Let’s face it: Migrating to Microsoft Azure just isn’t as straightforward as switching from a local version of Office to Office 365. Managed well, cloud migrations can pay great dividends, but for small and midsize businesses, the move can be more than a little intimidating.
Most IT organizations tackle the process by starting with infrastructure — swapping the physical servers in their data center for virtual ones in the Azure cloud. From there, they tend to adopt Azure’s other offerings: Platform as a Service, data analytics, backup, disaster recovery and so on.
This phased approach works well, but only if organizations think through both the big picture and the minute details of the migration. Here are four essential steps to smoothing your path to the Azure cloud.
1. Calibrate Your Expectations
Start out with the right expectations to get the outcome you desire. For example, if your primary motivation for moving to Azure is cost savings, you may be disappointed to find that not every application costs less in the cloud. But if your goal is to make your infrastructure more agile, flexible and scalable, you’re on the right track.
2. Know Your Apps
Before you move any applications out of your data center, you need to understand their dependencies — the kinds of data that flow between servers, the processes they rely on in order to function and the amount of bandwidth they require.
This becomes especially important when you’re operating a hybrid cloud. For example, if your payroll system relies on a front-end server in Azure and a back-end server in your data center, the machines will need to communicate over the public internet, which can introduce performance issues and increase costs.
3. Test and Assess
When it comes to cloud migrations, the importance of testing and assessing really can’t be overstated. For instance, if you want to estimate the cost of running applications in Azure, you first need to understand the performance and resource requirements of each server. Identify which servers sit idle most of the time — these are the best candidates for moving to the cloud, since doing so reduces costs associated with cooling, power and rack space.
You should also perform a risk assessment of your business-critical apps. What applications do you want to run in Azure, and will they be able to perform as well in the cloud as they do on-premises? How do performance and uptime guarantees stack up against your resiliency requirements? Know before you commit.
4. Keep an Eye on Costs
Once servers are running in Azure, they’re on the clock, consuming CPU cycles, accessing storage and using network resources — all of which costs money. Watch utilization costs closely to make sure they don’t get out of hand.
The good news is that you now have much greater visibility into your organization’s infrastructure investment. Running servers in a data center means you generally don’t see the day-to-day costs of wasted clock cycles and redundant disk reads. With Azure, you can access this data minute by minute, 24/7. This gives you greater insights into your IT spending and allows you to make adjustments as needed.
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