August 25, 2021

    A Practical Guide to Cloud Migration: Which Path is Right for You?

    For many organizations, the pandemic accelerated a trend that was already there: migrating to the Cloud.  

    The benefits are clear: cost efficiencies, scalability, security, remote accessibility and, ultimately, a digital transformation foundation. 

    In IDG’s Cloud Computing 2020 Study, 92 percent of organizations’ IT environment is somewhat in the Cloud; 8 percent reported their total IT environment remained on-premises. Cloud adoption has reached more than two-thirds of businesses in every industry in the survey, with higher adoption in education, manufacturing and healthcare than in financial services and government/nonprofit. 

    By 2024, more than 45 percent of IT spending will move from traditional solutions to the Cloud, according to IDG. 

    So, it’s not a question of if your business should migrate to the Cloud, but when and how. But it’s not as simple as just packing everything up and “moving to the Cloud.” There isn’t a cut-and-dried path for every company to follow. 

    What Does It Mean to ‘Move to the Cloud?’ 

    Cloud migration is the process of partially or entirely deploying an organization’s digital assets, services, IT resources, or applications to the Cloud for access through storage, software and platform services. That’s the simple explanation. 

    But what your path looks like depends on what workloads – such as ERP, CRM, file servers, infrastructure and email systems – you’re moving to the Cloud. And then there are different “flavors” of Cloud.  

    Think of it as a Cloud pyramid: Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is the base. The middle is Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Application or Software as a Service (SaaS) is the top of the pyramid. 

    Infrastructure as a Service delivers a full computing stack, including servers, storage, networking and operating software or instant computing infrastructure, provisioned and managed over the internet. For example, if you’re migrating your servers, storage and networking hardware to the Cloud, you’ll use IaaS.  

    Nothing changes in the user experience, as it involves taking a server and shifting it to the Cloud, known as “lift-and-shift.” The process can be fast and requires little planning when it comes to changes to any applications or architecture you’re using. The downside is you won’t reap the full benefit of moving to the Cloud.  

    Platform as a Service is a complete development and deployment environment in the Cloud, allowing you to deliver everything from simple Cloud-based apps to enterprise applications. PaaS supports building, testing, deploying, managing and updating applications in the Cloud. 

    In the context of ERP, a multi-tenant single SaaS-based ERP solution serves multiple organizations, but each company’s data is not accessible to others. When a vendor makes an upgrade or update, it’s done quickly and pushed to all Cloud ERP users simultaneously. With an on-premises ERP, upgrades or updates are done on an individual company basis, often at higher cost and disruption to everyday operations. 

    Nearly half of respondents in IDG’s survey reported plans to move to Cloud-hosted IaaS, while others plan a move to Cloud-hosted Platform as a Service; about a fifth are using on-premises PaaS. Both Software as a Service, considered the largest market segment, and PaaS are expected to grow significantly, driven by remote workers needing access to high-performing, content-rich and scalable infrastructure. 

    More specific Cloud flavors include: 

    • Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS): A secure backup for ERP and business applications, DRaaS is a complete system backup in the Cloud. It protects against the loss of mission-critical data and keeps businesses up and running in case of a disaster or other disruption. 
    • Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI): With VDI, remote workers can securely access their desktops, complete with applications and data, from any computer by simply logging in through one portal, as their desktops are hosted on a central server in the Cloud. The user experience is the same as if they were accessing their work from a computer at the office. 

    As you move up the pyramid to more niche offerings, lifting and shifting becomes more complex, especially if you want to take advantage of new Cloud functionality. That’s because moving your workload to the Cloud doesn't mean you're getting the most of what Cloud technology can offer. Generally speaking, refactoring, optimizing code and re-implementing applications ensures you get the performance, visibility and cost savings you’re expecting with a move to the Cloud. 

    Another form of Cloud migration involves leaving your ERP system on-premises but surrounding it with applications that live in the Cloud.  

    If it all sounds a little confusing, it can be. There are many ways you can tackle this puzzle for your business. With assessment and planning, the right path to the Cloud will become clear. 

    Cloud Migration Models: Paths to the Cloud 

    Figuring out what makes the most sense for your business can feel overwhelming. Consider compliance requirements, security needs, your business strategy and the capabilities of your mission-critical applications. And find the right partner to guide you through the process. 

    That will help you identify where your infrastructure and applications will live: Public, Private or Hybrid Cloud? And what about Multi-Cloud? How does that factor in? 

    Here’s a primer. 

    Public Cloud

    Public Cloud services are delivered over public internet and come with a pay-as-you-go plan for business customers. Users of public Clouds such as Microsoft Azure share resources, such as applications and storage, affecting service levels, compliance and other priorities.  

    With a public Cloud, the service provider manages the core infrastructure, software and other back-end architecture. The storage is inexpensive, reliable and flexible, which enables rapid scaling of your organization. And, despite the name, no other users can access your data. Gartner forecasts spending on public Cloud services to grow 18.4 percent in 2021. 

    Private or Virtual Private Cloud  

    Private Cloud architecture is built for and used by a single company. The system hardware could be physically on site or within a data center, or at a third-party location. A private Cloud (or virtual private Cloud) is an option for organizations that don’t want to share resources or have compliance or other requirements that dictate where they must store data, such as healthcare, aircraft maintenance and banking.  

    A private Cloud can also provide more predictable costs and performance. However, those costs are usually higher than a public Cloud option and require internal IT resources to manage the environment. 

    Hybrid Cloud

    A hybrid Cloud environment combines public and private Cloud models, integrating in-house IT infrastructure with Cloud-based solutions that may include vendors for networking, colocation, security and other dedicated services.  

    A significant benefit of using a hybrid Cloud is the flexibility to change or add services as your business needs change and the ability to provide different types of services to other areas of your business. Some companies use a hybrid Cloud when they have compliance or sensitive data issues and could benefit from the resource savings, efficiency gains and resiliency benefits of a public Cloud. 

    Organizations must consider whether they have the skill sets required to manage a hybrid Cloud environment, including processes and documentation. According to a Flexera study, 82 percent of organizations have already adopted hybrid Cloud strategies. 

    Hybrid Cloud vs. Multi-Cloud: What’s the Difference?

    A hybrid Cloud is a combination of private and public Clouds. Multi-Cloud solutions involve multiple public Cloud services from different providers. For example, application workloads hosted on one Cloud and enterprise databases on another. Companies usually do this to minimize dependence on any one provider. According to Gartner, multi-Cloud strategies will reduce vendor dependence for two-thirds of organizations through 2024. 

    The challenge to a multi-Cloud approach is a lack of portability between Clouds and the inability to take full advantage of any individual provider’s capabilities. Most respondents (79 percent) to the IDG survey said that there were “significant downsides” to a multi-Cloud model, including increased complexity, increased training and hiring costs and increased costs due to Cloud management and security challenges. IDG attributes some of these to working with Cloud systems that are not designed to interoperate. 

    That said, it’s hard to avoid a multi-Cloud situation at some level. If you’re using ADP for payroll, for example, a Cloud ERP system and a learning management system – within different public Clouds – you need a partner such as Enavate to ensure you have an infrastructure that supports your environment and integrates with solutions residing in other Clouds. You also need a partner that can build a plan to optimize each. Such a skillset is usually not found in-house. 

    A Phased Approach to Cloud Migration

    Don’t be in a rush. Hands down, the best approach to Cloud migration is to not do it all at once. Instead, build a phased approach to grow over time in the Cloud based on your ERP migration goals and business circumstances.  

    Often we put too many burdens on ourselves to meet a timeline. This urgency around getting everything in the Cloud is usually self-imposed. Realistically, a phased approach lifts that burden, delivering tangible benefits very quickly in the areas you need it most while minimizing business disruption. 

    Building that foundation now can also put you in a position to move quickly down the line. Here’s an example from one of our clients: 

    A 350-member law firm decided to move its mission-critical applications to the Cloud using an Infrastructure as a Service solution. We helped them migrate those applications. In 2020, when COVID-19 arrived, the firm (like many others) found itself needing to continue serving clients while working remotely. 

    The client asked if Enavate could help them take the next step in their Cloud journey. Because they had a foundation in place, we could plan and execute team member access within two weeks. We built a different environment within their existing Cloud platform so their people could work from wherever they were. 

    What’s Your Roadmap Look Like? 

    How can you determine what works best for you? Work with your Cloud migration partner to analyze: 

    • Prioritization – What workloads (servers, data, applications) should you move to the Cloud first, based on your business priorities? For example, many companies have already moved email into the Cloud. Migrating your ERP, however, is much more complicated, requiring more time and effort.  
    • Resources  Whether it’s cost, people or time, you need to know what it will take to move those assets to the Cloud. Most likely, your needs will be less with the Cloud than they would with an on-premises model. When assessing resources, consider skillsets, application knowledge, storage space, server requirements, bandwidth required to connect with customers and users, and partnerships with companies like Enavate that can provide expertise you may not have in-house. 
    • Limitations – Analyze whether it’s possible to move workload to the Cloud or whether it will be more difficult due to regulatory compliance requirements, legacy applications that weren’t architected for the Cloud, data security or organizational readiness. A hybrid approach to the Cloud may be the solution in some of these situations. For others, you may need to phase your migration to ensure success. 

    Enavate uses tools that analyze workloads to envision the Cloud journey. We also look at whether we need to move something to the Cloud. For example, a company may have purchased licensing for an application 10 years ago – and its usage has been minimal or non-existent because no one likes the application. Or the software is obsolete and was never taken offline. That happens a lot. We have tools that examine usage across your technology stack to help drive these decisions for the most efficient and effective process. 

    After a period of discovery, which includes a review of any customization built into your current system (and let’s be honest, there’s always customization), we identify the specific solution paths that are right for you and then carry out that process – phase by phase. 

    How long does a Cloud migration take? The short answer: It depends. Generally speaking, migrating enterprise applications such as ERP and CRM at a small or midsized company can take two to six months. For a larger enterprise, it could be a multi-year process, with execution taking months. User adoption, however, may take longer. 

    Enavate’s Cloud team focuses on migrations to provide a one-stop offering for any business, including development and application teams. Enavate’s Cloud experts take a “listen first” approach to evaluate where your business stands and to recommend a Cloud solution that best meets your business needs. 

    We assess your business and technology. We implement methodologies and leverage our experience to move your mission-critical business apps to the Cloud, with security and compliance in mind. And we offer platform and application management after migration to keep your technology operating smoothly. 

    Ready to migrate to the Cloud? Learn more about partnering with Enavate. Schedule a Discovery Session with one of our Cloud experts.  

    Tag(s): cloud

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