Roadmap on how to transfer business data to the cloud or provider’s data center in a seamless and user-friendly manner

Ever since the full-scale war broke out in Ukraine, more than ten data centers have ended up in occupied territories or in territories that are shelled regularly. The increased risks of data loss make companies think of moving their IT infrastructure outside the country. At the same time, everyone is concerned about the same points: how to transfer data quickly, with minimal or no downtime, and without increased cost of IT infrastructure. We are telling you how to prepare for data migration and what to expect at each stage of the transfer. 

Why do you need a roadmap? In a nutshell: this is a plan containing a number of actions. When such actions are implemented, it should lead to a certain result. The roadmap will become a guide that will at any time let you know what stage you are at now and what you need to do at the next step.

As regards business data migration, a roadmap will help you plan your migration properly and avoid critical mistakes. It is an ideal scenario if during migration the services will work seamlessly or with minimal downtime, in such a way that your customers will not notice it and so that the migration does not affect your business processes.

It is impossible to develop a universal roadmap, so we have put together the common guidelines for those planning to transfer their data to a third-party provider or from one service provider to another. Let us roughly single out two global stages: preparation and migration. The first covers the period from the moment you decided that you need to transfer data to the moment you conclude an agreement with the selected provider. 

1. Identify migration goals and objectives

The war has greatly shifted the focus: now Ukrainian business looks on data migration as the most obvious and effective way to protect the data from physical destruction. Yet other goals have remained outside war-related context: to make IT infrastructure more reliable, reduce its maintenance costs, and prepare for surges in demand. Moreover, service model (as a Service) of using cloud services can become especially useful for solving problems related infrastructure security or data safety (for example, Firewall aaS or Backup aaS) after moving to a provider. Companies looking for a more flexible IT solution to carry out their tasks will be interested in Infrastructure as a Service (Infrastructure aaS) model, which will make required cloud resources available for them within a few hours or even faster. 

2. Audit your current IT infrastructure

At this stage, you have to understand what kind of resources – servers, virtual machines, databases, applications – you currently have and which of them need to be transferred. You can conduct this audit in-house or outsource it.

The points to analyze:

  • current load: identify load peaks, plan and lay down IT infrastructure growth for the near future. Among other things, this will simplify budgeting and help prepare for increased number of services or the amount of data;
  • network activity: consider optimizing it and whether current settings and firewall operations comply with security requirements;
  • services on virtual machines: if the load on some of them has increased, it makes sense to move them to separate virtual machines;
  • interrelations between applications: you need to keep them after migration.

Keep in mind business’ goals and plans: if in the near future you plan to automate new business processes or introduce a new service, put these needs into IT infrastructure to be designed. In the face of uncertainty that has arisen because of the war, cloud will become useful due to the fact that it is flexible. You can easily scale cloud resources up or down at any time, while on-premise infrastructure requires long-term planning as it is strictly tied to hardware procurement.  

3. Shape resource demand

Audit findings will help identify your expectations related to IT infrastructure to be put in place after migration. Consider it as draft terms of reference which lists technology stack requirements, the amount of resources (computing, storage and others), data networks, scaling, fault tolerance, compliance with current industry requirements. 

“Audit should not be taken as a formality, since migration success and efficiency depends on it. If the audit is conducted in a top quality manner, it will be easier for you to draw up the proper terms of reference and choose the best solution. This is especially important for companies whose activities are subject to mandatory licensing or certification: in this way they will be able to comply with the regulator’s requirements and successfully pass IT infrastructure audit.

Depending on the business field, there may be specific industry standards and requirements set for the IT infrastructure, which are mandatory in order to be licensed and carry out company activities. For example, several Colobridge clients are regularly checked by external auditors who, among other things, evaluate to what extent the companies’ IT infrastructures meet the licensing authorities’ requirements. Since clients work with confidential information (personal and financial), regulators must be confident that data storage and processing and transmission systems are absolutely reliable. If the auditors’ findings do not satisfy the licensing authorities, our clients will not be able to renew their licenses to operate”, Vitalii Bohomiakov, Head of Sales at Colobridge GmbH.

4. Choose a provider 

The extent to which you will be satisfied with migration and its deliverables largely depends on the service provider. As migration is a rather voluminous topic which can be covered in a separate entry, we focus only on the most important features common for a good provider.

  • Reliability and security of its data centers are confirmed by international certificates. Evaluating fault tolerance is easy: the more nines, the better. Optimal number of nines is three or more: for example, 99.95%.
  • A clear and transparent pricing system: no hidden fees and enabled opportunity to budget the costs of IT infrastructure in the long-term perspective.
  • Service Level Agreement (SLA) containing financial guarantees and clearly delineated levels and areas of responsibility.
  • If you are to implement a complex unconventional or hybrid solution, consider whether the provider has successfully completed projects for well-known brands and has relevant cases. 

Generally, this is what basic preparation for migration looks like this, but when it comes to practical implementation, a lot depends on how complex the services are and what current IT infrastructure is like. For example, a company that migrates from multiple providers to one provider and intends to deploy a single, centrally managed IT infrastructure in a private or hybrid cloud will have to do more preparatory work.

The following global task will be to implement the data migration project. So, we are telling you what to prepare for now.

5. Choose the suitable technical solution

Companies whose core activity is not IT-related can turn to a provider with this task, especially since large market actors often have consultants and even free consulting. The provider will help to chose the best suitable solution, resource sizing and offer migration options. You, in turn, will need to assess whether they correspond your business objectives and whether they are economically feasible. For example, a rented server is suitable for some entities while others would want to place their own equipment in the provider’s data center. A startup or small company will be fine with public cloud, while a more mature company will often prefer to deploy a private one. You can transfer all the data to the provider or leave some of the services on premise locally. You can also combine several cloud and physical products from one provider to get an even more fault-tolerant and efficient solution.

6. Choose the best suitable time to migrate 

The best time is when the company’s services are the least loaded, and for some companies it is at night or on a weekend evening, while for others it is exactly the opposite. We definitely do not recommend you to start migration during the high season, especially if surges in demand are common for your business. 

7. Migrate part of your IT infrastructure and test it

It is an optional step since it can not be implemented in all models of hosting the client’s IT infrastructure. However, if there is such an opportunity, first transfer some of the services and perform under load tests. This will help you identify issues related with performance and proper hardware and cloud services operation in order to set everything straight before problems spread to the entire IT infrastructure. You can migrate the data on your own, involve the provider’s support service staff, or choose a hybrid option – solve this problem together.

Testing will help assess the support service too: response time, responsiveness, willingness to do real work at night and on holidays. Even if an extended service package is available for a fee, it makes sense to make a one-time payment and simulate a critical situation – to report an alleged problem late at night in order to understand how satisfied you are with the response of the provider’s technical support team

8. Migrate the rest of your IT infrastructure

The same principle applies here: transfer the remaining services when the IT infrastructure is least loaded. Arranging a seamless migration (the one without stopping business processes) is a task an experienced provider can reasonably implement: it is necessary to carefully work out and strictly adhere to the migration plan which provides for the likelihood of failure points and elaborates on ways to cover all possible risks.

During the migration process, take documenting all the work seriously – this will help avoid discrepancies with the provider’s actions, simplify administration and speed up the recovery of the IT infrastructure if unforeseen incidents occur. Therefore, describe architecture as-is and to-be in detail, develop network diagrams, control software versioning, and also consider backing up data and making a plan for restoring it.  

The gist about migration in five bullet points

We have identified five main components of a successful and seamless data migration from anywhere to anywhere for you:

  • Know your infrastructure of yesterday, today and tomorrow.
  • Predict business growth and choose an IT solution depending on size.
  • The key to success is a reliable provider with extensive expertise.
  • Delegate tasks where you lack expertise.
  • Test and only then transfer all business services.

“Migrating IT infrastructure is always a team effort on the part of the client and the provider. It is at this stage that the foundation for cooperation is laid, which in the future can become a reliable long-term partnership. Colobridge team, for its part, is doing its best to ensure that data migration for our clients is as seamless as possible and entails no business downtime. We are open for cooperation and offer to test IaaS for free for those planning to transfer their data to the cloud; we are also willing to discuss mutually beneficial service provision terms with our clients”, Vitalii Bohomiakov, Head of Sales at Colobridge GmbH.