Cloud-based software used to be in the realm of science fiction when floppy disks first hit the scene and the concept of portable storage was new. Today, the typical high school student in a one-to-one school district, meaning each student has their own device, has access to at least 15 gigabytes of private cloud storage. If that’s in the public education sector, the average person might believe that almost every business must be running all their software in a cloud environment. While this may not have been the case five years ago, 2018 was the year that cloud-based applications and cloud technology became a mainstream practice. In fact, according to Rightscale’s 2019 State of the Cloud Report, 94% of their respondents from the private and public sectors utilized cloud software in their work place. In addition, 84% identified themselves as using a multi-cloud strategy. In all fairness, while this data is leading one to believe that all businesses are fully operational in cloud computing, the reality of the matter is that Cloud Migration means different things to different people. For example, when relating it back to public education, teachers and students are using public cloud providers as a means of sharing workloads in a collaborative setting, but it’s a far stretch from fully making use of a cloud platform. When it comes to taking your business from the desktop to the cloud, there are numerous challenges and questions that need to be considered before making the cloud migration transition.
#1. What’s the point?
The first thing that comes to mind with cloud migration is the type of work that your organization does. For example, is work typically completed independently or by groups sharing a common workspace? If so, is it really necessary to have the files shared via cloud storage? This is a base level example and depending on the type of work your organization does, this enhanced collaboration and accessibility is likely beneficial. Nonetheless, taking the time to formulate a clear set of goals and the accompanying justification for the migration to cloud-based software will avoid employee frustration and questioning. Remember the old saying of “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” If you’re going to make a significant change to the way your organization works, it’s important to explain to all stakeholders exactly why this data center change is going to improve the organization and benefit the employees at an individual level.
#2. Do we have the hardware we need?
Once you’ve made the decision to move your services to the cloud, the hardware your employees utilize and your internet connection become even more critical. Before beginning the cloud migration process, it’s important to do some research and consult with your ISP (internet service provider) regarding how much data your company can share and move around through a single connection to a cloud server without experiencing challenges. If time is of the essence, it’s important to know that programs and files being accessed in the cloud will open and run as intended without excessive startup time.
#3. What do my employees already know?
It’s important to analyze what exactly your employees already know. Here are a few questions to consider:
- Has your IT department been accustomed to maintaining their own private servers?
- Do your employees have a habit of saving their files on their local storage?
- Are your employees aware of sensitive data risks when working with cloud solutions?
- Which employees might have the most background with cloud providers and workload migration?
By determining what your employees already know, you can quickly identify where skill gaps will emerge and hinder cloud migration and what in-house experience you can leverage going forward. In addition, consider bringing in cloud software consultants at the start of this process to ensure that all employees are learning it the right way, the first time.
#4. How will this change the way we do things?
This question ties it all together. As with any change, it’s crucial to know and understand how these changes will benefit your business. The driving force behind cloud-based software is the opportunity for optimization and efficiency. While at the onset it may require additional spending, training, and time, if your company is going to improve the way it functions than it’s worth the effort. Additionally, cloud computing and storage enables choice, flexibility, scalability and plan options that can adjust to changing business cycles and requirements.
Cloud migration is something that your company or business needs to plan out at a pace that works best for you. There’s nothing wrong with working with multiple cloud software vendors and looking for suggestions from each of them. However, as you consider migration strategies, here are some things to be mindful of:
Avoid “cookie-cutter” migration schemes
When working vendors, chances are they will have a “default” cloud migration plan for the “model” that your company or business fits into. LLC or sole proprietor? Why that’s cloud migration plan A! One hundred and fifty to three hundred employees on site? Why that’s cloud migration plan B! While from the cloud migration consulting firm’s perspective these plans make sense and aid in their day to day operations, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s ideal for you and your business. It’s wise to do some upfront planning prior to engaging an outside firm to help avoid being placed into “cookie cutter” migration schemas.
Be cognizant of ‘hidden’ upfront costs
If you’ve unfortunately found yourself in the midst of a “cookie cutter” migration scheme, chances are that your company is going to be moving every single file, program, and communication (even if it’s only internally) to the cloud. Depending on how much data your company has on site, this can quickly escalate the upfront costs and immediate expenses-often times so much that it will delay the realization of the expected benefits and savings the cloud can offer.
No Opt-Out Upgrades and A Need for Training(s)
Okay, so we’ve got every program and all associated data that we’ve ever used or collected moved to some form of cloud infrastructure. What’s that? You don’t support the legacy file type that my company has used for the past ten years…and the conversion process must be done by your technicians? That’s the rough part with moving to newer software in the cloud. Often legacy file types are no longer compatible, and conversions can be tricky. Maybe your company needs the capability to perform multivariate logistic regression, or maybe you’ve never heard of it. But if you go with a cookie cutter migration plan, then you might be paying for additional features your company doesn’t need. Lastly, with all this new and state of the art software, chances are that many of your employees will need additional training on the cloud platform your company has selected. Whether it’s an entire new user interface, or something as seemingly simple as the file naming conventions, training is often costly and time consuming.
When it comes to making the decision as to whether a cloud migration strategy is right for your organization, there are many factors to consider. Once you’ve answered these four questions discussed above, there are even more factors that come into play.
For example, cloud services are a broad and loosely defined concept. If your company publishes articles and blogs, then cloud migration would make a lot of sense and be incredibly practical. However, you may not need to invest in cloud-based computation software, but rather consider working with a cloud-based “office program.” This would reduce the overall costs for the migration process while still optimizing workflow.
Moreover, if your company is constantly analyzing massive amount of numerical and categorical data in order to inform marketing and sales techniques, then investing the effort and money needed to integrate cloud infrastructure (like computing and storage) would likely be advantageous. Cost effectiveness is another key aspect of this process; weighing the costs of keeping up locally maintained servers versus moving to the cloud is something that needs to be considered.
Overall, the idea is that while many major large corporations are migrating the cloud their legacy applications to the cloud, this doesn’t mean that it’s a no brainer. This move should not be made without careful analysis and thorough investigation.