This is part of Solutions Review’s Premium Content Series, a collection of contributed columns written by industry experts in maturing software categories. In this submission, Matillion CTO Ed Thompson offers commentary on cloud migration best practices to consider taking advantage of.
The impact of digital transformation has caused a tidal wave of innovation – changing the way nearly every organization thinks about data. As business leaders grapple with increasingly distributed, diverse and dynamic information, cloud data platforms have emerged as an indispensable tool to remain agile and efficient despite volatile business circumstances.
But what does cloud migration actually mean? Simply put, this means moving your data to the cloud. This has become pretty easy these days, with a massive choice of tools to help you achieve this. While it is a well-beaten path for many, a successful migration lies in the ability to unlock the cloud’s advantages. That is where the real migration needs to happen. There needs to be a shift in mindset to consider how to capitalize on the cloud in a way that’s beyond what was possible before. There is a ton of potential to do so, but to unlock these benefits it’s important not to artificially re-apply overbearing processes and closed-down mindsets to your data once it’s ensconced in the cloud.
Cloud Migration Best Practices
Having a good understanding of today’s complex data ecosystem is critical if you’re contemplating a cloud migration. Embracing the cloud alone will not guarantee success, and can even negatively impact the business if not approached correctly. However, there are certain best practices to keep in mind that will help you ride this new wave of opportunity.
From taking a holistic approach that considers all requirements and facets of the business to doing your due diligence on the solution that best suits your unique needs, here are four tips that will help you navigate these uncharted waters and set yourself up for success from the start:
Consider All Requirements
Before you dive into a cloud migration project, think carefully about all of your requirements – both functional and non-functional. These requirements are not the same as they were a few years ago, and it’s important to consider your business’s unique needs and industry factors. For instance, cost savings used to be the number one priority for businesses when migrating to the cloud. Now, cost has taken a backseat to security, availability, and scalability as the business landscape evolves and security threats become a top concern.
Despite this shift in priorities, cost still holds relevance and should not be an afterthought. At the bottom line, a cloud migration can be initially costly, and business leaders are often surprised by the final price tag. To ensure that the investment aligns with expectations, you will need to consider carefully what you will be doing in the cloud, how long it will take, and how to use your resources efficiently to keep costs in check.
Think About the Cloud Holistically
Migrating to the cloud will inevitably impact every aspect of your business. Much too often, teams embrace the cloud as a quick-fix solution to solving specific challenges – but teams need to think bigger. There are important questions to ask when considering a migration including, how is a cloud migration going to affect the rest of the organization? The applications they use? Their processes? Their access to data and the things they can do with it?
The cloud isn’t just a black box, to be successful it’s still crucial to understand and design how the cloud building blocks will fit together. For data, this is especially important. It’s crucial to understand the source generating your data, the mechanism that transports it into or within the cloud infrastructure, where it will be stored, where it will be transformed and where it will be queried. It’s all too easy to end up with a disappointing result if you fail to understand the scaling characteristics of any one of these steps.
Another easy opportunity to miss is the cloud’s innate ability to make your data more accessible to the people that need it. Challenges about protecting limited infrastructure from peaks of demand have bred a mindset that results in business users being locked out of the very data that would allow them to improve the way the business operates. Moving data to the cloud should be combined with the tools and mechanisms needed to make that data as open as possible while still keeping security top of mind.
By considering the implications of the cloud as a means to enterprise-wide digital transformation as opposed to data team-specific solutions, you can anticipate how this may affect tactics on a day-to-day basis and plan ahead for any potential roadblocks. This will not only help to avoid a massive disconnect across the organization but also embrace unexpected areas that may be able to yield immediate results from this transition. By doing so, you are not only avoiding potential complications but setting the business up to reach its maximum potential through these data insights.
Do Your Homework
Your business is unique, and the cloud platform you choose needs to reflect that. Given the resources and investment required to move to the cloud, it’s critical to take time to understand what options are available and which one will be right for your organization. Each cloud platform is competing on a different perspective and has its own differentiators. For instance, there are a variety of emerging cloud trends that are helpful to consider:
- Cloud Neutrality: As enterprises move to adopt multiple databases into their mix, many have realized the benefits of “neutral” platforms that are able to bring these siloed sets of information together and consolidate the data in a way that promotes a more holistic approach to analytics.
- Open Architecture: Flexible, open architecture platforms are gaining popularity over traditional closed systems for their ability to store and share data more easily and freely.
- Security Features: Security, privacy, and sovereignty are areas that businesses can’t afford to get wrong. A cloud platform that provides built-in security features is key to better protecting data amidst today’s growing threat landscape.
- Low-Code/No-Code: Low-code and no-code platforms have gained some attention for their ability to alleviate demands on data engineers and encourage the democratization of data across the enterprise.
- Data Sync: Modern cloud data integration platforms can take the data loaded into the cloud data warehouse and make it more accessible and actionable to more business users by pushing this data back into the operational systems for use by marketing, sales, support, etc.
Business leaders need to understand their individual use cases and align unique requirements with the position, the vision, and the point of view of different cloud service providers and different cloud data platforms. As mentioned above, multiple teams might also have multiple preferences for working in the cloud and these will need to be understood and taken into consideration when selecting a platform as well. Ultimately, there are as many options as there are enterprises, and making sure you architect a solution that fits your business and all of its employees is key.
Document Your Decisions
Don’t just make the decision and move on. Take the time to ask additional questions and note every aspect of the project at hand. This not only helps you be more mindful and thorough with your approach to cloud migration but will set you up for future success and adaptability.
To do so, here are some important questions to ask yourself at the start of the project:
- Why did I have to make that decision?
- What was the motivation?
- What was the justification?
- What are the implications?
Nothing is stagnant in the modern analytics space, and documenting answers to these key questions at the start of your cloud migration journey will help you remember what you did and adapt better when things change (which they will!). This will enable you to become resilient to unexpected changes – like those brought on by the pandemic – and better manage data.
Ultimately, this wave of newly dispersed data holds great promise and opportunity but will swamp a business that’s unprepared. Whether you’re just considering a cloud migration for the first time, or looking to implement a strategy that’s better aligned with your business, the best time to jump in is now. By following these best practices, you can ensure smooth sailing on your way to improved analytics and business agility.
- Three Cloud Migration Best Practices You Need to Know - January 14, 2022