Moving Your Data To The Cloud: Costs & Security

 

Cloud Migration is the term used for the process of moving data to the Cloud, and it would involve a lot of considerations. Few important ones are cost, security, performance parameters, interoperability, business continuity and so on. However, all of these would be dependent on what is being moved and to what type of Cloud.

Typically, organizations move data, applications, as well as a few other essential business elements to the Cloud. Most often, the data is being moved from the local servers or data centers to the Cloud. There could also be a Cloud to Cloud migration happening if you move from one Cloud to another.

Why Cloud Migration?

The move to the Cloud should ideally be a well-thought-out move; it is done in the interest of greater flexibility, offering better customer services, achieving seamless traction among the workforce, convenience, high availability, avoiding redundancy and to be cost-effective. For most small and medium enterprises, the Cloud is a more attractive and inexpensive option, as compared to owning on-site hardware. This is more so since many big players are offering some free options to their customers. And the flexibility of the various paid options, like pay per use or on-demand services, makes it a highly competitive option. This is especially so when faced with having to deliver aggressive financial results.

Also, with data security as the main concern for most organizations, the move to the Cloud seems to be a smart one. Most Cloud service providers have put in place extensive security features, as a combination of high-end software, and hardware technologies. Organizations can negotiate appropriate contracts with specific SLAs on the terms that matter most to them, to protect their interests. Also, there are laid down government regulations that these providers need to comply with, assuring certain built-in levels of security.

Moving data to the Cloud also takes care of issues related to the physical security of the data and applications. It eliminates risk from incidents like fire, natural disasters, physical attacks, data loss caused through staff ignorance or deliberate attempts to destroy the same, etc.

When most of the services are running 24*7, the Cloud assures easy access, speed, efficiency, scalability, better customer experiences and is sustainable in the long run. Also, data and applications on Cloud are better equipped for the constant changes necessitated by the highly evolving technologies. All these points make for a strong case for organizations to move to the Cloud.

Cloud Migration Strategies

The decision to move to the Cloud may well be an easy one, but not so easy is arriving at the Cloud migration strategy. Deciding on what to move, how and when, will have to be discussed and concluded based on many factors. These factors will have to look at mission-critical aspects like service continuity, the applications to be moved, the dependency mapping, the topology, the appropriate Cloud hosting environment, and whether to make the move in phases or one in one go, etc.

The goals of each and every organization will differ and hence, the Cloud migration strategy will depend on that. The most important of the decisions would be on what to move, and to what type of Cloud; whether Public, Private or a Hybrid one. It would be good to have a pilot migration phase, to evaluate load, performance, security, interoperability, dependency, and most of all, business continuity.

Industry experts say that there are chances that Cloud migration can go wrong if all aspects are not considered as they should. Application issues, network issues, staff awareness and knowledge issues, tool issues, and so on, are just a few of the things that can affect the migration. Choosing the right provider and the right migration tools can help reduce or eliminate these issues. Most Cloud service providers, including the major players like Microsoft Azure, AWS, and Google Cloud, offer migration services and tools.

Microsoft Azure advisor, AWS Trusted Advisor, Azure Migrate, Azure Site Recovery, AWS Migration Hub, AWS Application Discovery Service, Google Cloud Storage Transfer Service, Google Transfer Appliance, etc. are a few tools on offer from these biggies. Many organizations also use the DIY type of tools or even create their own.

Costs

To calculate the costs related to Cloud migration to decide its viability, you need to start with your existing IT infrastructure. A thorough audit of the current status, taking into account all direct and indirect costs, would be a solid starting point. Direct costs are simpler to calculate as they include software, hardware, maintenance, staff, physical facility, Internet and such. Indirect costs include productivity losses due to any reason, damaged reputation, service/server downtime, and customer dissatisfaction. The logs can help you with the downtime calculation, and customer satisfaction surveys with the things that are probably not right at the moment.

The next step would be to calculate your estimated Cloud infrastructure costs, which can be done rather easily with the help of tools like:

  • Amazon Web Services (AWS) Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) Calculator. There is also an in-depth monthly cost calculator that can help immensely.
  • Google Cloud Platform Pricing Calculator
  • Microsoft Azure’s Pricing Calculator
  • Rackspace’s calculator
  • IBM Bluemix’s calculator

Almost all the Cloud Service providers are providing consulting services that can help the organizations through the various stages of Cloud Migration, including the cost calculation.

Security

The biggest concern for most organizations in the move to the Cloud has to be the safety of the data, especially confidential and sensitive data. In the last few years, the technologies related to Cloud storage security have evolved by leaps and bounds. The credibility of such services has been strengthened with the likes of:

  • Firewalls
  • Intrusion detection systems
  • Monitoring, metrics, and logs
  • Encryption
  • Data governance

These are apart from the heightened security that these providers enforce at places where the physical servers are located.

Firewalls ensure that only authenticated have access to the specified data, and are implemented as a Software-as-a-service firewall (SaaS firewall), Platform-as-a-service (PaaS) or infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS). The intrusion detection mechanisms in the form of host-based (HIDS), and network-based (NIDS) or application-based, protect against cyber attacks. The various monitoring applications, their logs, and benchmark metrics ensure timely alerts to avert and handle any untoward incidents.

But, the most important of all the security aspects is encryption, which is a watertight technique that uses authenticating credentials and encryption keys. There are regulations regarding certain usages, which Cloud Solution providers need to comply with, and hence if those are met, you are assured about safety to a great extent. The human error aspect though, cannot be overlooked. It is important for all staff accessing the Cloud, to understand the importance of simple things like password rules to complex things like sharing information with only those that need to know.

Most Cloud Storage facilities also provide you control of Data Governance to manage your data. However, the underlying protection mechanisms against data loss and recovery from such incidents are usually in-built as well. These include periodic backup to servers in alternate locations, instant recovery to ensure business continuity, and more. Service Level Agreements based on what is important to achieve as metrics for your organization can be arrived at, with the Cloud Service providers.