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How to avoid vendor lock-in when migrating to the cloud

Migrating to the cloud is a complicated business

Cloud storage

Companies can often trip over common mistakes because they're ill-prepared to deal with the intricacies of such a transition. One of the most common issues is avoiding vendor lock-in; when a company or individual finds it impossible to transfer their business from one cloud provider to another without substantial switching costs and effort.

This happens for a number of reasons, including the fact that vendors value customer loyalty above all else, much like you do with your own clients. Once you've signed up with one cloud storage vendor, they'll do everything in their power to keep you.

Avoiding vendor lock-in by not taking advantage of the full benefits comes with it's own set of problems, so you need to know how to sidestep this problem without limiting yourself before going in.

Consider a hybrid strategy

Putting all of your eggs in one basket is the problematic part of migrating to the cloud, so one of the smartest things businesses can do is implement a hybrid strategy. This would involve having some of your workloads remaining on-premises and some - such as data analysis - moved to the the cloud.

It's likely you'll be told again and again that you need to dive in at the deep end right from the start, but this simply isn't true. Companies are often better off dealing with a mixture of public cloud, private cloud and local infrastructure, to ensure they don't find themselves tied to one way of doing things even after it no longer suits the organisation.

Diversify your investment

At the beginning of the migration process the main concern for companies tends to be the cost of the move in both money and time, but making sure you deal with more than one provider can be the key to avoiding problems later on.

All of the major public cloud vendors offer varying price points and features, and having more than one at your disposal can mean that you always have the best solution to hand when you need it. By doing this, your business is not dependent on one particular infrastructure, reducing much of the risk lock-in poses, and the impact of problems such as downtime can be minimised.

Vendors obviously won't make it entirely simple to do this, because they'd rather you went all-in with their services, but it is a strategy rising in popularity nonetheless. Start small and scale slowly. As the industry matures, it's possible to imagine that compatibility issues will become a thing of the past and interoperability will reign.

Have an exit strategy BEFORE going in

No matter which solution you choose, there's always the chance that the company will need to either move back or switch to another vendor or vendors. It is therefore absolutely essential for you to have a strategy in place before spending the time and effort migrating business workloads, ensuring that things can go smoothly at any point in the journey.

Test everything multiple times before making any hard and fast decisions, and make sure you are able to repeat these tests easily in the future without risking business downtime. Set up a resiliency solution to alert you of outages, and factor exit costs into your budget.

Most importantly, make sure the business is as flexible as possible should priorities or requirements change - adaptability is key, and can't be faked at the last minute.

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