Today, everyone seems to want their software in the cloud — a safe and trouble-free place where the sun shines brighter and applications run better. And while most of it is true, cloud migration doesn’t happen overnight. It takes careful planning and flawless execution.
Instead of quietly watching your software ascend to the cloud, you’ll need to actively participate in the process. And thanks to Acropolium’s expertise in cloud computing and software modernization, we created this article to serve as your guide.
In the past 12 years, we’ve helped 76 customers and partners complete over 90 successful cloud migrations. We did everything from consulting and auditing to building cloud-based solutions from scratch.
In this post, we’ll share our view on the reasons for moving to the cloud and provide you with a to-do checklist for a successful journey. And we’d like to open with a quote from our Founder Oleksii Glib:
“Growing amounts of data and the need to process it more efficiently are among the top drivers behind transitioning to the cloud. However, many business owners still prioritize software in the process of cloud migration. In reality, proper data optimization and management practices are just as important.
From our experience at Acropolium, the secret to a successful migration is twofold: first, treat your apps and data as equals; second, choose the right cloud services and set them up correctly, rather than opting for a simple “lift-and-shift” approach.”
But before we dig in, let’s make sure we’re on the same page and start by defining our main concept.
What is cloud migration?
Cloud migration is the process of moving your businesses’ digital assets to a cloud-based environment. Simply put, it’s transferring your workloads and resources from in-house servers to virtual machines hosted by a cloud provider. Think of it as diving into a pool of virtually unlimited computing power and storage, watched over by a custodian that never sleeps.
Cloud adoption is an incredibly popular route these days, and there are many good reasons to take it.
The benefits of moving software to the cloud
Migration to the cloud is a critical decision, and it should be informed by the advantages that affect your specific business needs.
It’s become a bit of a buzzword, but adding or removing resources as needed is a perk you can’t overestimate. With an on-premise solution, your IT team would need to contribute time and effort to scale your server’s capacity, and you’d still run into limitations.
Instead, imagine an endless net of remote servers your cloud provider can control at the push of a button, connecting or disconnecting them to meet your changing requirements. This may even happen automatically, without the need for human oversight. A nice feature to have when activity peaks alternate with off-season low points.
What if you need a presence in another region? Relying on your local servers would lead to delays — which today’s users, spoiled by ultra-fast broadband internet, wouldn’t appreciate. Major cloud providers like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft have server clusters all around the world, allowing you low-latency access to apps and data anywhere.
When you migrate to the cloud, you no longer own the infrastructure. Since there is no need to upgrade servers or run maintenance, you’ll be able to cut these costs. Also, you won’t have to worry about your expensive server hardware depreciating over time. Buying extra CPUs, memory, and storage probably wasn’t the best investment strategy for your core business anyway.
People create traffic. As user activity goes up and down, with the cloud model, you’re only paying for the resources you’ve used. Conversely, you’d have to sustain the maximum capacity of your in-house data center to account for peak loads at all times.
If you’re curious about specific cloud cost optimization strategies for the cloud model, take a moment to read our latest article on the topic.
Cloud providers regularly invest in the latest server tech to stay ahead in this highly competitive market. Top-of-the-line hardware, frequent optimizations, and abundant bandwidth ensure that you get the best performance and the fastest access money can buy. As we’ve mentioned earlier, server sites in different geographical zones are excellent for reducing latency, and cloud migration is the only way to achieve that.
Access to the latest technology
If you’re looking for a way to future-proof your business workflows, look no further. Modern cloud environments support native integration with AI (Artificial Intelligence) and big data tools you may soon need.
Having your apps perform blazingly fast is a major selling point, but what about the safety of your data? Storing files to a local repository was giving you a sense of security and control, but now you’ll be relying on a third party.
Not to worry.
Cloud vendors take security very seriously. They may even adhere to higher security standards and better practices than the ones your company had in place. Also, cloud architecture mandates having redundant servers, taking periodic snapshots, and making multiple backups of your apps and data.
Something to keep in mind: if you’re worried about data leaks, audit your software carefully before moving it to the cloud. Otherwise, any inherent vulnerabilities will be passed on to the virtual environment, and the vendor’s built-in security standards won’t protect you.
Once again, we’re talking about large market players with solutions for every industry and no shortage of legal manpower. What this means for you is that all possible compliance issues had already been ironed out — prior to releasing the vendors’ product.
These are the major benefits of moving software to the cloud. But in order to reap them, you’ll have to come up with a solid migration strategy. Let us explain.
What is a cloud migration strategy?
A cloud migration strategy defines the general approach and the particular steps needed to move your software and data to the cloud. Choosing the best strategy requires thoroughly assessing your current software and hardware situation, finding pain points, and formulating the objectives you intend to achieve.
The effects of a poor cloud migration strategy on your business can vary from not getting any performance improvement to suffering financial losses and reputational damage. For instance, if you move your applications to the cloud but keep the databases running on outdated tech, it will defeat the purpose of the migration.
It’s small details like this that can make all the difference when migrating legacy software to the cloud. We’ll get back to that later, and for now, let’s look at the most popular migration strategies.
3 Essential Cloud Migration Strategies
Various internet resources name up to seven migration strategies, but our experience suggests that the three types listed below cover more than 90% of all migration scenarios. So we’ll focus on those three and give a brief overview of the remaining subtypes at the end of the section.
Often referred to as “lift-and-shift,” this approach requires the least effort and funding out of the three. Your apps and databases are moved from on-premise to cloud servers with minimum changes — just enough to get them working in the new environment.
The rehosting strategy works well for companies that are only starting their cloud migration journey. It’s a great way to dip your toes in cloud computing without going too deep. However, you might not fully experience the benefits of the transition since neither your software nor your data are optimized for cloud services.
Pros of rehosting
- You get a quick and painless cloud migration. When you’re pressed for time but desperately need to transition your software to the cloud, rehosting is the answer.
- You don’t spend a fortune. Since there’ll be no changes to the code, you won’t need to invest in development and testing.
- You get basic cloud benefits. Enjoy better server uptime, robust backup protocols, and higher security standards than with an on-premise solution.
Cons of rehosting
- You mostly get a pro forma transition to the cloud. While rehosting can yield quick results, it’s not a comprehensive cloud migration. Your apps and databases still run in legacy mode, barely fulfilling the minimum compatibility requirements.
- Not so savvy in the long run. Yes, you’ve been able to save big on the transition at the moment, and your financial reports look great. Chances are, however, that you’ll be going deeper into cloud territory soon, which might require more rework and investment.
- It’s a short-term improvement. As the euphoria of the first few post-migration months subsides, you’ll start to notice how your system is getting bogged down again. Cloud services run on a different architecture, and your software hasn’t gone through such change.
This fancy word marks the middle ground in the cloud migration land. Many consider replatforming to have the ideal price/performance ratio since it allows an organization to enjoy many perks of the cloud at a reasonable cost.
Replatformed apps and data repositories do a better job of utilizing cloud services — due to the changes in their code or the way they’re used.
Example: instead of simply moving an app and its database to the cloud untouched, the database is set up as a service and then connected to the app. This results in better performance since the software now natively uses cloud architecture for transferring data.
Pros of replatforming
- Relatively easy and quick to implement. The changes needed for the migration are mostly minute, so the process won’t take long.
- Quite easy on the budget. With only limited involvement of IT professionals necessary, you can expect low implementation costs.
- A fast start in the cloud lane. Prepare for a speedy liftoff and a safe flight in the cloud services with minimum preparation and downtime.
Cons of replatforming
- The choice of cloud components is limited. To ensure compatibility and a reasonable project timeline, software engineers must use a defined range of cloud tools. This works well until you need specific functionality that is not covered by the available components.
- Often needs automation. There’s very little sense in cloud migration if you need to manually monitor every move afterward. After replatforming, there may be some loose ends that need to be tied up. That’s because the integration is not entirely native-level.
- It may turn into a never-ending story. Oftentimes, replatforming projects can go on for years, as new dependencies emerge and need to be incorporated into the cloud.
Migrating legacy software to the cloud can be a real challenge. More often than not, it was never intended for use in the cloud, so it needs to be redesigned internally. Refactoring offers just that: making significant structural changes to the code without altering its behavior. It goes without saying that software development expertise is a prerequisite for this approach.
It may take a little longer to migrate software to the cloud via refactoring, but the result is worth the wait. What you get is a fully functioning solution with no crutches to hold it upright. The software and data components are adapted to the cloud architecture and can take full advantage of the multitude of available services.
Pros of refactoring
- A solution that will stand the test of time. When you refactor your software in accordance with cloud specifications, you get a viable product and a long-lasting positive effect on your business.
- Full access to the benefits of the cloud ecosystem. Enjoy better performance, scalability, robust security, and connect new features at will. Your solution and the cloud now speak the same language.
Cons of refactoring
- Takes longer to implement than most strategies. The process of refactoring entails disassembling your existing solutions and putting them back together to meet the cloud requirements. It takes time to do this properly, and the development team may need several iterations to arrive at a stable product.
- It’s essentially a full-fledged software development project. You will need your internal IT team working at full capacity — or hire a dedicated team with relevant expertise.
For your convenience, we’ve summarized our findings into a table:
|Your apps and data are moved to the cloud practically unchanged
|Your apps and data go through some changes necessary to better utilize cloud architecture and services
|Your apps and data are picked apart, inspected, and recoded to function properly in the cloud environment
|Integration with the cloud architecture
|medium to high
|No changes to code required
Easy to migrate core services
Very low initial costs
No additional security or compliance audit needed
|Gives access to most of the native cloud functionality
Requires moderate software development skills
Can be scaled later
|Apps and databases will work natively in the cloud
Better performance and reliability
Easier to make further changes
Best cost efficiency in the long run
|You don’t get the full cloud experience and benefits
Optimization issues may arise
Apps may not function as intended
|May lead to extensive refactoring later
Requires automation to function efficiently
Does not use the full scope of cloud services
|Takes experience and time to implement
Requires a larger initial investment
May be affected by vendor lock-ins
Other approaches to moving software to the cloud
In certain instances, none of the three major strategies is a perfect fit. In that case, auxiliary approaches come to the rescue:
- Rebuilding. In some extreme cases, the original legacy software cannot be imported to the cloud as-is, replatformed, or refactored. That’s where a team of engineers steps in and builds a modern copy of the app from the ground up.
- Repurchasing. Sometimes it’s cheaper to migrate to another software solution altogether, one that is designed to work in the cloud, than trying to revive the old one.
- Retiring. This is a sub-strategy that can be part of any cloud migration approach. In essence, it boils down to dropping certain apps or functionality that is no longer relevant to prevent wasting resources.
- Retaining. A hybrid strategy, this one involves keeping some of your legacy software on-premise due to its specificity or inadequate costs of adapting it for the cloud.
- Cloud to cloud transfer. Another useful approach, cloud-to-cloud migration is a simple change of providers because some crucial features are missing or there are simply better options.
Google, Amazon, and Microsoft offer migration tools built into their solutions. Their features range from identifying potential issues and tracking progress to data migration tools and more. Some of them are included in the subscription, while using most will cost you extra.
Choosing the correct migration strategy is a complex decision influenced by multiple factors. However, it will be one of many steps you’ll take on your way to the cloud.
Key steps of a cloud migration
Let us start with a disclaimer: the list below is not a precise recipe for success. It’s more of a do-it-yourself guide, a byproduct of more than a decade of Acropolium’s work with cloud solutions. Our clients never have to take this journey on their own. We consult and guide them along the way, helping set the right goals and providing the best tools for achieving them.
So even if we don’t mention it expressly in each step, it’s implied that the company going through the migration is getting professional advice from an IT partner.
Define your objectives
What exactly are you looking to accomplish with the move to cloud computing? Are you following a trend, or can your business really benefit from the transition? If so, what are your priorities?
Do you need better performance and uptime, more secure data transfer protocols, or intend to use big data analysis in the future? The answers to these questions will influence your choices and justify your investment.
Remember: the best way to assess the efficiency of your migration is by setting quantifiable goals before it begins. Define critical metrics like latency, load times, conversion rates, etc., so you have a baseline to compare against later.
Choose and audit software you want to migrate
Not all software can benefit from being sent to the cloud. And some efforts may not be feasible for financial reasons.
Say you’re running a proprietary marketing automation system that has unique features and performs relatively well. It could be a good idea to let it be and turn to other, more pressing matters. Like a massive power-hungry CRM with a heavy database that is churning out thousands of queries per second.
Some businesses choose to start slow, first migrating software that has a low impact on their workflow. This is a good game plan to get the hang of the process and a taste of the result. However, this scenario is unlikely to play out well for a larger enterprise, where cloud migration must tackle issues head-on. Under professional supervision, of course.
Don’t forget about data
Healthy practices of moving data to the cloud are just as important as reformatting your apps. What good is a cloud-based solution if it still manages data internally instead of relying on advanced cloud data services?
Decide on the level of integration and choose a strategy
The selection of your cloud migration strategy starts here. Whether you want shallow or deep integration with the cloud environment, make sure you’re playing the long game. You don’t want to go through a complete makeover a few years from now.
Select a cloud environment
You have three cloud deployment models to choose from:
- Public. A third-party vendor owns this type of public cloud ecosystem. Its services are available to anyone willing to pay the subscription fees. Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform are the three largest players in the public cloud arena.
- Private. A cloud is owned by an organization and is not accessible to the wide public. It’s a standard choice for banks and government entities due to security concerns and customization possibilities. Oracle, IBM, and Dell provide such cloud services, and the three public giants have also tapped into this domain with their custom offers.
- Hybrid or multi-cloud. A combination of the two options listed above, this alternative model adds extra privacy and security to the benefits of public cloud solutions.
Head over to this blog post for a detailed comparison of the leading cloud platforms — Amazon AWS, Google Cloud Platform, and Microsoft Azure.
Allocate funds and other resources
When business owners and C-levels are onboard with the migration, it’s time to prepare for it financially. Planning the budget and securing funds in advance will ensure a smooth and hassle-free transition.
While migrating software products to the cloud takes the load off your local infrastructure, you’ll likely need a better connection to accommodate the increase in traffic. Make sure to get the requirements ahead, so you have ample time to upgrade your network equipment and/or make arrangements with your internet provider.
Begin your cloud migration
Replicate your data, migrate your applications, set up the necessary cloud services, and run the software in the new environment. Don’t be surprised if the first couple of attempts result in failure. But don’t finalize the migration until you’ve completed the next step.
Follow up with testing and monitoring
You can only call your cloud migration a success when you’ve tested the software for stability and achieved the desired performance. Measure against your baseline KPIs, identify possible bottlenecks, and plan corrective actions.
Pull the plug
Congratulations! You now have a stable cloud-based system that’s hit all the marks you’ve planned. So it’s time to stop using your old servers and redirect traffic to your new cloud solution.
And last but not least, a short overview of the typical pitfalls you may encounter on the road to the cloud.
Cloud migration challenges and how to avoid them
Building a holistic cloud migration strategy is impossible without accounting for possible failures.
12 years of experience at Acropolium have taught us that hiccups are inescapable.
Planning for worst-case scenarios in advance has helped us avoid major disruptions and confidently deal with minor ones. Here are some of the main cloud migration challenges we’ve come across so far:
- Legacy software. Some apps are just too stubborn to be moved to the cloud. Written in prehistoric code, sluggish and generally obsolete, such software isn’t worth the effort needed to refactor or rebuild it. The best option here is to finally switch to a modern solution that’s more compatible with cloud services.
- Dependencies and compatibility. Today’s applications have multiple dependencies that need to be mapped onto the cloud services during migration. When this isn’t done correctly, lags or even crashes may occur. The answer? Hiring the right talent to do the job.
- Data losses or leaks. One of the worst fears for any business, these things still happen in a tiny percentage of cases. The only way to prevent such incidents is by adopting healthy data management practices. Using a VPN and data encryption during the initial transfer to the cloud is a good place to start.
- Team’s lack of expertise. It’s not uncommon for in-house IT talent to lack the skills needed for a task as complex as cloud migration. After all, it probably wasn’t on the requirements list when you employed them. Hiring an outside consultant or bringing in a dedicated team of engineers can be the way out.
With a solid background in cloud solutions, Acropolium is ready to handle projects of any complexity. Feel free to browse through some real-life cases from our extensive portfolio:
- Enterprise Construction Management Software Development & Scaling
- Bespoke Emergency Helper Software Development
- Enterprise Email Migration Software Development
Partnering with Amazon AWS since 2009, working with Microsoft Azure since 2011, and deploying DigitalOcean since 2013 has given us a deep understanding and vast knowledge of cloud technologies. We’re ready to apply our competence, helping you achieve your goals within tight timelines.
Get in touch today, and let’s start migrating your business to the cloud tomorrow.