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Influencer: 4 Questions You Need to Answer in Your Move to the Cloud

There are plenty of benefits in moving to the cloud, but there are also plenty of opportunities to make your cloud migration less successful and more expensive than it should be. Fewer than half of the IT managers in a recent Forrester survey viewed their most recent migrations to public cloud as a success. Often that’s because of unforeseen costs—with 58% saying they had underestimated running costs—but many had also underestimated the work involved in a cloud migration, or hadn’t included security and devops teams in the migration plan.

You can assume that your IT organization has covered basics like picking the cloud platform that best suits what you need technically and has suitable SLAs. But unless your organization already has experience in moving to the cloud – and everyone has been happy with the outcome of those migrations – it’s worth checking that they’re remembering some key points.

How much of your data should you move to the cloud?

For many organizations, the cost of storage capacity in their own infrastructure is lower than the cost of working out what data they really need (or at least comes out of a different budget), so you may be sitting on large amounts of data that’s not immediately relevant.

It’s not just about compliance. The cost model for cloud storage means you should consider carefully how much data you want to keep there. You may only be paying a few cents per gigabyte per month, but if you have multiple terabytes of data that adds up to thousands of dollars or pounds. Make certain that you really need the data for your workload and that you’re ready to deduplicate it and age it out to cheaper cold storage once it’s no longer required. And if you need to transfer large amounts of data to your cloud provider during migration, compare the time it will take to upload or whether it’s faster to a drive to the cloud provider so they can load the data directly.

How different is it to run your cloud solution?

The simplest move to the cloud is to “lift-and-shift” existing virtual machines into an infrastructure-as-a-service model. That doesn’t take full advantage of what cloud can really do, so it’s likely that your cloud migration will involve modernising your apps, perhaps by running them in containers to make it easier to add new services to them or augmenting or replacing them with platform-as-a-service options.

Once you do that, running IT in the cloud is very different from running it on premises. It’s not just about training users to access systems and services that they are not familiar with (although you need to budget for that). Your IT admins will need different skills to deploy, manage, and troubleshoot cloud services. They’ll also need to get used to the fact that with cloud, business groups can and will go “self service” rather than turning to IT for everything. That still needs to be monitored, both for support and cost control.

How much don’t you know about what you’re migrating?

Your IT team will likely have a very clear plan for the migration itself and for how they plan to use cloud services. What’s not always as clear is the state of the systems you already have, and getting those details is critical. You need to know not just which applications you already have, but who uses them, so you know what capacity to provision and whom to give access. You don’t want to waste money by overprovisioning resources, but you don’t want to frustrate users by underprovisioning key applications that they rely on.

It’s important to know the usage patterns for the apps you’re migrating. Applications with occasional spikes in load are ideal for the cloud because you get access to the extra infrastructure on demand without always having to pay for it, but you need to know just how heavy the heaviest usage is likely to be in order to manage that scaling efficiently, and you need to monitor scaling to stay on top of costs.

Check the compliance status of all the applications involved. There may be some applications you can’t move to the cloud for compliance reasons, and if they interact with other applications that you are migrating to the cloud, you need to deal with any issues that will cause.

You also need to know how you’re going to test that the migration has gone well, and that needs to include user acceptance testing as well as technical metrics.

Do you know who’s paying?

If you’re counting on reducing your own infrastructure costs by moving to the cloud, remember that you need to actually turn things off to realize on-premises savings. If the business runs a chargeback model for IT, make sure that cloud usage is being monitored and fed into the billing systems. Making the most of cloud means integrating it fully into the organization, not treating it as something you can move to and forget.

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Whois: Mary Branscombe

Mary Branscombe is a freelance tech journalist. Mary has been a technology writer for nearly two decades, covering everything from early versions of Windows and Office to the first smartphones, the arrival of the web and most things in between.