud migration strategy.

  • Compliance issues related to security configuration and data management.

  • Vendor lock-in limiting an organisation’s options for selecting cloud providers or services.

From humble beginnings the cloud has grown into an indispensable element of modern business. Migrating essential applications and other IT resources to cloud environments makes it possible for businesses to gain the benefits of the most-innovative services and up-to-date solutions—often at a fraction of the cost of maintaining in-house legacy systems. But cloud migrations bring with them certain challenges that, if not addressed, can derail an organisation’s digital transformation.

ServiceNow has the answer.

Built on the industry-defining Now Platform®, the ServiceNow tools suite provides valuable solutions to help you optimise and support your cloud migration. Enjoy complete visibility into every IT infrastructure and optimise cloud management with Discovery. Gain vital insights and reduce costs with SaaS License Management. Optimise, automate and streamline how you operate with Cloud Insights. And through it all, get the resources, support and solutions you need to get the most out of your entire IT stack with IT Operations Management (ITOM).

Make your cloud migration a success; contact ServiceNow to learn more.

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