How to Manage Cloud Migration FearSeptember 13, 2023 | Russ Kennedy
Transitioning to any new technology can be scary, but nothing is more intimidating than migrating your company’s data. Simply managing data for a large organization can be a thankless job. You’re rarely celebrated when everything runs smoothly, but you’re blamed when something goes wrong. And there’s so much that can go wrong. A factory that can’t utilize critical files might grind to a halt. Architects that can’t get to their 3-D models can’t do their work.
The cloud offers a safer way to store, manage and protect data, yet many organizations remain reluctant to initiate a cloud migration. Why? I believe fear is a major factor. Humans like consistency. We like repeatability. We like to understand what’s going to happen next and we’re naturally frightened by what we can’t wrap our minds around.
When I first started in the cloud, people feared the medium itself. Companies were reluctant to initiate massive change without solid proof the cloud would be a reliable, cost-effective and secure medium for storing, protecting, sharing and managing enterprise data. That question has now been settled.
Today, it’s migrating data to the cloud that has people scared. During a migration, data can be exposed, maliciously encrypted or lost. The migration tools on the market now are much, much better, and the process is undoubtedly smoother and more secure than it was five years ago. But it’s not quick and has complications. If you work in a large organization, you might need a year to build the consensus necessary to initiate the shift. Then, once everyone has bought in, you may need to wait another year to move petabytes of data distributed across dozens or hundreds of global offices.
The move is very much worth the effort, especially at enterprise scale, as I’ve detailed in my previous columns. Yet, the fears are valid, too. So, how do you alleviate your cloud migration fears? You could start by wrapping your mind around the process and securing solid answers to these questions:
Have I identified the right partner?
First and foremost, you want to work with a vendor that’s deeply experienced in this space. You want to be sure they have knowledge, extensive practice and happy customers. You should arrange for a series of honest conversations with those customers so you can ask them about their experience and how the vendor managed the inevitable bumps along the way.
Can I trust the team?
Trust is critical. Regardless of which vendor you choose, no matter how spotless their technology and track record, you’ll hit obstacles along the way. You need to have a good feeling about the people you’re working with at the vendor—that they’re responsive, attentive and knowledgeable enough to solve the problems that pop up.
Do they understand my particular needs?
The vendor and the specific team dedicated to your account should deeply understand all your needs and requirements. You don’t want to just turn this massive migration project over to them. A major cloud migration project should be a joint journey if it’s going to be successful. You should explain exactly what you’re looking for and work together to understand how you’re going to collectively achieve the goals.
Will I retain optionality?
The priorities of any business can change from one month or quarter to the next. A year is a long time. So, even though you want to detail your needs at the outset, you should also make sure that you preserve optionality in case those expectations shift. If you choose a particular cloud, will you be able to switch clouds in the future? How painful will that process be? These are critical questions.
How long will the migration take?
Establishing a clear timeline with specific markers is essential. The migration project must fit within your business cycles and align with both your internal and external goals. You should understand what you will and won’t be able to do while the migration is underway and when it will be completed.
Will there be hidden or unexpected costs?
This is another legitimate cloud migration fear. Too many organizations have proceeded with their migrations expecting their costs to be X only to find out that egress fees or other unexpected costs might drive that cost to 2X. Yet, it absolutely doesn’t have to be this way. You can work through this potential problem in advance as you evaluate vendors and choose solutions that preserve your optionality. This way, if a particular vendor or cloud changes the economics, you can switch to a more favorable one.
Will I be able to leverage the most advanced cloud tools?
Finally, you need to have a strong understanding of what you’ll be able to do once the project is complete and your data is stored in the cloud. The analytics, AI, machine learning and business intelligence tools on the market today are constantly evolving. You need to make sure that you can put these and other future tools to work on your data in the most efficient way possible.
In a sense, fear of cloud migration isn’t a bad thing. It can be helpful. It can force you to understand the process, ask hard questions like the ones listed here and map out what you’ll ultimately derive from moving your data to the cloud. Turn your initial fears into motivation to scrutinize the entire project and ensure your business’ objectives are met. You and your organization will ultimately benefit.
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