The 4 Most Common Microsoft Azure Migration Challenges and How to Solve Them
Migrating in-house applications to the Cloud can deliver enticing rewards. Many organizations are migrating applications traditionally administered on-site because of the long-term savings Cloud technology provides. It eliminates much of the hardware and network equipment needed to operate in-house technology systems, and it can introduce productivity gains for large development teams.
Allied Market Research has estimated that 57% of ERP customers will still not be in the Cloud by 2020, and the reasons for this are many. Cloud migration presents several challenges that hold back many organizations from making the leap to this new technology paradigm.
In this article, we’ll look at four of the most common challenges with migrating to Microsoft’s Azure platform and discuss how they can be successfully navigated.
1. Planning a Migration to Azure
One of the biggest challenges to Azure migration is the planning of the migration itself, which not only requires a great time investment, but also requires a certain level of expertise to ensure it is a success. The first step to migrating any critical technology system to a cloud platform is assessing its pros and cons and planning the migration thoroughly before committing to it. Projects can range from single consumer apps to large corporate ERP systems, but they all require these initial steps to avoid problems down the road. Microsoft’s Azure Migration Center recommends that organizations follow four steps in their planning process:
- Create a high-level plan
- Consult with stakeholders
- Assess Total Cost of Ownership
- Evaluate the apps to be migrated
If the goal is to migrate several integrated apps and services, it’s important to carefully plan how to move the entire system to Azure. The most common approach is to move the apps and services with the least number of dependencies first, and assess the integration requirements for the remaining components.
Once a high-level plan is created, the next step is to get buy-in from stakeholders from both the technology and business owners. Having full support within the organization will ensure that the migration goes smoothly.
Higher cost in-house systems can seem a natural choice for migration to the Cloud, but organizations should also consider the difficulty of migrating them as well. Microsoft provides an Azure TCO Calculator to help with assessing individual applications.
2. Integrating Azure Delivered Apps and Services with In-House Systems
During and after a migration to Azure, most large organizations will have third-party and infrastructure apps that need to integrate with new cloud-based systems. Planning for these integration points and assuring that the systems function smoothly as a whole, can be a major challenge to a migration project. Examples of these integration points include:
- Point-of-sale systems
- Mail servers
- Third-party web services
- Data storage facilities
- Third-party data processors
External integrations can often be transferred to Cloud apps without too much difficulty, but internal systems that weren’t separated before the migration can introduce new requirements that need to be planned and implemented carefully. This is especially true if services are migrated to Azure in stages. Downtime can be minimized by testing these integrations in advance, and Microsoft offers Azure Integration Services that make the process easier.
Depending on the complexity of a migration plan, it may be wise to proceed with a proof of concept project that migrates a few integrated apps as a test case to discover organizational pain points. For example, a large organization planning to move hundreds of apps across a global business might first migrate the apps used by a single business unit. The lessons learned once the migration is successful can then by applied to the larger migration effort.
3. Reorganizing Technology Teams to Include the Cloud
Moving applications and infrastructure to Azure creates new problems in terms of staffing and team organization. Many organizations find that they need to create room on technology teams for cloud engineers who specialize in leveraging Cloud services like Azure as a development platform. This is proving to be a challenge for migration projects that create many openings for these skill sets in large technology departments.
A Cloud Foundry study in 2016 found that nearly two-thirds of respondents expected a shortage of developers ready to work with Cloud platforms. 57% of them were already encountering difficulties hiring the number of Cloud engineers that they needed.
Organizations that envision developing future apps and data processing systems in the Cloud need to include this staffing component to their long-term plans. Migration projects may need to be timed with hiring developers and systems engineers ready to use the new Cloud platform. It might also be prudent to consider alternatives like internal training programs to migrate current employees to the new skill set that’s needed.
4. Securing Sensitive Data Stored in the Cloud
Another challenge many organizations will encounter when migrating to Azure is the data security risks that result. Data which sits securely in local silos will be exposed to new security risks if it’s stored or processed on remote Azure servers. This has been an ongoing issue for Cloud platforms since the advent of the technology, but the new security systems that have developed in recent years have enabled the Cloud to be nearly as secure as a local server.
Many organizations have sensitive data that needs to be protected for both business and regulatory reasons that make Cloud migration difficult to implement. For those situations, there are specialized security services available from third parties that can harden Cloud applications even further than is provided by Cloud platforms natively. It’s important to assess these issues as part of a Cloud migration plan because they can represent significant costs, financially and operationally.
For Azure, the security framework that Microsoft has developed is called Azure Information Protection. It consists of a five-step process:
- Classify data with security rules
- Label data with classifications
- Protect data according to its labels
- Monitor access and network activity
- Respond to suspicious activity
This framework allows administrators to control access to files and data using a rights management system. Documents that need to be restricted to certain employees are monitored and managed with labels and security rules. Microsoft also provides an Azure Tracking Portal that gives security professionals the administrative tools they need to monitor and restrict data access in real-time.
Cloud migrations can be challenging to execute for organizations with complex technology systems and requirements. We’ve covered the four most common reasons many decide to remain in-house and provided some solutions.
Cloud platforms like Microsoft’s Azure have solved the security and integration problems which stopped many companies from migrating in the past. With careful planning of resources and staffing, these organizations can finally reap the benefits that the early cloud adopters are already enjoying in the Cloud.
Migrating to Microsoft Azure can be a daunting task. Outsource IT is experienced with migrating even the most complicated workloads to Microsoft Azure. If you are considering migrating, we can help you to successfully migrate without downtime or data loss.
Contact your Outsource IT account manager for more information on how we can help your organization make a smooth transition to Microsoft Azure.