The global COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the importance of establishing flexibility through cloud computing. As companies were forced to move their employees to work-from-home set-ups due to lockdowns, those with cloud computing capabilities have had an easier time weathering the disruption.
A report by the Institute of International Finance (IIF) concluded that cloud computing was essential in enabling remote data access and storage, which, in turn, ensures:
- The continued provision of services
- The ability to provide new services in a cost-efficient manner
- The smooth transition to new work models, such as moving from co-located to remote work environments.
Unsurprisingly, the aftermath of the pandemic has led to a surge in interest in cloud services. According to a Gartner forecast, global end-user spending on public cloud services is expected to grow 18.4% in 2021, reaching $304.9 billion.
If you’re like many small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), you’re probably considering migrating some of your applications, data and workloads to the cloud. Statista data shows that as of 2020, 35% of global SMEs spend up to $1.2 million on public cloud services each year.
But this doesn’t mean these transitions to cloud computing environments are successful.
What Are the Challenges of a Cloud Migration?
Despite the availability of cloud hosting providers, platforms, tools and resources that make a cloud migration more accessible than ever, the actual migration process is still fraught with risks caused by four factors:
1. Lack of Training
Not all IT departments have expertise in cloud security, virtualisation, and software architectures — essential skills for successful cloud migration. Many SMEs don’t even have a dedicated IT team, relying instead on a single person to oversee the company’s network of computers and software systems.
Gartner’s 2021-2023 Emerging Technology Roadmap shows that the lack of talent with cloud skills is the greatest barrier to deploying cloud-based technologies for strategic use in their organisation. This is consistent with a McAfee report, which found that 40% of organisations reporting a cloud skills shortage have had to slow their cloud adoption.
2. Issues between Legacy Infrastructure and Cloud Services
Organisations with legacy IT systems typically experience problems adopting new technologies such as cloud-based software. This is particularly true for legacy infrastructure no longer supported by its original vendor — a common problem in banking and the government sector.
Gartner forecasts that through 2024, almost all legacy applications migrated to the cloud will require some form of optimisation to be cost-effective. Local applications can be migrated to a hybrid cloud environment — an amalgam of on-premise and cloud-based services. Although not completely efficient, this solution can work for organisations that wish to keep their critical applications on-premises and move less critical workloads to the cloud.
3. Cybersecurity Concerns
A cloud migration not guided by a concrete strategy puts you at risk of leaving your data and systems exposed to a gamut of security risks, ranging from compliance violations and data breaches to insecure APIs and misconfigured servers.
While SME owners may think they’re too insignificant to be the victim of a cybersecurity attack, this relaxed view can make them susceptible to fraud and data breaches. McAfee reports that as many as one in four organisations keeping data in the public cloud have experienced data theft there.
4. Unexpected Downtime
Depending on your organisation’s size and the types of applications involved, your cloud migration may require taking your servers offline temporarily. You can avoid long downtimes by implementing an offline copy migration. This involves bringing down your on-premises application, migrating that application database to the cloud and bringing the application back online in the cloud. If you have small datasets, any necessary downtime shouldn’t take too long.
If you’re migrating a mission-critical application that can’t tolerate downtime, consider looking into data virtualisation. Some providers offer multi-cloud or hybrid infrastructure, in which application databases can reside in a combination of cloud-based and on-premises systems. This allows you to migrate datasets gradually.