Tomer Schwaitzer, CEO, Y-tech
Despite the huge benefits of cloud computing infrastructure, organizations and companies are naturally afraid to move the computing and communications systems out of the organization. Apparently, the safest way to handle this challenge is to leave the entire ICT system inside the organization, close to the IT department. It seems that the alternative is to hand the control of the data to an external organization. Even while an organization or a company passes this hurdle, there are questions about the process itself: Will migration to the cloud demand long downtimes? Will the entire content move to the cloud? What will happen if content is lost in the process? What will happen if the organization discovers failures during migration to the cloud?
Today, in 2016, organizations have no doubt that they must move to the cloud, and therefore the only question is: What are the keys to success in migration to the cloud? In this article, I will provide some best practices that an integration organization can use in order to move the work of its customer to a cloud environment in the best and fastest way.
Aligning expectations, studying and documentation
The most critical starting point to a cloud migration project and the necessary condition of its success is an extensive process of aligning expectations between the integration organization that will perform the migration and the end customer. In this process, you, the integrator, provides the customer with clarifications concerning the way things should unfold at each phase of the migration. For example, you should not hesitate to tell the customer that at a certain point, the customer’s systems will be down. It is better for the customer to know that and to be prepared to this event rather than letting him face such an event as a surprise. Same goes to different “risky” actions that might evolve servers restart for example. Even if the restart will take 2 minutes, come back up like a good boy with no bugs (yeah right..) and “no one will notice”, let the customer decide if it is critical enough for him and get prepared as he likes. Remember: Aligned expectation make the customer happy and prepared, meaning YOU made your work great, the customer appreciates you, you just made the first step for a trusted relationship – easier for you down the road.
Before we advance towards moving the IT system to the cloud, we should thoroughly study the existing ICT infrastructure. To achieve this, we have to review the customer’s site deeply, in order to map his needs.
The integration team should visit the customer’s site with pre-arranged written documents, which are based on defined lists that help review the customer’s existing systems, or basically – EVERYTHING. The team documents and studies the customer and his computing and communications systems. Following that, the team conducts a deep analysis of the data in order to translate it to the optimal cloud based solution. The integrator should study existing systems in each department, network topology, the set of infrastructure protections, licensing, work volumes and applications in use. The studying process is completed before the team takes any migration-related action.
The next phase is the preparation of the migration document, and it usually takes place in the premises of the integration organization. This document is formulated based on feasibility studies of various desired elements in the system and includes answers to questions that represent different scenarios. For example: The Migration document can answer questions such as the feasibility of upgrading operating systems and business software. The background to such a question is clear: the customer does not always need the latest operating system or the latest business software on the market. If for example the company has worked to date with Office 2003, transition to Office 2016 can cause unwanted shock. In addition, third party applications don’t always support the latest OS versions and might need additional steps for adjustments, meaning more time to take in consideration in the migration process and possibly, additional cost.
Remember: Aligned expectations! From customer perspective – New unplanned cost appears… YOUR credibility/professionalism suffers.
You should seek to design a plan which typically consists of milestones and exact schedules for the implementation of each milestone, and above all, the significance and implications of each milestone.
Physical preparations for migration to the cloud
While the integrator prepares the cloud environment that the customer is due to migrate to, the client continues to work as usual on his current system. In order to prepare for the migration to the cloud, the integrators contacts various application vendors for the purpose of adjustments and upgrades. This action clarifies whether there are additional costs from external suppliers and what their extent, to avoid surprises. The integrator also examines the changes that are due to be applicable in the licensing programs of the various IT infrastructures, while the move from the physical world to the cloud world takes place. At the same time, the integrator must invest more thought in regard to upgrades and future changes, and if possible, conduct these discussions together with the client and his business plan. Think BIG. Your customer might be 50 users today, 500 next year and 200 the year after, depends on the type of business he is running. You should design the system with the best practice that meets his business needs.
Y-tech’s ICT platform is the complete infrastructure that would enable the integrator to provide end to end cloud solution that includes both the required communications components, such as private communication lines – IPVPN, and the servers. When the integration organization works with clients running different branches, my recommendation is to build the communication network at the first stage, test everything including latency, bandwidth, high availability, and then build the application servers, the data center and other key components. If you have the required human resource you can run on the two processes together and connect them later. The integration organization has to conduct tests in order to be sure that communication works properly, since communication is the cornerstone for an appropriate work in the cloud environment. Once you have servers running and the required communication working from customer premise to the cloud, you can start replicating data to the new cloud servers and let the customer run some tests to ensure the system works as expected.
At the next stage, assuming that a structured and exact migration plan has been implemented, the integrator will determine with the customer a specific date of final migration to the cloud. During that day, all the materials will be moved to the cloud in a way that enables to immediately begin working in the cloud environment without losing changes in data.
In case the end customer would like to move to the cloud with no downtime, it is possible to provide him with an optimal solution. In such a situation, you should conduct a migration process which takes a little bit longer, but organizes the migration in a way that the transition from working in the local environment to work in the cloud will happen immediately, while using the appropriate tools.
In case any downtime is acceptable in the eyes of the end customer, this might accelerate and sometimes even lower the cost of the migration solution. The duration of downtime depends on the amount of data transferred and the transfer method.
Based on this data, the integrator defines the timing of taking the system down in order to carry out the migration itself. Downtime can last minutes or hours, and the migration can be carried out during one night or a weekend, and conducted using different tools depending on the amount of information, the type of information and the migration budget. Another option is to transfer the materials over a physical medium from the client’s premises to the cloud data center. This process depends, of course, on the cloud provider’s location and ability to allow access to cloud data centers.
In order to provide optimal service to the customer, I recommend assigning a project manager to accompany the entire migration process. Migration to the cloud had to take a careful and safe progress, and a project manager should be able to provide all the required connections between all migration teams and the customer.
The whole process should be customized in way that fits the scope of the data , the systems and the customer’s business, while unfolding all the options in real time, in order to let the customer know where he is heading and in what way the system will be deployed.
Migration to the cloud comprises different layers. All in all, in case the integrator works in an organized way, similar to the recommendations made here, the result is clear: the customer enjoys a successful and effective migration to the cloud and can start working in the new environment with peace of mind, and you just purchase a new fan that will bring some friends down the road, new customers for you.
Tomer Schwaitzer is the CEO and Founder of Y-tech