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How to migrate your business to the cloud – part 1

Over the past 5 years we’ve seen an amazing amount of growth of major disruptive technologies in mobile, information, collaboration, and cloud. Each area has spawned new and amazing capabilities that have transformed our lives, the way we communicate, how we consume our news and access information, and the way we work. The last major disruption, cloud computing, has exerted more influence on the business side of IT than any other single technology. Nowadays any business unit with a credit card can connect to a cloud-hosted service in less than 5 minutes for a fraction of the cost and no setup headaches. The impact across IT is truly revolutionary and we can expect this to continue exponentially.




Research indicates that cloud adoption is steadily growing among SMBs. For example, in the U.S. the cloud market is expected to reach $32 billion by the beginning of 2016, representing a 19 percent year-over-year growth rate from $18.9 billion early in 2013. Customers now expect to purchase products, search for services, and get quotes 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – whether at home, on the job, or in a jet flying across country. Cloud is all about gaining the fastest access to all goods and services from any device that can reach the internet, without having to install software or connecting directly to a server. And this kind of instant access should be of primary interest to any business concerned about staying ahead of the market.

Onboarding your organization into the cloud will be a key differentiator for keeping a competitive edge in today’s fast-paced digital era. If your business hasn’t adopted cloud yet then it’s already behind the curve. It’s not too late to catch up, but you’ll need to act fast!

In the rest of this article and in part 2 we’re going to outline some strategies for how to migrate your business to the cloud. Keep in mind that cloud migration is a non-linear process and, depending on the size of your organization, will require various levels of complexity to work through. But keeping the following best practices in mind will help ensure a smoother, more stress-free experience overall.




1. Weigh the business impacts

One of the first steps in any successful migration to the cloud is to evaluate and weigh the impacts this move will have on your business bottom line. Obviously, at a macro-level we know that cloud is a smart business move. Better yet, it’s a necessary one! But at the same time, it serves no purpose for you to go like a “bull in a china closet” and disrupt existing processes in a way that will negatively impact your organization. You need to weigh your workload classification (testing, development, pre-production, and production) to gather information for what applications would be best suited for early migration. Think about your workflow and how applications will be impacted; obviously you don’t want to move mission-critical workloads to the cloud first. You will also need to think about existing application licensing agreements, scalability, and if any proprietary software issues will stand in the way of a migration strategy.

2. Map out & prepare your environment

Before moving to the cloud you’ll need to undertake a thorough assessment of what you currently have on-premise. Some of the things you’ll want to consider are: What are the functions and features of your apps that are most used in your on-premise solutions? Do you have vendors, partners, and clients that are accessing your on-premise solution today? What applications are most used, least used? Rank them accordingly. Who are the primary business users of your applications? Do you understand your current licensing agreements/service level agreements (SLAs)? Are you aware of the various places your services connect, integrate, and interface with other services both externally and internally? If your organization has a BC (business continuity) or DRP (disaster recovery plan) in place, then now is the time to make sure it’s up to date and that your application interdependencies are properly aligned.




3. Pick candidates for migration

Once you’ve mapped your current environment and identified the key interdependencies you’ll need to pick the best candidates for cloud migration. For example, will it be your financial software, your CRM, your email, a project management platform, or perhaps even a hardware system (given the rise of Internet of Things)? In this stage of the migration strategy you’ll need to consider how your users will cope with the change, whether or not they’ll understand the technology, and if end-user training be required? Some sage advice on this stage is captured in the following comment: “Remember to make your selection for migration wisely, if your migration fails it is unlikely that you will get a second chance to migrate other services.” Again, to avoid negative business impacts, don’t migrate mission-critical applications at the early stage. Start with less important applications, measure the outcomes, and then scale up to more widely used ones, while also keeping an exit strategy in place if things don’t go well. The point here is to make the process of cloud migration as smooth and non-intrusive as possible.

Please join us back here tomorrow for the second part of this series.

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About Jeffrey Walker

Jeff is a business development consultant who specializes in helping businesses grow through technology innovations and solutions. He holds multiple master’s degrees from institutions such as Andrews University and Columbia University, and leverages this background towards empowering people in today’s digital world. He currently works as a research specialist for a Fortune 100 firm in Boston. When not writing on the latest technology trends, Jeff runs a robotics startup called virtupresence.com, along with oversight and leadership of startuplabs.co - an emerging market assistance company that helps businesses grow through innovation.