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How to migrate data to the cloud

A guide to modernising your data storage strategy.
colleagues working on a computer
Thanks to the cloud, companies now have access to practically unlimited computing resources and storage space on a pay-as-you-go basis. The affordability and scalability of the technology has made it a game-changer in the business world, which is why 94% of enterprises are already taking advantage of it, according to RightScale’s 2019 State of the Cloud Report. It no longer makes sense to use on-site storage unless you absolutely have to. In contrast to the cloud, on-premises infrastructure comes with a series of additional costs, such as maintenance and electricity, in addition to the initial purchasing costs. It’s therefore cheaper and simpler to outsource your storage and computing needs to a cloud service provider. Given the clear advantages of the cloud, it’s no surprise that ResearchAndMarkets predicts the global market will surpass €550 billion by 2023. However, in order to really enjoy the benefits of cloud computing, you must have a well-defined migration strategy. A common misconception about the cloud is that migration can be done in one go. In reality, the process should be performed gradually in order to minimise disruption. So, what is the best approach? Planning your migration Instantly copying and pasting all of your data to the cloud might sound appealing, but the process isn’t as easy as that. For a start, not everything can or should be moved. So, before you start moving files, you should first develop a clear strategy. There are a wide variety of cloud deployment options so it can be difficult to work out which one is right for you. Public, private, hybrid, multi and distributed cloud are just some examples, and each is designed for specific circumstances. As a result, organisations tend to use an average of five different clouds, according to research by Flexera, in order to ensure they use the most adequate technology for every task. For example, if you want unparalleled flexibility and scalability, public cloud is the most suitable option. Costs are kept low by sharing the processing power and storage space with other public users. However, this does limit its usage for confidential data, which would be more secure in a private cloud, hosted either on site or externally. Combining both public and private gives you hybrid cloud, which is the most popular configuration, since businesses usually need a solution that encompasses both sensitive and non-sensitive data. Multi-cloud is similar to hybrid, but usually implies that you’re using a range of cloud types from several different providers, often to avoid vendor lock-in. The migration process How long does migration take? The time required to move data from on-premises storage to the cloud depends on its size, structure and security needs, and not least your internet speed. If your company has super-fast internet (100 Gb/s), and your dataset takes up less than 1 Petabyte, the move could be completed within a few weeks. Otherwise, you could be looking at quite a lengthy migration period. Luckily, it is easier to migrate data than applications, which might be incompatible with the cloud by default and could require recoding. The British high street bank TSB made the unwise decision to migrate all its applications at once, and their customers suffered as a result in one of the most famous examples of a poorly planned migration. In order to avoid making a similar mistake, you should adopt a phased approach to move your data to the cloud bit by bit, minimising disruption and downtime. But what exactly should you move first? Focus on the data that would benefit the most from the cloud; your least critical data should take priority, precisely because this will give you and your employees the opportunity to experiment. If anything goes wrong, the fallout will be minimal. This way you can get a feel for the process and tackle any unforeseen issues before your most valuable data is incorporated. Once you are comfortable with the process and your new setup, the rest of your data can be migrated. Why migrate to the cloud? With the right preparations, there’s no reason why your cloud migration can’t run quickly and smoothly. And once the process is complete, the benefits are immediate. A little research can help you plan your switchover to a customised and flexible cloud environment that is perfectly suited to your company’s specific needs. This will bring instant gains in spending, speed and agility, as you free up on-site IT resources and staff. What’s more, the cloud offers more robust security and easier access. Your employees can view or edit files from anywhere, in real time, boosting collaboration and productivity. Finally, as you become more familiar with the cloud, you will find new ways to use it to develop your business even further.

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