Cloud Migration: 6 Critical Success Factors


The lowdown

For scaling up your capacity, your business intelligence capabilities - and ultimately, your ability to compete, the cloud promises a lot. But it’s important to remember that a successful migration to the cloud doesn’t come about automatically. Clear objectives, planning, prioritisation, expert input to fill skills gaps: these are all essential.  

Drawing on the expertise of the MHR Analytics Cloud Migration & Optimisation team, here’s a closer look at what organisations need for a successful cloud migration outcome.

1. Can you define what ‘success’ means?

In a recent survey of 350 companies, 74% had migrated at least one asset into the cloud, only to later move it back into their own infrastructure. When asked to give a reason for the U-turn, ‘performance’ was cited by just over half of respondents.

The cloud can fail to meet expectations for various reasons. Common culprits include poor choice of cloud service, inappropriate storage tiers or sub-optimal configuration. 

“So why wasn’t our migration a success?” Part of the problem is often a failure to define what ‘success’ actually looks like. 

You need to articulate your objectives from the project outset. Only then can you define the performance levels you require - and what cloud solutions you should adopt in order to achieve them. 

Although each organisation’s topline migration objectives are unique, some of the ones we see most often include the following: 

  • To futureproof your data storage and processing capacity, taking into account increased volume and a growing list of data categories 

  • To support wider transformation initiatives, including business intelligence (BI), advanced analytics and big data projects

  • To boost productivity by giving users (including remote workers) seamless access to business data and applications 

  • To reduce your current burden in managing and maintaining legacy infrastructure 

  • To reduce your spend

Once you have clarified your desired outcomes, these should be used as reference points for decision making. This applies all aspects of migration, from budgeting and project phasing through to your choice of data storage formats.

2. Are your data migration and data analytics teams speaking to each other?

Cloud migration is a significant undertaking: one that demands time, planning and expert input. Precisely because of this, there’s a temptation to treat it as a standalone project, firmly in the hands of IT. 

But think of it this way: once your data is in the cloud, what exactly do you plan on doing with it? 

Increasingly, businesses need the ability to capture, house and process and then analyse data at speed to support faster decision making. All of this has a direct bearing on your choice of cloud hosting service, as well as your network and bandwidth requirements.  

For decision making, ensure there is close collaboration between your data management and cloud migration teams. This ensures that you are not just shifting the location of your data; you are creating the type of environment that supports and enhances the data initiatives in play within the organisation.

3. Do you understand your data?

When you relocate your physical premises, it’s a good opportunity to take stock; to offload redundant plant & machinery, and repair or upgrade where necessary. The same principle applies to your digital assets and infrastructure when relocating to the cloud. 

A discovery assessment involves identifying all the applications and databases in play across your business, and categorising each item’s function. From this, you can determine what assets need to be moved - and what do not. 

Drilling down further, you should also perform a detailed assessment of the data you are proposing to migrate. This assessment includes the following: 

  • Removal or archiving of redundant data 

  • Addressing deficiencies in incomplete data 

  • Removal of duplicates 

  • Configuring appropriate access controls 

These discovery and cleansing exercises help ensure that you only migrate assets that are of business value. This approach also proves scope to streamline your IT architecture overall, removing redundant items, and often reducing your spend. 

4. Do you have a plan?

The specifics of your migration plan will be unique to your business. However, a comprehensive plan should cover the following fundamentals: 

  • It defines what data is going to be moved. 

  • It includes a pre-migration data verification process; i.e. checking to ensure the data is accessible, available, complete and in the correct format.

  • It sets out where the data will be going. Typically, your target cloud environment will consist of multiple data marts, configured for different data categories and usage needs. You need to be clear on what’s going where. 

  • It gives a clear timetable. Project phasing is essential for minimising business disruption. Your plan should set out each step, take into account who will be impacted, what will be done to ensure continuity and how your data will be protected.

5. Post-migration, can you monitor and improve performance?

Once you have moved to your new environment, monitoring and optimisation are both crucial for ensuring the success of the project.

One of the cloud’s biggest plus points is its scalability: you only pay for the capacity you use. That said, if usage rates turn out to be much higher than originally anticipated, there’s the possibility of budget overrun. This is why it’s worth making use of the budget monitoring services provided by all major cloud service providers. These allow you to set up alerts based on costs, infrastructure usage (or both). 

A high level of configurability is another big bonus. Especially at the beginning, it may be that your set-up can be tweaked or ancillary cloud services can be put to work to make your environment even better.

6. Do you have the right expertise on board?  

In theory, the end goal from migration is quite simple: you want to create an environment that supports your wider data initiatives, that’s easy to manage, without usage costs spiralling out of control. 

But getting there demands expertise. It requires familiarity with the various risks that can arise with migration, and how to counter them. It also demands detailed knowledge of your organisation’s objectives to help you make the right choice of solution and configuration. 

MHR Analytics is uniquely placed to help ‘join the dots’ between data migration and better business decision making. This is because our highly experienced migration consultancy runs alongside unrivalled expertise in business intelligence, data analytics, reporting and planning. 

More often than not, the starting point is our Data Architecture Review, a guided session led by our industry experts that starts with where you are now and explores your cloud aspirations. To maximise the likelihood of a seamless successful migration, speak to us today.  

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