[Column] Francis Wainaina: The 4 steps to a successful cloud migration

Migrating to the cloud can seem like a daunting task for businesses that are still at the start of their digital transformation journeys, but the costs of delaying this decision can be far greater than the initial challenges of cloud adoption. In a survey by World Wide Worx, 31% of Kenyan businesses reported spending between 51% and 75% of their IT budgets on cloud services in 2020, and 68% intend to increase their cloud spend in 2021. With so many businesses moving to the cloud, you can’t afford to be left behind.

The pandemic has doubtlessly accelerated this shift toward cloud environments, and more organisations are beginning to capitalise on the various innovations that cloud can offer. If your business is about to undertake this digital migration, there are a few steps you don’t want to miss.

Develop a clear cloud strategy

Cloud migration may seem like a journey of a thousand miles, but with a clear hybrid strategy, it can be made manageable with smaller, calculated steps. Developing a cloud strategy should always come first, and in a way that prioritises business objectives above implementing new technology for innovation’s sake.

Start by defining the purpose for migration by evaluating your requirements and use cases for cloud. Know your workload priorities: are you going to move in phases, starting with the least critical workloads? Or is a new technology or your competition making migration a matter of urgency? It’s important to know what your plan is, why you’re doing it, and how you’re going to get there.

Capturing baseline metrics for your on-premise IT infrastructure can help establish key performance indicators when planning for a successful migration. Measurements such as CPU and memory usage, disk performance, network latency, and load balancing can tell you how well your applications and services are running and establish success criteria for areas that need improvement. Also consider the maintenance costs, access speeds, and scalability of your on-premise applications: are legacy systems costing you more, for less versatility?

Identify the right applications and services

Some applications that are not cloud native might not use resources as efficiently in the cloud as they do on-premise. This makes it important to assess which applications, assets, and services you want to move. Certain applications might need minor adjustments while others need in-depth code changes to function optimally.

You also need to know which applications work better in public, private, or hybrid environments in terms of performance, functionality, or security requirements. Whether you need to share resources with other companies via a public cloud, use a private cloud to avoid public network overloads affecting crucial business processes, or use a hybrid cloud for a bit of both, there’s an environment for every business requirement.

Maintain data integrity and operational continuity

Before conducting a complete digital overhaul of your business, it is crucial to manage the risks of cloud migration and ensure operational continuity. Moving mission-critical processes and applications without downtime harming your business is certainly possible, especially with more ‘lift and shift’ platforms becoming available that replicate network environments. But this process still requires careful planning and analysis.

When valuable business data is being moved, the integrity of the information needs to remain intact, and there should always be a back-up system in place. There is also the matter of security standards and regulatory compliance to consider, as well as potential software licencing issues when extending on-premise proprietary software to the cloud. But businesses don’t need to navigate these challenges on their own; this is where service providers come into the picture.

Choose the right cloud provider

Once you know which applications and cloud environments can bring more value to your business, you can determine whether you need to take a single or multi-cloud approach to fulfil all of your essential requirements. Choosing a reliable cloud provider can make the cloud migration journey much simpler, which is why it is helpful to partner with someone that understands the unique requirements of your business, big or small, and allows your cloud infrastructure to scale and grow as your business does.

Many business owners are not aware of the fact that a cloud provider with proven experience can handle most of the complexities of cloud migration. Having managed cloud services allows for a more seamless transition toward digital innovation while businesses can focus on their core offerings.

Cloud services have certainly revolutionised the way we do business, offering various benefits such as cost-effective access to computing power, on-demand applications and services, remote collaboration, and greater network security. Cloud migration is not a journey that happens overnight, but it is ultimately essential for those who wish to thrive in today’s digital age.

Francis Wainaina is a Senior Product Manager at SEACOM East Africa.