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AWS Migration Best Practices: 6 Tips for Migrating Data Centers and Applications

Cloud computing has become a fact of life for many organizations: providing a scalable, flexible platform that supports organizational agility, automation and analytics, providing a competitive advantage in a demanding, complicated marketplace.

However, migrating a data center to the cloud is an enormous project, and one that will likely be completed only a few times in a technical career. In fact, migration itself is one of the barriers to entry for companies considering cloud adoption.

In a recent survey1, 68% of businesses said that the migration process poses a challenge to their organization’s plans to adopt cloud technology. While another survey2 found 96% of respondents were moving applications to the cloud, 62% said that the migration was harder than expected or that it failed completely, with 55% exceeding their budget.

Cloud migrations are high-visibility, high-stakes projects, with consequences that can affect processes and performance throughout an organization. The success or failure of a migration may influence perceptions of the technology team’s competence for years to come. With this in mind, there are some steps that can be taken to help ensure the success of a data center migration, including:

1. Due diligence

Before a migration strategy is even discussed, a company must perform due diligence: completing a full discovery phase and evaluating the business needs, as well as outlining in detail the interrelationships between data, applications, and processes that will be affected by the move to the cloud. As migration is only a step in a larger process, due diligence is also the time to prepare for post-migration, upskilling or hiring experienced technical staff, or retaining a managed services provider.

2. Strategy

There are several approaches to cloud migration; the choice of strategy will be motivated by the needs of the specific organization. For example, a large-scale migration of legacy systems that must be completed quickly will likely use a rehost (lift-and-shift) strategy, where applications are moved to the cloud and re-architected after. Applications that must be changed to a newer version of software or entirely different product will require a repurchase (drop-and-shop) strategy. But if the move to the cloud is driven by the need to add features or performance capabilities that are not possible in the existing environment, the company may consider a refactor / re-architect strategy; where an application is rewritten or restructured prior to migration to take full advantage of the cloud environment.

As different strategies are considered, it is a good time to consider whether some applications have outlived their usefulness and should be retired, or if some would be better retained (left on-premises).

3. Leverage AWS tools

AWS offers3 numerous tools that can help with the migration process, supporting data center migrations from planning to post-migration functionality. Some exceptionally useful tools include:

  • AWS Migration Hub: a central dashboard to monitor and track progress
  • AWS Application Discovery: gathers information for pre-migration due diligence
  • TSO Logic: uses predictive analytics to make data-driven recommendations for migration planning and strategy
  • AWS Server Migration Service: automates, schedules and tracks incremental migrations to ease coordination
  • AWS Database Migration Service: minimizes downtime by keeping the source database fully operational during the migration process
  • Amazon S3 Transfer Acceleration: maximizes available bandwidth to improve rapid data transfer to Amazon S3

4. Security Review

Data governance requirements will change as applications are moved to the cloud, and this must be incorporated into the cloud adoption plan. A pre-migration security review is particularly important to businesses with regulatory and compliance requirements. A comprehensive security review should include:

  • Access control and encryption standards in the cloud
  • Data destruction parameters
  • Post-migration controls and plan for decommissioning / destruction of equipment
  • Policy review and update

One complicated issue is compliance – does the responsibility to prove compliance with a specific regulation lie with the business, the cloud provider, or is it shared? This obligation may vary depending on the country in which information resides, the governing body, or the regulation itself, and should be discussed and resolved in writing prior to any migration activities.

5. Automate repeatable steps

As the cloud migration planning and strategy takes shape, the company that identifies and automates repeatable steps is the company that will have the best chance at a successful migration. This is because automation reduces costs, improves efficiency, and lowers the risk of human error during the migration process. Automation can also significantly reduce the time it takes for the migration to be completed, streamlining activities and allowing employees to focus on higher-level, strategic objectives.

Automation may include automated scripts, tooling, or controller-level automation. AWS offers CloudEndure Migration, an automation tool that converts applications to the cloud while helping to eliminate compatibility issues.

6. Leverage a partner

Most technology managers will conduct a large-scale migration only a few times in their career. But with a high-visibility, high-pressure project like a cloud migration, experience can be the key to success – completing the project on time, within the budget, with minimal disruption to the business. Engaging a partner proficient in AWS migrations can help ease the entire process, bringing in proven methodologies and experience to help your organization avoid common pitfalls including budgeting, delays and downtime; helping to make the most of every opportunity to plan, organize, expedite, and succeed with your cloud migration project.

In a recent survey4, cloud adopters asked what they would change if they could go back and redo the migration. 56% said that they would perform more pre-migration testing; 50% said that they would have set a longer timeline, and 45% would have hired an expert to help with the process. Almost one-third said that they would use a different strategy altogether.

Migrating a data center to the cloud is a major project for an organization’s technology group, but it can be achieved. Understanding the migration, completing due diligence and security reviews, planning and strategizing, and taking advantage of every tool at your disposal can greatly increase the chances that your cloud migration project will be a success.




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