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How to Prepare for the Uncertainties of an AWS & Azure Migration

Abstract

Migrating mission-critical applications and business processes to the cloud is a complex challenge which comes with a great deal of uncertainty. In this article, we explore key considerations, provide guidance for managing the associated risks, and help you understand how to succeed with your own cloud migration.

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Cloud Migrations Require Careful Planning

It’s widely accepted these days that migrating business processes and applications to the cloud can have a transformational impact on your organisation.

For instance, according to Microsoft, almost two thirds of small and medium-sized businesses using cloud services report significant productivity benefits from IT, compared to 30% of those who have not yet migrated to the cloud.

With powerful platforms such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure, you can take advantage of a wealth of opportunities to improve and innovate your digital services, both internally and externally.

But succeeding with any IT project is rarely straightforward when mission-critical systems are being updated or replaced.

Before implementing a new cloud-based IT solution or infrastructure, crucial decisions must be made about how to approach the project, when it can be done, what budget is available, and plenty of other factors

Not only does the cloud require a dedicated strategy, team, and resources, it also requires specialist expertise to ensure the differences between traditional IT – both during and after the migration – are understood.

In this article, we’ll highlight those differences for you, explain how to avoid the potential pitfalls they create, and provide additional advice to help you succeed with your own cloud migration.

When to Make the Call on the Cloud

If you’re reading this article, you’ll likely have some applications or systems running in the cloud already, or you may even be a fully cloud-based organisation looking to make a change.

Either way, if any of the following scenarios resonate with your business, it’s time to begin putting things in motion for a new cloud migration project:

  • The need to move beyond legacy applications – Perhaps you’re looking for more efficient and intuitive technology, or the dated applications currently supporting your business processes are holding your users back.
  • Existing infrastructure reaching the end of its life – If your IT infrastructure – whether that’s on-premise in an office, hosted in a data centre, or so on – is coming to the end of its life, you could make savings by shifting to an operational expenditure (OpEx) model with the cloud.
  • Further shift from on-premise to remote – If you’ve adopted a remote working policy and have a renewal coming up for servers which are no longer required, this is a good opportunity to migrate to the cloud.
  • Moving from private cloud to public cloud – Similar to the above point, many businesses are seeing value in moving from a private cloud to a public cloud such as AWS or Azure.
  • Moving from one cloud platform to another – You may even have an existing cloud-based infrastructure, and want to switch to another platform, such as AWS to Azure or vice versa.

You can learn more about this in our whitepaper, A Guide to Moving Your Application or Solution to the Cloud.

The Impact of the Pandemic

While the unfortunate events of the COVID-19 pandemic have been discussed at length over the past 18 months, it’s still important to mention their effect on the cloud ecosystem.

Some of the resulting trends may be familiar to you, or even directly impacting your own organisation right now.

Unsurprisingly, the sudden need to facilitate remote working, created by the global lockdowns, drastically accelerated the adoption of cloud technology in the modern business landscape.

Businesses all over the world have been forced to move ahead with cloud migrations without sufficient time to prepare, simply to maintain business continuity and allow their employees to continue working from their homes.

And now this adoption is only set to continue in a post-pandemic world, with Gartner predicting that cloud spending will account for 14.2% of the overall enterprise IT market by 2024, up from 9.1% in 2020.

But while a jump over to the cloud provided a ‘quick fix’ during lockdown, there are long-term challenges which have begun to emerge for those who didn’t take a strategic, cloud-specific approach.

Why? Well, unlike a traditional IT migration or implementation project, the cloud requires a different approach to managing, maintaining, and even budgeting.

However, a common misconception made by IT teams during the pandemic was that legacy systems could simply be swapped out for cloud applications and left to run without any dedicated management or ongoing maintenance.

It’s important to learn from these mistakes before entering into a new, or another, cloud migration. With that in mind, here are some things to think carefully about as you scope out your next project.

AWS migration / Azure Migration

Case study: IMI Plc

Planning, architecting and delivering a global cloud infrastructure for IMI Plc.

A global business split into three divisions.

Read the full case study

Recognising the Risks

Your Choice of Technology

There’s a vast range of options available when it comes to choosing cloud providers and subscriptions.

Looking at just the AWS cloud and the Azure cloud as examples, there are so many different services, packages, and products for you to choose from. Without extensive knowledge of the cloud and how the technology will integrate into your IT infrastructure, this can be a daunting prospect.

You could end up going through a time-consuming, stressful process trying to find the right fit for your business. Even worse, if you make the wrong decision it will end up costing you in the long-term.

It’s always wise to seek help from a trusted advisor, partner, or cloud migration consultant to understand the implications of your various choices.

 

Taking the Wrong Approach

As mentioned in the previous section, many IT teams treat a cloud migration like a traditional on-premise project without realising they’re facing an entirely new concept.

The differences, if unaccounted for, can cause significant problems, not only with the migration itself but for the wider business once the solution has been deployed.

For example, getting the architecture of your cloud infrastructure wrong, and failing to configure the systems properly, could prevent your business from taking full advantage of the technology in key areas such as speed and efficiency.

It will also likely have a financial impact as well, for example…

 

Misunderstanding the Model

Expecting to budget and pay for a cloud subscription in the same way you’ve previously allocated budget for a traditional on-premise solution is another serious mistake.

It’s crucial to understand that the costs of a cloud investment are variable, because the nature of the system is ever-changing. The costs will always fluctuate, and the usage of the deployment must be carefully monitored and optimised to ensure budgets aren’t drastically exceeded.

Your senior leadership, and your IT team, must both recognise the shift from a capital expense (CapEx) model to an OpEx model before investing. Most organisations who choose to work without the guidance of cloud migration specialists fail to get this right.

Only when the cloud implementation is in place do the differences in cost model really become apparent, which for some businesses can be too late.

 

Paying the Price

Unfortunately, we’ve seen first-hand how entering into a cloud migration project without the necessary expertise can have damaging consequences for a business. The value of an experienced partner, with a proven track record in cloud technology, cannot be understated here.

Organisations who were forced to rush into cloud migrations during the pandemic are now scrambling to paper over cracks which have left them vulnerable to both performance and budgetary challenges, and that’s no simple task.

Unlike a large purchase of servers for an on-premise IT infrastructure, which would come with a lengthy maintenance guarantee to act as a safety net, a cloud investment comes with little support.

There’s always a great deal of risk and uncertainty involved when working with new, unfamiliar technology. A trusted partner with the skills and services to ensure your cloud runs smoothly is the best safety net available when entering into a migration project.

 

Microsoft CSP Problems

And, if you’re a Microsoft customer, you should also be wary of investing in the cloud via a cloud solution provider CSP model.

A CSP is a way in which certain Microsoft partners deliver their managed cloud services on their own terms, without providing you with any insight into your monthly spending. This is something many businesses actually find themselves engaged in without even realising.

If you’re investing in the Microsoft Azure cloud with a partner, rather than buying it directly, take proactive steps to ensure you’re not locked into a CSP without full visibility of your costs / spending and any migration restrictions.

If this sounds relevant to your own situation, have a read through our recent article where we discuss this in detail by clicking here.

 

Post-Migration Considerations

Another important difference between a cloud solution and a traditional on-premise IT infrastructure is that the former requires careful ongoing attention.

Enterprise IT systems of the past could simply be left to run without any unplanned changes or unexpected monthly bills. But your cloud deployment requires constant:

  • Monitoring
  • Managing
  • Maintaining
  • Optimising
  • Controlling of costs.

One prominent example of this is the number of unannounced updates Microsoft will release each year to its Azure cloud customers without any warning.

Changes made by the provider to the platform can change how your cloud is configured, or how much you’ll be charged for your usage.

If you’re migrating critical applications to the cloud, you must approach the post-deployment management of your technology with an agile, flexible, and vigilant mindset.

Another reason for this is because, as mentioned earlier, the usage of your cloud could cause costs to rise exponentially without anyone being aware.

The ways in which IT teams will detect, diagnose, and resolve problems within a cloud environment are also very different to traditional IT. This is another area in which an experienced partner, or an automated cloud management solution, can provide great value in preventing issues and protecting your business continuity.

The Benefits of a Successful Migration

Of course, it’s unquestionable that these challenges are worth navigating in order to unlock the full potential of the cloud within your organisation.

As alluded to at the start of this article, the potential benefits and advantages to be gained from delivering a cloud migration correctly are significant.

The cloud offers the ability to entirely transform your IT infrastructure, providing opportunities for greater:

  • Scalability
  • Agility
  • Speed
  • Performance
  • Efficiency
  • Innovation
  • Competitive differentiation.

Cloud Licenses

Another key area which will be positively affected by a successful transition to the cloud is in the cost model for your licenses. For example, in the Azure cloud, the license for a Windows server is bundled in as part of your service costs for your virtual machine.

You can take licenses on a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model as well, and can scale up and down on user licenses and other costs seamlessly when necessary.

Matching your cloud infrastructure to licences also becomes easier. That in turn makes it easier to identify licences you don’t need, which can then be turned off to save money.  

The Role of a Cloud Migration Partner

The key thing to take away from this article is that the cloud is an entirely unique – and vastly more complex – prospect than the more familiar IT infrastructures of the past.

In order to successfully migrate to the cloud and maximise the ROI you gain from the technology, you must ensure you have dedicated expertise and support in place.

We’ve touched on the value of leveraging cloud migration consulting several times throughout this article, and it’s something worth mentioning again.

A cloud migration project is a highly complex, challenging undertaking, which will be difficult to succeed with unless you have specialist knowledge and skills at your disposal.

A partner with proven experience, and automated technology, will strengthen your team, give you full control and visibility of your IT infrastructure, and proactively optimise your applications for maximum performance.

A partner can also help you achieve your digital transformation goals in much shorter timeframes. Once up and running, they can also take on the management of your cloud, so you can continue to focus on maintaining business continuity and growth.

Considering a CloudOps Active Management Solution

To help solve these challenges, we’ve developed our bespoke CloudOps Active Management Solution (CAMS), which brings together our team’s decade of experience in supporting and managing cloud environments.

CAMS provides your business with intuitive performance and cost monitoring tools, support, and general administration through a single portal, making your cloud management effortless.

This includes:

  • Always-on support; fault, find, and fix
  • Easy-to-use management, monitoring, and reporting dashboards
  • Proactive optimisation of your cloud
  • Tools and apps to enhance performance
  • Guaranteed cost savings.

If you’re worried about your cloud spend, and need help optimising your infrastructure’s performance, CAMS is the answer. It can be implemented across any existing or new AWS and Azure cloud environment, allowing you to focus on delivering innovative apps and services rather than what’s going on with your cloud infrastructure.

Unlike a traditional cloud support contract, CAMS already includes all the features and functions your business needs without any hidden charges or surprise costs.

igroup and CAMS will:

  • Enhance the capabilities of your team, delivering high quality advice and support
  • Allow you to concentrate on delivering your own services and applications
  • Improve overall business profitability and deliver strong ROI
  • Enable your business to grow and succeed.

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