IT Documentation - The Blog

How to manage a cloud migration

March 26, 2020

It is an open secret in the IT industry that sooner rather than later there is no way around the cloud. The world of work is currently in the midst of massive change. Mobile round-the-clock access to work data is now expected from IT. The nature of collaboration is also changing dramatically. Project teams are more and more often distributed across different locations – sometimes even internationally. This makes virtual collaboration via video conferences, document sharing, etc. increasingly important. These are all requirements that the highly shielded and therefore inflexible OnPremises IT environments can no longer cope with.

The cloud offers many advantages

Every IT manager has to struggle with management cost saving targets. For cloud services there are no investment costs for the purchase of hardware and software. There are also no costs for operating local data centres (servers, power, cooling, etc.). It is also no longer necessary to permanently maintain highly equipped IT resources for fail-over cases or to be prepared for possible growth. Cloud services can be adapted to current requirements in a matter of seconds and can be scaled to almost any size, thus growing with your company. For these reasons, in most cases, a cloud migration can lead to cost savings and at the same time increases cost flexibility. Migration projects therefore usually pay for themselves relatively quickly. This also simplifies the argumentation towards the management.

Even the permanently overworked IT administrators will be relieved by a cloud migration. For example, hardware and software updates are currently always carried out in the evening or on weekends so as not to impede ongoing operations. These require the personal presence of the IT administrators. Cloud environments, on the other hand, are constantly kept up to date. This is done automatically and completely unnoticed by customers and users. There is no downtime or loss of performance.

The cloud thinks in services

However, a cloud migration should never be done in a hurry and without thorough planning. Anyone who takes a little time to get to grips with the subject matter will soon discover that it is not at all possible to “push” the existing IT infrastructure one-to-one into the cloud. The cloud operators do not offer servers or other hardware components that today are part of an IT administrator’s daily business. Instead, the cloud is divided into services. There are basically three different categories:

  • IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service)
    • Virtualization environment/network is provided transparently
    • e.g.: Computing, identity, networking, backup.
  • PaaS (Platform as a Service)
    • IT services (e.g. databases) are provided transparently
    • e.g.: Microsoft Azure SQL, Web Apps, Security, Monitoring
  • SaaS (Software as a Service)
    • Business applications are made available
    • e.g.: Microsoft Office 365.

Most likely you will have in use a mixture of all three categories, depending on the intended use. For standard business applications such as Office, for example, a “full service SaaS package” such as Microsoft Office 365 is the best choice. For in-house developments instead, an IaaS platform, possibly accompanied by database services on a PaaS basis, lends itself.

Analysis of the existing IT landscape

To be able to implement a cloud migration, the existing systems and processes must first be analysed:

  • Which (server) operating systems are in use?
  • Are there VLANs configured?
  • Which file systems are present?
  • Are databases available?
  • What are the necessary business applications?
  • Which means of communication will be used?
  • etc.

In order to answer these questions conscientiously and correctly, an up-to-date and complete overview of the IT infrastructure is absolutely necessary. The cornerstone of any planning of a cloud migration should therefore be an up-to-date IT documentation. Based on this documentation, the IT can then be broken down into different sub-areas. In doing so, you should definitely consider the service approach of the cloud and deviate from the previous “hardware thinking”. This is the only way to make a well-founded decision as to whether it makes sense to migrate a service into the cloud.

Every cloud migration begins with proper planning

The existing services identified in this way can then be viewed and evaluated individually:

Which services should and can be migrated?

The first step is of course to decide which services are to be migrated to the cloud, or for which services there are any sensible cloud solutions at all. In the IaaS and PaaS area, a one-to-one replacement of existing systems is usually relatively easy to implement. But especially in the SaaS area, a thorough investigation is necessary to determine whether online software solutions exist that meet your requirements.

Do the current software solutions still fit the requirements?

But the validation of cloud software also offers the opportunity to check your own software landscape once again. Are there any new requirements in the meantime that the existing solutions can no longer meet? For example, the fast online transfer of files and images is now part of everyday life for everyone – including business data. If the company does not offer a solution for this, employees usually use private applications that are freely available on the market. This Shadow-IT must be avoided at all costs, as it is completely beyond the control of company IT and security and compliance violations can no longer be prevented.

In what order can the services be moved?

Last but not least, any dependencies between the services must be identified in order to determine the order of migration. This step is very important because possible interactions can paralyze entire IT environments.

Hard to keep track of the cloud migration

Once a plan has been drawn up as to which services are to be migrated or possibly replaced by new cloud solutions, a timetable must be drawn up. Since a “big bang” is not possible and not everything can be moved at once, a mixed operation of OnPremises and cloud solutions results from the beginning of the migration. Furthermore, if you does not plan to move the entire IT to the cloud, which is only possible in the rarest of cases, there will always be a hybrid use of cloud and OnPremises solutions.

It is extremely difficult to keep an overview of the situation. Just the question which users have a local Active Directory account and which have a cloud account, and which ones are synchronized, presents most administrators with an almost impossible task. As mentioned earlier, identifying and resolving dependencies and interactions is essential to avoid IT outages. A complete and up-to-date documentation of the IT environment is therefore an absolute must in the migration phase.

As a matter of principle, planned downtimes must be kept as low as possible and unplanned outages must be avoided in order not to jeopardize the acceptance of the cloud by management and employees.

Docusnap supports you during the migration

The Docusnap IT documentation software supports you in all phases of the cloud migration. Docusnap inventories and documents your entire IT network automatically and recurrently.

For you, this means that you have reliable data about your IT network before the migration, which also shows the dependencies of the systems on each other. This is the basis for solid relocation planning. Thanks to Docusnap’s regular inventory runs, you are always up to date, even during the migration phase, and always have an overview. Changes to your IT network can be tracked step by step. Hybrid environments are also no problem because Docusnap inventories both OnPremises infrastructures and cloud solutions such as Microsoft Azure, Microsoft Office 365 and Amazon Web Services (AWS).

A successful cloud migration always begins with a complete and up-to-date IT documentation.