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Cloud Migration: How It Works

Cloud migration is the process of transferring aspects of your IT, such as your applications, files, and virtual servers, from an onsite physical server to a cloud-based server, or from the cloud-based server of one IT hosting provider to the cloud-based server of another IT hosting provider.

In other words, it’s the actual process of “moving” your business to the cloud.

In most cases, cloud migration is not an easy or simple process. It’s not as simple as clicking and dragging files and applications or clicking a few buttons, as you would if you were just uploading a bunch of files to your Google Drive or Dropbox account.

Step #1 The first step in any cloud migration process is to figure out what you want to migrate to the cloud. Many businesses start by moving just one or a few applications to the cloud in order to get a feel for the migration process and to test out the new environment.

The applications that businesses choose to migrate to the cloud first are usually the businesses’ least important applications; the ones that are the easiest to migrate; or the ones that would benefit the most from being transferred to the cloud, such as collaboration applications like Microsoft SharePoint and applications that are used more by remote users (telecommuters, traveling salespeople, etc.) than on-premises users.

Step #2 The next step after you’ve made a tentative selection of the applications (or other IT assets) that you want to migrate is finding out if it’s possible for you to migrate these applications, or if the migration of one or more of these IT assets will be too complex or expensive for your organization.

In some cases, migrating assets such as applications, virtual servers, or virtual desktops can be as simple as creating an “image” (sort of an all-encompassing file) of the solution and then transferring that image to the cloud-based server. A lot of the time, though, migrations involve a lot more work, either because the asset has to be reconfigured in order to be compatible with the cloud-based server, or because the asset is so dependent on other assets (other applications, databases, etc.) that these other assets will have to be migrated to the cloud as well.

Technically, you can migrate almost any IT asset to the cloud you want, even legacy software written 20 years ago in a defunct programming language, since you can reconfigure, reprogram, or even completely rewrite any kind of software to run in the cloud. The more software development work you do, though, the more it will cost you and the more time it will take, so in reality you can’t really migrate any IT asset you want, just the ones that make financial sense to do so and that won’t take too long to migrate.

Final steps The final steps in the cloud migration process are to actually transfer the asset and all of its associated data to the cloud and set it up.

It’s best to perform the migration after regular working hours or on the weekend so that your employees can continue to access the assets that are being migrated and to avoid overloading your networks and other IT systems during the workday. The way you transfer your assets to the cloud will depend on variables such as the total amount of data that needs to be migrated, the speed of your Internet connection, and the transfer methods supported by the cloud provider.

The three most common methods, though, are to:

  • Transfer the data via an encrypted Internet connection
  • Transfer the data via a direct network connection
  • Transfer the data to portable storage devices and mail the devices to the cloud provider (if you don’t have any high-capacity storage devices, many cloud providers will mail you one for a fee)

The last method might seem strangely old-fashioned and very much at odds with the network-centric model of the cloud, but it can actually be the fastest and most cost-effective cloud migration method in certain cases, such as when you have a slow Internet connection (10 Mbps or less), have to migrate a large amount of data, and/or the cloud provider charges you by the gigabyte for bandwidth.

Iron Orbit, for our part, will handle the entire cloud migration process for our clients, including the most difficult work of adapting incompatible IT assets so that they’re compatible with our cloud platform, for a one-time fee. We are experienced at virtualizing and migrating assets that aren’t easy to migrate, including legacy applications and complete onsite IT systems.

How we transfer your data to our servers will depend on the variables that we mentioned earlier, such as your Internet speed, but we primarily perform migrations by transferring the data via an encrypted Internet connection. We also allow our clients to perform the migration process themselves, if they want.

I’ll also mention, since Iron Orbit specializes in hosting virtual desktops, that Iron Orbit can migrate your physical PCs (meaning the desktop and laptop PCs that your employees use as their primary devices) in such a way that your Iron Orbit hosted desktops will appear and perform exactly the same as each user’s pre-migration physical PC, with all of the same applications, files, and settings. A user’s hosted desktop will even have the same web browser favorites and desktop background image as the user’s corresponding physical PC.

So, for example, if Joe User’s desktop PC at the office is running Windows 7, has Microsoft Office 2013 and Intuit QuickBooks installed on it, and has Joe User’s wedding picture as the desktop background, then Joe User’s Iron Orbit hosted desktop can also (if Joe User and his boss want it to) run Windows 7, have Microsoft Office 2013 and Intuit QuickBooks installed on it, and have Joe User’s wedding picture as the desktop background the first time he logs into it, without Joe User having to install any applications or copy any files himself.

Migrating the full desktop like this makes the transition from onsite to cloud less disruptive, since users are provided with a desktop environment that they should be familiar with and don’t have to personalize themselves.