The march toward cloud computing continues unabated as organizations look to cut costs and improve efficiency.

The cloud represents a fundamental shift in the way IT organizations provide services to users, and how users consume those services. But how do you get there? What should you consider when evaluating a migration to the cloud?

Consider the following major issues before you plan a cloud migration:

Understand business goals and how IT plays a part in achieving those goals. Evaluate your existing infrastructure and determine where changes make sense. Perhaps it’s best to move certain applications completely to the cloud, as with Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), or to “rent” compute capacity and resources to handle fluctuating demand, as with Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS).


Decide which applications are best suited, or easiest, for an initial cloud migration. Which applications can be easily duplicated in the cloud? For most companies, non-mission-critical and low-demand applications make the most sense. Also, applications that see big cyclical swings in user demand are obvious choices since these tend to be a drain on internal resources when not in use. New areas of expansion or business may also be well served by the cloud.


Decide on a migration strategy. Which applications will be transferred and when? Make sure you have a plan to integrate cloud applications with on-premise applications to ensure they work together seamlessly and provide users with the most updated information when they need it, regardless of where it lives. Further, do you have the appropriate analytics in place for both on-premise and cloud environments? You may need to enlist specialized expertise.


Evaluate cloud providers. There are many factors to consider here, including: where data is stored, who is managing it, security and reliability of the provider’s Internet connections, how fast you can get back online in the event of an outage, and how deep your levels of security will be. Security should be evaluated from the aspects of physical data center security, image security, anti-virus and intrusion prevention. Strong service-level agreements are critically important when moving corporate data and applications to the cloud.


Evaluate ROI and understand the trade-off between CAPEX and OPEX. Spend the time to analyze whether a capital investment in internal IT resources may have financial advantages over an OPEX strategy. For example, it may be less expensive to make an asset purchase (for servers running heavily used applications) and depreciate it over time, rather than pay-as-you-go in a cloud model.


Step-by step cloud migration

When you have thoroughly considered the above factors, it is time to create a true migration plan for your selected application(s). A successful migration must account for changes in process and technology, and should include the following steps:

  1. Rethink business processes to take advantage of cloud capabilities, but don’t change for the sake of change or expect people problems to be resolved.
  2. Cleanse your data to ensure it is accurate, complete and consistent.
  3. Determine the necessary data for the new cloud-based application.
  4. Define and create integration points and connections to other applications.
  5. Migrate data.
  6. Test.
  7. Train users.
  8. Go live.
  9. Work out the glitches.

10. Solicit and implement ideas for improvement.


Erik Schmude has been with Dell for 13 years, working with customers to develop their server, storage and network architectures.

To learn more about cloud computing, download the free e-book “Bringing the Cloud Down to Earth.”