Migration to the Cloud: Frequent Challenges & Risks to Avoid

September 1, 2022
14 min

Migration to the cloud is a thorny yet beneficial process of transferring an organization’s applications, digital assets, services, databases, and IT resources to the cloud. This term encompasses both on-premises to cloud-based platform shifts or cloud-to-cloud migration, either partial or entire. Netflix, Instagram, Apple, Etsy, and Pinterest are among the market-leading vendors that have leveraged cloud migration to mitigate the underperforming data center risks and facilitate scalability growth.

However, most enthusiasts who take on migration to the cloud sooner or later face obvious and not-so-obvious challenges that slow down the go-to-market period, boost data migration costs and even block efficient data revamping. If this resonates with your business or technical needs, this post will help you figure out:

  • Why Migrate to the Cloud: 4 Tried and Tested Business-Related Benefits
  • Cloud Migration Strategies to Reduce the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)
  • Common Cloud Migration Challenges that Pose Risks
  • Ascendix Migration to the Cloud Best Practices: How We Approach Challenges.

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Why Migrate to the Cloud: 4 Business-Related Benefits

1. Boost security with vendor-based encryption protocols

9 in 10 small-to-medium-sized (SMB) companies value increased security as the top benefit of cloud computing (Microsoft Research). Cloud service providers (CSP) continuously evolve encryption and data authorization protocols to facilitate a vulnerability-free experience for customers. In contrast to traditional on-premises hosting, the location-divided server hosting approach enables CSPs to reduce data leakage risks and provide companies with security analytics, on-the-go automated software updates, and cross-enterprise data visibility.

Besides common security issues, cloud computing helps vendors address compliance requirements, including ISO27001, PCI-DSS, AICPA/SOC, and HIPAA. Over 90% of enterprises claim that cloud-based solutions helped them meet government compliance requirements way easier and cost-efficiently compared to hardware-centric approaches (Microsoft Research).

 

2. Achieve limitless and flexible pay-as-you-go scalability

A traditional hardware-powered approach provides way fewer scalability opportunities than cloud computing. On-premises hosting means purchasing and deploying additional servers, while cloud-based service vendors provide on-demand scaling capabilities through the pay-as-you-go model. The latter means you no longer need to spend tons of time and funds on hardware revamping once you need to scale up or down the data storage. Built-in vertical (more CPUs/ RAM, input/output resources), horizontal (more servers), and diagonal (both vertical and horizontal) scaling features facilitate the automated and lightning-fast infrastructure upgrades, including RAM, processing power, performance, etc.

So, on-the-go scalability opportunities of cloud computing fully outperform a traditional hardware-based model by facilitating a faster go-to-market period, higher operational agility, and cost-efficient pay-as-you-go licensing.

 

3. Optimize budgeting and cut down operating costs

8 in 10 SMBs claimed that cloud computing helped them reduce operational expenses, while 7 in 10 small-to-medium-sized businesses reported reinvesting the allocated funds into their cloud-based infrastructure growth (Microsoft Research). More than that, 101 out of 166 surveyed IT leaders and decision-makers turned to cloud-based infrastructure to avoid spending fortunes on hardware maintenance and pricey continuous on-premises upgrades (Datometry). According to VMWare, both SMBs and large-scale enterprises can save up to 45% on average of IT operating costs by migrating in-house data centers to public cloud-enabled providers.

The above-mentioned numbers and facts show that migration to the cloud is about optimizing IT operational costs, compared to maintaining on-premises infrastructures. The core cost optimization drivers include:

Most public CSPs offer web servers with security, maintenance, software update, and stack configuration perks within a single service plan

Cloud-based service providers mostly offer a pay-as-you-go licensing model, which reduces extra maintenance, upkeep, power, cooling, and IT staffing costs per server.

So, the on-demand licensing model of cloud computing enables brands to cut down both upfront investment costs and capital budgets by reducing the IT resource management and maintenance effort. ZDNet reported that industry-leading Chief Information Officers (COO) are progressively turning to cloud-based computing and leveraging CSPs services to skyrocket flexibility and minimize capital budgets.

 

4. Real-time, barrier-free access to business-related assets

With the migration to the cloud, companies no longer need to maintain and ensure stable hardware machine connections as CSPs offer an all-in-one cloud-based ecosystem in a device-agnostic way.

First, this streamlines the workload performance and enables employees to access critical data in real-time without any delays and potential connectivity risks. Second, the smart disaster recovery algorithms also help companies ensure high data access stability and avoid error-prone scenarios. It becomes possible through adopting backup and logging capabilities that automatically monitor data in real-time and frequently create recovery points. So, natural disasters and power outages are no longer critical issues for any company.

So, cloud migration is about eliminating any human-related errors by adopting automatic system backups. Most industry-leading CSPs like Amazon and Azure provide automated backups as a built-in product feature – a must-have for enterprises of any scale that are conscientious about ensuring the stability of their cloud-based ecosystems. The above-mentioned perks of cloud migration also enable your enterprise to collaborate way more effectively and streamline the remote work pipelines. Ongoing Internet connectivity facilitates real-time accessing, sharing, and editing of all business-related documents.

4 Cloud Migration Strategies to Reduce the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)

Lift-and-Shift or Rehosting

The lift-and-shift or rehosting is among the most easy-to-adopt cloud migration strategies. It’s about transferring a direct copy of the existing infrastructure to the cloud-based environment. Rehosting is a right-fit option for small-to-medium-sized companies that currently evolve easy-to-manage workloads and are probing to streamline their long-term objectives regarding the needed scalability level and services. Also, a lift-and-shift approach is highly suitable for enterprises that strongly depend on virtual machines.

The strategy has proved to be fast –to execute and easy –to deploy as it technically requires minimal application modifications. It becomes possible since Infrastructure-as-a-structure (IaaS) providers like Azure Virtual Machine (AVM) or Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (AWS EC2) provide similar server-to-server environments.

Businesses should keep abreast of potential compliance and security pitfalls even within an intuitive lift-and-shift project. The matter is that transferring sensitive data to an unfamiliar cloud-based environment may lead to information privacy and protection risks that are hard to mitigate and predict for a non-well-equipped organization. Also, the ‘lift-and-shift’ method doesn’t enable the company to leverage the feature-full benefits of cloud environments since legacy apps are not scalable and don’t evolve distributed workloads.

More than that, an insufficient latency and performance level is another significant drawback of rehosting as hardware-centric applications aren’t well-optimized to suit the cloud environment.

 

Strategy benefits: The fastest approach to execute and deploy

Strategy pitfalls: Low latency and performance, flexibility challenges, security and compliance issues

 

Move-and-improve or Replatforming

Replatforming is the second-stage cloud migration strategy which comes as an intermediate method between a simple rehosting and a way more complex refactoring. The move-and-improve approach is based on minimal application changes to get the infrastructure prepared for the on-premises-to-cloud transition without altering the app’s architecture. Simply put, replatforming is a ‘lift-tinker-shift’ method designed to help brands leverage the benefits of a cloud-native environment with minimal time and complexity.

There are 2 possible formats of replatforming: modular and traditional. The traditional ‘move-and-improve’ strategy requires conducting ‘rip-and-replace’ operations which oftentimes tend to be time-, cost-consuming, and even risky for a company.

In turn, a modular approach is a from-the-top-down strategy that enables organizations to minimize both risks and complexities of the cloud migration pipeline. It utilizes the strangler pattern to transform your monolithic application into a modern cloud-based solution. For example, your current CRM is the core performance pitfall. The modular approach allows for upgrading the customer relationship management platform along with leaving other app-related modules pristine. Over time, you can follow the step-by-step method to update each application’s block gradually.

 

Drop-and-shop or Repurchasing

Repurchasing is the cloud migration strategy that implies adopting commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) products within third-party providers. It may include purchasing a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) product or utilizing AWS Marketplace as an example. In simple terms, the ‘drop-and-shop’ approach means replacing your existing legacy application with a SaaS-based solution with similar capabilities.

Repurchasing is a right-fit migration strategy when utilizing a proprietary data-based platform or product that are not designed to run within cloud-based environments.

 

Strategy benefits: Simplified procurement, reduced in-house required skills, high migration speed

Strategy pitfalls: Data sovereignty, system access, and control risks, a potential lack of integrations and dependencies, and lack of highly customizable functionality.

 

Refactoring or Rearchitecting

The refactoring cloud migration strategy is based on re-imagining the way your application is developed and architected, leveraging cloud-native functionalities. The rearchitecting method may include modifying each aspect of the ready-to-migrate workload from an architectural style to data representation and observability. In turn, refactoring may lead to redesigning a huge code fraction which oftentimes results in high migration costs but may also become the most efficient and beneficial solution for:

  • Monolithic-to-serverless architecture migration
  • Business continuity enhancement
  • Others.

 

So, the refactoring strategy is a right-fit option when you have high business needs, e.g. to design new functionality, skyrocket current infrastructure performance, scale operations, which is hard to implement within a current app’s environment.

 

Strategy benefits: Long-term budget optimization, simplified operations, enhanced resilience

Strategy pitfalls: a third-party vendor lock-in (an inability to easily switch from one vendor to another), lack of highly-experienced IT staff.

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5 Frequent Cloud Migration Challenges that Pose Risks

 

1. Lack of a well-defined cloud migration plan and a knowledgeable approach to costs and timelines

Based on our client-related experience, companies oftentimes don’t clearly realize how time and budget costs should align with the on-premises-to-cloud data migration results. Brands assume that most cloud migration-centric activities are straightforward lift-and-shift procedures that would lead to immediate business outcomes like decreased infrastructure management effort and maintenance costs.

Real-life scenarios may become an opposite experience: a lack of clear cloud migration plans often results in a way more cost-consuming infrastructure with potentially unpredictable behavior in contrast to on-premises systems. Runtime errors, non-stable performance, and downtimes are possible pitfalls that a non-well-defined migration strategy may bring to the table.

So, a knowledgeable approach to cloud migration is often key to the results-driven success your business needs.

 

2. Vendor lock-in and the complexity of choosing a partner

Before planning to migrate to the cloud, companies should get a clear understanding of a chosen cloud service provider (CSP). Frequently, a scenario arises when brands refuse to opt for a single vendor and cooperate with several at once instead, hoping to switch between them if needed. For example, companies may shift from one CSP to another when a specific service vendor increases platform licensing fees trying to avoid vendor lock-in scenarios, which limit flexibility and minimize scalability opportunities.

At first sight, the decision looks reasonable and even beneficial, but real-life experiences often prove otherwise.

Cost-related vendor-to-vendor shifting is a rare or never-happening scenario. Market-leading cloud-based service providers are competing to acquire new clients and retain existing customers, so the pricing strategy remains nearly the same among all vendors. More than that, customer retention has become among the core priorities for industry-leading CSP players, so they’re actively providing client-focused discounts on an ongoing basis to extend long-term partnerships. This way, cost-related vendor swaps rarely happen as the chances of getting a more cost-efficient solution are close to zero.

However, this doesn’t actually mean that vendors follow exactly the same pricing models, as each CSP includes different SLA, capabilities, functionalities, and flexibility opportunities within their offerings. This means you shouldn’t consider pricing as the core factor which drives vendor selection. Instead, try to analyze your current business-related demands and validate market-leading CSPs’ offers to figure out the most demand-oriented solution that meets your business needs best.

All in all, creating a cloud-agnostic infrastructure is potentially a self-limiting solution since you won’t be able to leverage tailor-made provider-specific offerings, which in fact may skyrocket maintainability and cost optimization.

 

3. No cloud infrastructure management experience

On-premises and cloud infrastructure management approach greatly differ as most market-leading CSP vendors provide automated administration pipelines. For instance, cloud-based providers offer an intuitive way to increase or decrease current computing resources upon request, while on-premises architectures mean you can only leverage existing hardware and installed servers without dynamic management capabilities.

So, on-the-site infrastructure is not about resource utilization and optimization as you cannot avoid idle time costs. In contrast, cloud-based service vendors enable companies to access real-time system analytics, including computational resource consumption and management, which converts inefficient idle times into increased costs. That’s why getting knowledgeable on cloud infrastructure management is key to efficient budget optimization and lower infrastructure costs.

 

4. No spending limit management

Cloud providers primarily provide unlimited computational resources to each tenant along with powerful managed services at extra costs. They may cost you a fortune as unlimited resource consumption and non-configured infrastructure often lead to a sky-high bill that may exceed the entire infrastructure management budget.

To avoid these scenarios, always keep abreast of real-time resource consumption by leveraging built-in analytics capabilities and setting up spending limits with automated monitoring and rules. In case your current workload exceeds the limit, the cloud-based vendor will automatically notify your organization even though the provider cannot charge more than an identified amount equal to the limit you set.

 

5. Data Security & Compliance

Security and compliance-related concerns are among the core cloud migration challenges for 5 in 10 organizations that turned to upgrade their legacy systems (SANS Report). It’s reasonable as it seems highly risky to transfer business-oriented sensitive data to third-party providers even though they offer cloud-based secured environments. For example, migration-based data leakage may result in service disruption since there could be poorly-managed control capabilities and vulnerable infrastructure-based applications.

In fact, the real-life security-related concerns of on-premises-to-cloud migration are exaggerated as most market-leading cloud-based service providers offer avant-garde encryption protocols and security systems to facilitate a holistic environment. Your data is transferred through handpicked routable paths, and vendors guarantee firewall security throughout all stages. In simple terms, the migrated data is hidden and set to non-accessible for third-party providers during the migration process.

At Ascendix, we additionally recommend organizations to ask the next questions to ensure that your sensitive business-centric data are secured:

  • What is data storage, and what parties can access it?
  • Do you enable peer-to-peer data encryption?
  • What stages of from-the-cloud data migration do you handle?
  • What security policies and protocols do you offer?
  • Are they fully compliant with the common security regulations (ISO 27001, HIPAA, PCI-DSS, etc.)?

Ascendix Migration to the Cloud Best Practices: How We Solve Challenges

Analysis-based approach: identify requirements first

We always prepare for the cloud migration process by analyzing clients’ non-functional requirements, constraints, and business-centric goals. It’s a must-have stage to design a well-defined migration plan, develop a demand-focused strategy for choosing a right-fit cloud-based service provider and data migration tech stack, and estimate the amount of time and effort needed to reach both mid- and long-term goals.

At Ascendix, we conduct a series of project discovery sessions to elicit all organization-based details that may directly affect our approach to the cloud migration pipeline. This helps us align our technology-driven vision with the client’s business objectives and minimize or mitigate the chances of having extra migration-based issues and increased costs to ensure a long-term perspective workflow.

This means you should carefully analyze your current enterprise-level business intents to have well-defined input data for choosing the right cloud service provider and tech stack and getting a laser-like estimate of a cloud migration initiative.

 

Define a clear cloud migration plan

Once you’re all set with the preparatory work identifying your organization-specific business objectives, it’s high time to define a step-by-step cloud migration plan. Based on our technical background includes:

  • Application-based technical assessment. At this stage, a technology provider or your in-house IT staff should carefully analyze the current app’s architecture to figure out the upcoming core alternations to ensure that the cloud-based infrastructure will meet your non-functional requirements upfront.
  • Cloud deployment approach development and choice of a vendor. This step is essential as a cloud-based deployment approach may significantly impact the total cost of ownership (TCO) and organization-specific scalability and flexibility opportunities. The deployment strategy includes multiple factors, from basic characteristics (broad network access, rapid elasticity, on-demand self-service, resource pooling), service models (SaaS, PaaS, or IaaS), to deployment models (public, community, private, or hybrid).
  • Infrastructure-related application hosting costs evaluation. This stage is essential to calculate your future infrastructure costs upfront for both normal operations and peak modes since the computational resources are different for each process. So, hosting cost calculation is a right-fit moment to define your future capital budgets and avoid extra expenditures.
  • Developing a checklist of migration action steps.

 

Cloud-based app scaling strategy development

Building a scaling strategy is also a must-have stage to embed the right application scalability level, anticipate a further growing number of users, and define the right infrastructure-based performance to handle the required operations error-free. Mostly, it includes a digital product’s technical assessment, building a plan of enhancements, setting up a provider-side automatic scaling, etc. These activities enable your organization to efficiently increase or decrease computational resource usage based on actual or expected performance requirements.

 

Setting up monitoring and alerting system

Monitoring and alerting systems are essential to ensure error-free and quickly-responding cloud migration by identifying potential runtime challenges. The core components to track with a monitoring system should include:

Incoming application traffic. Monitoring the app’s traffic is a must-have procedure to validate designed configurations and the entire product’s availability. Incoming requests should directly address the new server holding the error rate at a low level. More than that, keep abreast of response times since they should not exceed the defined thresholds.

Capital budgets and costs. 68% of organizations leverage migrating to the cloud for optimizing infrastructure management and maintenance costs (RightScale). This makes monitoring your budget a must-have activity. More than that, tracking costs enables companies to analyze the post-migration performance that may hinder and lead to potential financial losses. Tailor-made solutions or third-party vendor’s cloud-based tools like AWS Billing can be natively integrated within your infrastructure pipeline for automated cost monitoring and transforming raw data into visually appealing and customizable dashboards.

Real-time application security. 94% of enterprises value security upgrades as the most crucial benefit of cloud migration (Microsoft). Monitoring vulnerability issues during and after the data transferring process is principal to ensure your sensitive business-related data is encrypted. The core components to track include infrastructure configurations, incoming traffic, open host ports, and instance operations that communicate with multiple third-party services. More than that, keep abreast of API hits per second that may help you detect distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.

Additionally, set up an alerting system that notifies your IT staff on emerging technical issues and potential vulnerabilities or leverage built-in third-party tools enabled by a cloud service provider.

 

Advanced cloud offering enablement: cut down infrastructure and maintenance costs

The above-mentioned solutions to the most common cloud migration challenges include specific best practices for reducing the total cost of ownership (TCO) and minimizing general budgets. However, leveraging management services and advanced provider-based hosting options are additional methods to reduce infrastructure and maintenance costs.

It may seem that these options only increase the total budgets, but the real-life scenarios prove that choosing advanced hosting methods like Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) or serverless models enables companies to reduce configuration, deployment, and ongoing application maintenance costs. Even though development-related initiatives make the cloud migration process way more expensive, the final cloud-based solution will mostly be way less pricey even.

 

Recovery procedure development: always predict risks & failures

Cloud migration may become a common error-prone procedure since it includes multi-component changing, and each module may fail due to multiple reasons. In turn, this may lead to unexpected application behavior resulting in unstable operations or even downtimes. So, here comes a recovery procedure that is designed to handle any emerging issue and restore the infrastructure settings to the previous recovery points or even cloud-to-on-premises migration.

More than that, most industry-leading cloud service providers enable companies to leverage a disaster recovery (DR) feature with built-in system capability. It facilitates high data availability, continuous flow, and advanced failover solutions. Also, market-leading CSP vendors provide the best-in-class business continuity which handles both application data tiers: 1) data blocks you access frequently, and 2) those you leverage way more rarely.

Market-Leading Brands like JLL Trust Cloud Migration to Ascendix

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Wrapping Up

Migration to the cloud is a beneficial yet challenge-full process that requires pre-migration preparation procedures to ensure error-free, secure, and cost-effective data transfer. Follow the above-mentioned tips and solutions to avoid error-prone scenarios and anticipate potential financial and technical risks.

If you’re about to migrate your legacy system to the cloud and are currently looking for a reliable technology provider, Ascendix is here to help. Our certified-only and senior-level software developers and DevOps engineers will facilitate your on-premises-to-cloud migration embedding a scalable and cost-effective solution architecture. Just drop us a line, and we’ll send an estimate.

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