How to Execute a Flawless Cloud Migration Strategy

Migrating data to the cloud

For many enterprises, being on the cloud is “business as usual.”  In fact, cloud technology is now used by at least 70% of U.S. organizations and there is no sign of slowing down—56% of organizations are working on transferring more operations to the cloud. And for good reason—being on the cloud promotes increased agility, digital transformation, ease of access and efficiency, ultimately resulting in improved scalability. Read on to learn how to create a successful cloud migration strategy, including how to identify, and solve for, potential challenges.

What Are Potential Cloud Migration Problems to Look Out for?

Many enterprise organizations are grappling with the constraints of legacy, on-premises infrastructures, massive volumes of (uncategorized) data, lack of resources and mounting data privacy regulations. Not to mention, the fact that data needs to be kept private and secure. 

So, it’s no surprise that there are significant challenges to full-scale cloud adoption, including:

  1. Industry. If you’re in a regulated environment or hold a large amount of intellectual property, you likely can’t move all of your data to the cloud due to regulatory compliance policies. Adhering to policies like HIPAA and GDPR during a migration requires extra precaution be taken. 
  2. Lack of resources. Many organizations are dealing with shrinking operating margins, limited resources and a security skills-gap. 
  3. Legacy build-up. Enterprises have to sort through mountains of data (sometimes billions of files) to determine what types are in their environment, where it’s located and how it’s what’s classified before developing a strategy around where this data can go. 
  4. False sense of security. Keeping data on-premises exposes it to risks like human error and outages, not to mention the additional layer of risk associated with a single-point-of-failure.

Despite these common challenges, moving your data to the cloud—while keeping it private and secure—can be a reality for your organization. It’s predicted that 83% of enterprise workloads will be in the cloud by 2020. Remaining entirely on-premises means enabling a single-point-of-failure, which puts your data at risk of being breached, leaked, lost or corrupted. But it also means you miss out on things like innovation, the ability to scale and grow your business, and easy collaboration and data sharing within your organization.

Cloud Migration Best Practices

A digital transformation sounds great, right? First, you need to make sure you have control over your data, understanding where it is located, what can be migrated to the cloud and what is required to stay on-prem, who has access, and what a normal data workflow looks like. 

Here are four best practices that will give you control over your data—and ensure it stays private and secure—at every stage of your cloud journey:

  1. Classify your data. Data discovery is an important first step because it helps you identify all the places your data is located in your environment, and it helps you determine what’s too sensitive to migrate based on classification rules. Breaking down your data into four categories of sensitivity—Classified Data, Restricted Data, Private Data and Public Data—will make your cloud migration easier to execute. 
  2. Assign data policies. Determine what kind of control and protection each tier should receive. Consider policies like access control, watermarking and expiration dates, based on the set level of sensitivity. And only share these controls with authorized users.
  3. Establish role-based authentication and control. This will give you the ability to track everything that happens to your data in the cloud and immediately mitigate risk. Security-focused tools like auditability and automatic notifications will allow you to identify risks and take action fast.
  4. Conduct third-party audits. All it takes is one weak link in your supply chain to expose your data. Some industries, like healthcare, which accounts for one-third of all potentially compromised records, are particularly susceptible to value-chain attacks. You can reduce this risk by regularly conducting penetration testing and SOC audits. And don’t forget to review and audit your vendors’ access and control policies.

Your Cloud Migration Strategy: A 5-Step Approach

Once you have control over your data, you’re in prime position to begin planning for a cloud migration. Understand that when it comes to cloud adoption, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Cloud migration journeys look different for each industry, and each organization, but one thing remains constant—the need to complete the migration quickly and effectively without disruption to business. Here’s how to make it happen:.

1. Set goals and determine your strategy.

Before you take the leap, set forth goals around what you want to accomplish. This also includes having a baseline understanding of where you are today, in order to establish KPIs for your cloud migration.

2. Evaluate which applications to migrate.

Not all opportunities are created equal, and not every application belongs in the cloud. Consider cost and security, and be sure to understand the IT implications and impacts to your business.

The best transitions happen when you go into them with your eyes wide open. Shifting your business to the cloud has so many upsides: improved collaboration, scalability, adaptability, integration into the tools you use… the list is endless. But you also need to be prepared for risks inherent in an online system.

Data sharing

Moving to the cloud will enable easier movement of information and data sharing, both within your company and with external vendors. Cloud platforms greatly accelerate collaboration speed and ease of access among various parties.

That mobility, however, can be risky without the right guardrails. If you don’t have data-centric protection, any data that leaves your cloud platform is no longer protected. As your data moves around faster, the associated risk also increases without data-level protection.

Security

You’ll automatically benefit from the protection capabilities of the host platform, not to mention the IT support and security expertise of the host company. Essentially, your business is outsourcing its data storage and protection to a company built expressly for that purpose.

Keep in mind that this does mean you’ll have less direct oversight if any issues do come up. You’ll also need to train your users on security systems of the new platform.

Most importantly, keep in mind that cloud platforms only offer TLS encryption. This type of encryption protects your database at the network level by encrypting the platform that your data is on. It’s like having your data in a giant safe room: the files can be passed around without risk to anyone in the room, but they’re only secure as long as they’re still in that room. Once they leave the room—or are shared outside your cloud platform—they’re no longer protected.

You can address this risk with end-to-end encryption, which encrypts the files themselves. This data-centric (rather than network-wide) protection is an added layer of security that stays with your data, no matter where it goes.

3. Create a data migration plan.

Once you’ve determined which applications to migrate to the cloud, decide how you want to move the data. Your data classifications, policies, controls and audits will help inform this plan.

4. Select the right cloud provider.

Moving to the cloud is not simple, so make sure that the cloud provider you select can handle the complexities of your migration. If you’re faced with extensive governance mandates or certain regulatory needs that require more control and visibility features than mainstream cloud providers can offer, you can work with a third-party cloud security vendor to complete your data protection solution. The right vendor will have capabilities such as extending internal privacy and security assurances to data that leaves its premises, ensuring that enterprise data remains protected throughout its lifecycle.

The Big Three of data storage—Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud and Amazon’s AWS—are all strong options. Each platform is protected by TLS encryption, which means that your network as a whole (though not your data itself) will be secured by the best in the business.

When choosing between platforms, look into system uptime, support during the transition, and reliability. But in truth, it’ll often come down to which system your business is most familiar with, and that’s a perfectly valid reason for selecting a platform.

On each of these three cloud platforms, however, you will be sacrificing some control and visibility of your data. The best option to counteract this is to supplement your cloud storage with a data-centric protection tool like Virtru: we’ll help you maintain control and keep track of your data wherever it is shared, even when you no longer host the data yourself.

5. Execute your cloud migration.

How you execute on your plan will depend on the architecture of both your applications and your data. Whether you move everything at once, test to see that it worked, and then switch over your on-prem traffic; or do everything piece by piece, if you’ve followed the first four steps, this final phase should be relatively easy. 

At the end of the day, a successful cloud migration means minimizing risk and maintaining control when moving your data to the cloud. Virtru gives enterprises a crucial layer of protection in the cloud. End-to-end encryption and fine-grained access controls keep your data private and compliant before, during, and after your migration.

 

We’ve helped thousands of companies protect data in the cloud, simplifying cloud migrations for some of the world’s largest enterprises. Learn how we can help your organization in your cloud journey. 

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