More and more organizations opt to shift their on-premise IT infrastructure to the cloud due to more flexibility, optimal cost benefits, and scalability. However, undergoing on-premise to cloud migration requires a well-thought-through plan, which can take days, months, or even years of work, and a significant issue can arise in the process: data security.
Data is valuable and often sensitive. To create a successful and secure cloud migration strategy, in this article, we've compiled a comprehensive data on-premise to cloud migration checklist you can use.
What is on-premise to cloud migration?
On-premise to cloud migration is the process of moving your on-premises data, applications, and infrastructure to cloud storage and cloud computing systems. Organizations can move some or all of their physical operations to a cloud service provider instead of maintaining often expensive data centers, servers, and powerful computers.
What is cloud migration, explained. Source: Simplilearn YouTube account.
What is cloud migration strategy?
A cloud migration strategy is a plan for migrating physical servers, databases like SQL or MongoDB, storage, network configurations, domain services, application code, etc., from on-premise to cloud virtual machines or dedicated bare metal cloud servers.
Data is one of the most important aspects to plan for when moving data to the cloud. Your data cloud migration strategy depends on the current on-premise setup's circumstances and requirements, including aspects like business goals (e.g., reducing costs), scope (what parts you need to migrate), approach (e.g., rehosting, refactoring, re-platforming), infrastructure planning, testing, phasing, and training people to use new systems. An on-premise-to-cloud migration strategy sets the direction of how you do it, including pre-assessment, planning phase, and implementation.
Cloud migration strategy explained. Source: Dr. Raj Ramesh YouTube channel.
Data on-premise to cloud migration benefits
Data migration from on-premise to cloud has numerous benefits, including most common aspects like cost-saving, scalability, agility, flexibility, and accessibility, but also innovation and green initiatives.
Source: Free to use image from Unsplash.
Some of the main benefits of cloud migration and and moving data to the cloud include:
- Cost-saving: On-premises data centers cost money to purchase, maintain, and upgrade. Cloud service providers offer cost-effective data management at a variety of tiers to suit any business;
- Security: Cloud service providers will maintain and upgrade infrastructure, keeping security tight and adding new features that benefit your organization;
- Scalability: Cloud computing offers exceptional computing power without having to purchase costly new systems;
- Data compliance: As data regulations are an evolving subject, many organizations struggle to keep up with the ever-changing legal and social responsibilities. Data protection laws like the EU’s GDPR, California’s CCPA, healthcare privacy laws like HIPAA, and others across the globe make data compliance responsibilities difficult to monitor. Cloud service providers understand the regions and industries you operate in and apply the correct procedures to your data, easing your organization’s data compliance burden;
- Scalability: Depending on your requirements, you can scale your cloud infrastructure on-demand, reducing costs; this is more challenging with an on-premise set-up;
- Agility: You can deploy servers in minutes;
- Sustainability: Cloud infrastructure is more energy efficient than maintaining an on-premise data center, contributing to green initiatives.
- Multi-functionality: Everything from customer service for retailers, tech support for software developers, or an insurance auto dialer for insurance companies can be hosted on the cloud.
Data migration from on-premise to cloud checklist
No matter your operational needs and the type of on-premise to cloud migration strategy you require for the data, it’s important to take cloud migration security seriously. Here is a top-level overview guide to planning and executing an efficient, effective, and secure on-premise to cloud migration strategy.
1. Assess current on-premise infrastructure
Organizations often have complex infrastructure that maintains their IT operations. When migrating that infrastructure to the cloud, you need to understand your current situation before making any moves.
- Evaluate all current IT hardware (computers, mobile devices, servers, routers, etc) and how you can migrate things like remote access and computing to the cloud;
- Evaluate all current software. Whether it’s the best auto dialer software or the most user-friendly CRM software, you’ll still need to consider what needs updating. Which applications are cloud-capable?
- Evaluate organizational and individual workloads and their dependencies;
- Evaluate performance. How much storage and computational power does your existing infrastructure require?
Once you’ve mapped out your current infrastructure, developing a cloud migration strategy is much easier. To put it simply, you’ll understand what you have and will be able to plan for what you need.
2. Choose a reputable and secure cloud provider
With plenty of cloud service providers, how do you know which is best?
Your cloud service provider should be reputable, with a good security, compliance, experience, and communication track record.
When it comes to technology, first-hand experience is priceless. Industry peers can recommend cloud providers that worked well (or not-so-well) for their needs. IT experts can also give you valuable insights into their experiences with various cloud providers.
Also, focus on your requirements. You might need a cloud provider with extensive AI functionality, advanced data analytics, or just a large amount of storage for a fair price. Identifying your priorities and finding a cloud provider that meets your present requirements and visions for future growth is paramount.
Once you’ve created a shortlist, search for each provider’s online reviews on websites like Trustpilot and read testimonials from real users on the provider’s website.
3. Secure data using encryption tools
Data is vulnerable in transit. Your system and the cloud service might be secure, but the internet between those end-points is not. Uploading data leaves it exposed.
Unencrypted data is data at its most visible - think sensitive employee data like bank accounts, your organization’s financial data, or private patient records getting into the wrong hands.
Therefore, all data should have end-to-end encryption during the cloud migration process to avoid this. This makes data unreadable to anyone without the tools to break the encryption.
4. Set strong access controls
Organizations utilize access controls to authorize and revoke access to individual employees based on data security level and work requirements.
Access controls can get muddled during cloud migration. Employees can gain or lose permissions to data they should or shouldn't have access to, creating a nightmare of security and productivity issues.
To avoid this, assess access up-front and ensure all employees have the right access levels. Also, look for inactive users who still have access, such as employees who have left or changed roles.
Once your data has finished migration, reassess your access controls and policies. If you haven't already, implement multi-factor authentication for each user.
5. Set up firewalls
Data center firewalls set up perimeter defenses around networks, devices, and applications, allowing only authorized users to access certain parts of your organization’s infrastructure.
Source: Free to use image from Pixaby.
Your cloud provider should have firewall capabilities that reflect the abilities of your data center firewall and more.
Modern organizations often have remote workforces, meaning firewalls need to be more robust, flexible, and comprehensive than ever. Use companies that provide secure remote working tools, like RealVNC.
Also, virtual private clouds (VPCs) offer extensive networking and firewall capabilities that, unlike LANs and WANs, don’t require proximity to a fixed location.
6. Perform regular security audits
It’s recommended that organizations perform security audits annually to ensure that data compliance, security, and access controls are working as intended.
Regular security audits keep your organization on top of things. Security should be proactive, not reactive. It’s better to discover problems early and fix them than to have a public data breach that hurts your organization’s reputation and finances.
7. Set up backup strategies
System failures happen, so it's important to have a backup strategy in place. This strategy might involve your cloud service provider's own backup and recovery tools, alternative cloud service providers, securing data on-premises until the migration is finished, or even extra hard copies of certain data.
What's more, your backup and recovery procedures should be rigorously tested for efficacy and efficiency. Backups should be assessed for security and fidelity, and employees should be well-trained in recovery procedures.
8. Comply with data regulations
Data can be vulnerable during the migration process. Data compliance is just as essential during transit as it is during storage and access.
Different regions and industries have differing data regulations–HIPAA for medical data, GDPR for EU citizens, each US state’s own data protection laws, etc.
Your data needs end-to-end security along the cloud migration process and permanent regulatory compliance in its new home in the cloud. Your provider should understand the data you’re storing and the appropriate regulations it needs to abide by.
9. Educate employees on cloud security
Migrating your operations to the cloud means [cloud security]https://www.cherryservers.com/blog/best-practices-to-keep-your-cloud-environment-secure) is a top priority for your organization.
To create a security-conscious organization, all employees should be on board. Regular training in cloud security best practices is the best way to ensure this.
Source: Free to use image from Unsplash.
Train employees to:
- Recognize cybersecurity threats;
- Recognize phishing and social engineering scams;
- Understand access controls and report when their access levels need to be changed or revoked;
- Have strong passwords and multi-factor authentication;
- Understand the risks involved with remote working, like unsecured WiFi networks;
- Report potential security risks to the relevant departments.
Consider each employee’s role, access, and workload and adapt training accordingly.
10. Regularly update security policies
Cloud security begins with policies; cloud migration might be an excellent place for a fresh start. Creating and maintaining strong policies and roles is the heart of organizational change to build a security-conscious and security-aware organization. Your policies can ensure that all employees are onboard, well-trained, and aware.
Look at your existing data security policies and assess for any necessary changes. Your new cloud service infrastructure will vary from your existing data center in various ways, so update your policies to reflect that.
Once updated, regularly assess your security policies to keep up with technological advancements, cloud system updates, and regulatory changes. Existing staff should be trained in new cloud security policies and incident reporting and regularly trained after. Security policies should also be introduced to new employees during the employee onboarding process.
Source: Free to use image from Pexels.
Cloud data migration tools to use
Cloud data migration tools are software solutions for transferring data from physical data centers to a cloud infrastructure. They are beneficial if you want to assess your current infrastructure, analyze existing data structures, and identify what you need to migrate.
What’s more, these tools make data on-premise to cloud migration seamless and secure, enabling the synchronization of data, databases, file shares, and applications.
Cloud data migration tools are often vendor-specific, but some open-source options also exist and integrate with cloud service providers. Choosing the right tool depends on workload types, volumes, connectivity, required functionality, and vendor preference.
For example, some popular open cloud data migration tools include Apache NiFi from Apache for automating the data flow between on-prem and cloud, or Oracle GoldenGate that connects to many non-Oracle and open source databases across on-premises and cloud platforms, such as migrating and replicating PostgreSQL databases.
Cloud migration has many benefits, including saving money, decreasing operational pressures, increasing data security, and ensuring data compliance by migrating their data and infrastructure to the cloud. However, secure on-premise to cloud migration is a multi-step process where data breaches, operational downtime, and additional costs can arise.
The advice in this top-level cloud migration checklist should help you create a cloud migration strategy that will streamline your data migration process and keep your organization safe, productive, and compliant.