The majority of businesses know that they need to leverage cloud technology in order to survive and thrive. The Covid-19 pandemic only accelerated an existing trend rather than altering strategy in any particularly meaningful way. The challenge is finding the best way to migrate in order to maximise the benefits. For many organisations, a lift and shift approach has been the way to go, but without proper planning and preparation this can be a recipe for disaster. Businesses need to have a solid plan in place, use the right toolsets for the job, and always keep their data top of mind, to ensure any cloud migration is as smooth as possible.

The technology landscape is cloud

Prior to Covid-19, experts were already predicting a move toward more flexible and remote workforces, empowered by technology evolution such as the cloud. These predictions were backed up by global statistics, such as the 2020 Technology Spending Intentions Survey from ESG Research, which showed that 58% of customers expected public cloud infrastructure spend to increase in 2020. While nobody could have predicted the pandemic, it did not change the trajectory of business spend.

Cloud infrastructure spend is beginning to eclipse on-premise spend, and this shift was already in motion. The Flexera Digital Transformation Planning Report, which was published before the crisis, shows that 84% of enterprises have a multi-cloud strategy. In South Africa, while official statistics are challenging to pinpoint, the numbers are surprisingly closely aligned to global figures. Although businesses in the country are often late adopters of technology, in this instance it is not necessarily true. Prior to Covid-19, the foundations were already in place, and businesses have simply moved in the cloud direction faster than anticipated.

However, therein lies the challenge. The biggest pitfall to cloud implementations is lack of planning around the migration. While speed may now be of the essence, businesses cannot afford to let lack of preparation derail operations.

Less haste, more preparation

Whether a business follows a lift and shift approach or a more incremental roadmap, the key to success is in the planning. With a lift and shift approach specifically, the timing is critical, which means that careful preparation is essential. The first step is to understand exactly what it is that needs to be achieved, especially when it comes to de-investing an existing data centre and migrating it into the cloud or shifting fundamental databases.

Not all applications can be run in the cloud environment, so it is crucial to identify legacy systems that may need to remain on-premise. Certain elements may also be ‘quick win’ migrations, while others will take more time and investment. Importantly, it is essential for organisations to understand their risk appetite, potential skills gaps that may exist with a move into the cloud, the end user experience and how this will change, security challenges and more.

In addition, most businesses follow a multi-cloud strategy, which means that multiple vendors and applications are involved. While each cloud provider typically has native toolsets for data migration, when multiple clouds and therefore multiple toolsets are involved the complexity increases exponentially. In addition to planning, it is critical to use a single toolset that is scalable, flexible and supports automation, to mitigate potential risk.

Flexibility, scalability, automation

Aside from having a solid plan in place prior to any cloud migration, it is essential to always keep the data top of mind, and to use the right toolsets to ensure success. With multiple cloud-native toolsets, flexibility may be compromised and complexity will increase. Toolsets should also scale to meet the required workloads, and support automation as the best way of streamlining migrations and reducing the risk of human error.

Whatever toolset or platform is chosen, it should provide the flexibility not only to migrate to the chosen cloud platform, but also support moving between clouds including private and public cloud. To support a large-scale data migration from on-premise into the cloud, scalability becomes critical in supporting toolsets and technologies to ensure the fast and secure migration of applications, data and databases. Finally, speed comes from automation, so it is important to automate elements such as daily tasks, security protocols and so on, using enterprise-grade workflows and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to mitigate security risks.

It is also essential to bear in mind that compliance and data governance remain with the data originator. Cloud migrations present a good opportunity to examine compliance and make sure that data management policies are still aligned, and whether or not the data is even relevant to the business. Data management best practices remain, regardless of data platform. A trusted technology partner with a single toolset to enable organisations to store, protect and manage data across multiple cloud vendors, can support cloud migration success.