How to prepare for cloud storage migration

With process and planning – and the right provider – migrating to cloud storage can be very rewarding

Cloud and arrow icon superimposed over a corridor of servers

Cloud adoption has now reached the point where it’s not just part of the IT operations mainstream, but the most obvious, cost-effective solution to many core IT needs. Last year IDC reported that spending on public cloud IT infrastructure had exceeded spending on non-cloud IT infrastructure for the first time. Within this report, it was noted that cloud storage is one of the fastest growing segments in the field – IDC saw spending increase by 21.2% between 2019 and 2020 – and it’s not hard to understand why. Enterprises see moving some or all of their data storage to the cloud as a means of reducing their management overheads. They understand why cloud storage gives them the flexibility and scalability they need to thrive in uncertain times.

Migrating data to the cloud isn’t as simple as pointing at the biggest, loudest provider and moving all your data to their cloud. Instead, you need a clear migration strategy, built on well-defined processes and an understanding of your data with respect to your long-term business requirements. This will help you to identify the provider that best suits your needs, whether that’s one of the familiar, long-established names or a newer specialist like Wasabi. With options available to select a best of breed solution without vendor lock in, organisations are primed to make the most of cloud’s efficiencies. Without, they tend to overspend or fail to meet their cloud objectives. Flexera’s 2021 State of the Cloud report found that businesses were overspending on their public cloud budgets by an average 24%.

Get to know your data

The process starts with an inventory and evaluation of all the data in your business, identifying and prioritising those data resources which will be easiest and most beneficial to migrate. This involves focusing in on their performance and security requirements and how they interoperate with on-premise systems or existing cloud-based applications.

Here it’s crucial that technical requirements are tied to business needs, so that when you list and evaluate resources for migration, you’re looking at the costs of maintaining them on-premises, the life-expectancy of the data, how often it needs to be accessed or modified and how fast that access needs to be. But you also need to think about your long-term business goals, including how the data could potentially be used in the future. Moving resources to the cloud can be a cost-saving measure and a chance to delete stale data or unnecessary duplicates from expensive on-prem systems, but it can also be a false economy if decisions negatively impact performance or constrain you later on when you need to bring the data back.

Depending on where and how the data is stored, you may also need to think about more specific issues. For example, with some old tape-based archival systems, you may need to work around complex file-management middleware or proprietary metadata systems, which may require a specific set of tools. It’s also useful to consider security requirements and who needs access at this point. Too many businesses make too many resources and too much data available to a wider group of workers than may be necessary. Migration can be an opportunity to tighten up data access controls.

Pick your architecture and provider

With an inventory of your data in hand, you can focus on the resources you plan to migrate first. It’s at this point that you need to think about cloud storage architectures, platforms and providers. With many cloud storage providers, this is where you would normally start thinking about tiering – selecting the most appropriate service or service tier for each resource depending on your performance, accessibility and security requirements. This is where bad decisions you make early could have consequences later on.

However, with the newer, second-generation cloud storage providers, such as Wasabi, this isn’t such an issue. They deliver cloud storage as a fast, economical utility without any slower or faster tiers. Instead, the service simply delivers the level of performance required to meet the widest range of use cases and applications.

You don’t have to put all your storage eggs in one cloud basket. In some cases, there will be technical reasons to use a specific provider for a certain data resource, but migrate the majority to one where costs are lower, and where you’ll have more visibility and control. Many businesses will also be looking at a hybrid cloud strategy, combining new or existing on-premises infrastructure with compute or storage services in the cloud. This enables them to use on-premises hardware where there are compelling performance, security or compliance reasons to do so, but gain all the advantages of cloud elsewhere.

Of course, making cloud work from a cost perspective isn’t a given. Some hyperscale public cloud providers are well known for hidden costs, including fees for data egress or API requests that scale up in parallel with your usage. With Wasabi, it’s simple and predictable so there are no surprises in the pricing structure, making it easier to predict your expenses and stay within your budget. Wasabi offers one tier of affordable, high performance storage with no fees for egress or API requests.

This plays brilliantly into a hybrid or multi-cloud approach where businesses are moving workloads as well as data to the cloud. Bit-level compatibility and direct high-speed connectivity means you can use Wasabi for data storage while running applications on another platform, whether on-premises or in a private or public cloud. For instance, Wasabi supports hundreds of Amazon S3-compliant file management applications and data migration tools and can work seamlessly with applications running on the corporate network, or on Amazon EC2, Microsoft Azure or Google Compute Engine virtual machines.

Of course, selecting the right architecture and provider isn’t just about price and performance, but also about security and compliance requirements. Firms need to feel sure that their provider offers levels of security appropriate to the type and sensitivity of any data being stored, and that the service has the tools and capabilities to meet any national or industry regulations and support compliance. Here, providers like Wasabi support a wide range of tools and comply with even the most common security and privacy regulations, like those of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in the US, or GDPR in Europe. Controlled data can even be flagged and stored in immutable buckets to help firms meet their compliance objectives.

Planning the move

Having decided on your architecture and provider, it’s time to plan for the actual migration. Consider how the work will affect any processes or workflows, and how to schedule the migration to minimise the impact. This is particularly important in a hybrid cloud or multi-cloud strategy, where careful orchestration of data flows between different architectures or providers is key to the success of the whole endeavour.

This is also where partnering with a good cloud storage provider can make all the difference. What tools does the provider supply or support to ease migration and make the process manageable? What kind of support can they deliver while you’re going through the process?

Many organisations typically begin with a pilot project – something not too complex or business critical, but with enough clear business benefit to help make the point for further migrations. This not only gives you a chance to trial your approach and isolate pitfalls, but test after migration to ensure no errors have crept in. This can help you avoid issues later or develop effective workarounds for any that emerge.

Backup, recovery and resilience need to be at the heart of the whole process, so think about how you can protect your data before, during and after the migration, and how you can lock and backup key data resources, so that you preserve and safeguard everything of value. In a hybrid cloud strategy, there may be scope to replicate data that is kept on-premises in the cloud, for disaster recovery and business continuity, though this will involve some careful data orchestration. Of course, you may have some degree of built-in data protection, depending on the service and provider. With Wasabi, for instance, each data object is encoded and distributed across independent disks when stored. This means that, should one disk fail, the original data object can still be reconstructed, giving you resiliency without the need to store a full duplicate version of every object in the cloud.

How you tackle the actual migration will depend on the connectivity you have available, and the quantities of data involved. For most businesses and use cases, existing connectivity and the public internet will be fine, but there may be options for dedicated or direct connections where large quantities of data must be shifted. Some providers even offer a physical method for migrating large data libraries. Wasabi’s Wasabi Ball Transfer Appliance, for example, simply connects to the local network, after which you can copy over the data you’re migrating, then ship the appliance back to Wasabi for copying directly to the cloud.

Once the data is migrated, focus on the testing. Make sure all the data is there, that it’s secured and managed appropriately, and that any applications that rely on it are working reliably without any impact on performance. It’s the lessons you learn during this phase that could help you ensure that your migration is a success, and that the same goes for any future migrations too.

Growing into the future

Our dependence on cloud storage is growing across the board, thanks to numerous factors from the value and convenience it offers to the expansion of the data economy and the development of our new distributed-working paradigms. Cloud storage usage is only going to increase exponentially as time goes on.

To enable your business to grow and change rapidly without sacrificing your data, a service like Wasabi that offers flexible, responsive and unlimited cloud storage is a must. Unlimited storage means that you won’t hit a wall during times when quick expansion is essential – instead, you can rely on your service to support your growth. If the last year has taught us anything, it’s the importance of flexibility in the face of unanticipated change. Selecting the most suitable cloud storage provider is key to effectively managing your data and ensuring business continuity and resilience.

By preparing carefully and systematically for migration, you will put your organisation in the best position to take advantage of the cloud storage boom and all the benefits it can offer. With the right provider to support you, you can be confident that your data is future proofed.

Learn more about Wasabi’s cloud storage service

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