Migrating to the cloud should be considered as part of an overall business strategy and have a defined business objective addressed. One company might want to leverage cloud services to reduce operating costs and free up IT staff, another might need the ability to rapidly scale capacity, and yet another might need to speed application development.
Keeping the business objective in mind will serve you well as you make the move to the cloud. At each step along the way, you will need to evaluate a provider’s processes, procedures, and abilities to see if they fit your needs. Your choices must be based on how well a provider can support and meet your ultimate objective. With this in mind, there are seven steps to take to ensure success.
Every cloud effort must start by defining the business reason for evaluating and leveraging cloud services. Do you want to avoid large upfront (CAPEX) costs for a new project? Do you need a more agile environment to speed application test and development? Must you scale on demand to be poised to enter a new market? Specifying the business motivator for the move helps determine what capabilities and features you will need from a cloud provider.
Once you have decided to transition to the cloud, you need a roadmap to get there. Some applications might be ready for an easy migration. For instance, if you are already running an application in a highly virtualized environment, you might be able to simply move the virtual instances of those applications running on your servers to a cloud provider’s infrastructure. Other applications, such as custom code that is tied to a particular hardware platform, will require more effort. For those applications, you will need to develop a plan of action to get them to the cloud.
Next is the actual migration. As with any major IT undertaking, planning and testing are critical. You need to consider the impact on users. A web commerce site might have a very limited or no time window for disruption. With an internal application you might have the luxury of taking it out of service for a weekend, if users are given proper warning. Once the applications are ported over to a provider’s hardware, you will need to run tests to be sure everything is working and application performance criteria are met.
Over time, you will have the opportunity to fine-tune and optimize your cloud operations. For example, you might leverage a provider’s services that automate provisioning to improve the way you deploy your IT services.
Going hand-in-hand with optimization, you should look at the operational aspects of running your applications in the cloud. After all, cloud is a disruptive technology, and as such, requires new approaches to management and operations. Here, you should work with your provider to develop improved operations management capabilities.
Finally, clouds are not immune to outages. You must work with your provider to plan, execute, implement, and test Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery. These plans need to be documented, communicated and most importantly, tested at least once a year.
Taking these steps, your organization should be able to take advantage of the benefits a cloud approach offers, while helping meet the business goals of the organization.