cloud migration tips

INDUSTRY INSIGHT

5 tips for cloud migration

For many federal IT pros, cloud computing continues to show great promise. Others, however, remain skeptical about transitioning to the cloud -- specifically, about transitioning production databases -- because of possible security risks and availability issues.

Although there are legitimate concerns that IT or database managers should have when considering whether the cloud is a good choice,  there are ways to prepare that can help mitigate risk, make the cloud environment a more viable option and harness advantages of cloud with fewer concerns, specifically around security.

To make the transition safer and more comfortable, here are the top five things to consider.

Tip 1: Know your platform

There are over 60 cloud providers authorized by the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program, and they’re not created equal. Each is unique in the services it provides, with offerings ranging from software as a service to platform as a service or infrastructure as a service. Understand well in advance what your team needs and what the different providers offer. Federal IT pros should focus on selecting a platform that their teams will be able to use with minimal training and oversight.

Tip 2: Maintain your own security

Although FedRAMP’s rigorous security assessment is a good starting point for helping to protect data, it’s your data, so take steps to protect it. This means encrypting, data masking and scrubbing out any personally identifiable information. Providers may want to help, but the bottom line is that you need to manage your security. Also make sure your team is involved to ensure the solution is in compliance with agency security policies.

Tip 3: Understand the fees

Cost savings is touted as one of the main benefits of moving to a cloud environment. Yet some early adopters found that the cost savings did not come right away; others did not save money at all. There are many hidden costs when migrating to a cloud environment, and it’s critical to understand and account for all costs before the project begins.

Consider the training costs required to ensure your team understands how to manage and secure a new environment. There are also significant costs involved with migrating and implementing your existing applications in the cloud; the cloud service provider doesn’t magically build new applications for you.

Moving to the cloud is no different in scope than outsourcing your data center to a third party. Getting your data there takes time, effort and money. This doesn’t mean you won’t save money in the long run. There may ultimately be dramatic cost savings once systems have been migrated, but it may take several years to realize that savings.

Tip 4: Establish a recovery plan

FedRAMP has established a standardized approach to assessing, authorizing and monitoring cloud products and services, but that’s where the oversight stops. It’s not impossible for cloud service providers to go offline. Service outages are rare, and most shops are used to occasional service interruptions even when they are self-hosted. Nevertheless, make sure there is a plan B in case of an outage.

Along those same lines, make sure you know what your cloud provider will do in the event of a disaster. Can that provider help you recover lost data? That should be one of your most critical questions and one to which the provider must have an acceptable answer. Not recovering data is not an option.

Tip 5: Analyze performance and identify issues

Even after moving to a cloud environment, end-to-end application performance monitoring is still the federal IT pro’s responsibility. If an application is running slowly, it will be up to the IT staff to quickly find the root cause and fix it or turn it over to the cloud provider. Make sure you’ve discussed areas of responsibility in detail with the provider, so you don’t find yourself in a finger-pointing scenario when something slows down.

Additional advice

There are indeed many advantages in moving to a cloud environment -- even moving production databases. The key is due diligence. Make sure you understand every aspect of the move. And, once you move, consider these additional tips:

  • Automate as much as you can.
  • Let the cloud provider do as much work as possible, so you don’t have to build or manage things alone.
  • Focus on applications and services, instead of individual resources.

And, finally, create a culture of transparency. Because the cloud provides an opportunity to see far more than you may have been able to see in the past, you can focus on managing the things that are most important. This can help enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of your agency’s IT operations. Embrace that opportunity. You’ll be glad you did.

About the Author

Joel Dolisy is the CIO at SolarWinds.

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