Discussions of cloud migration tend to focus mostly on how to redesign applications to take full advantage of cloud services, then move the applications into the cloud.
A topic that receives less attention is how to migrate data into the cloud. That's a shame, because data migration into the cloud is one of the most complex – and, in some cases, fraught – components of a cloud migration. There are many ways to get data into the cloud, and many considerations to weigh in planning the right data migration strategy.
With that reality in mind, here's a look at five key factors to address when migrating data from on-prem or private storage into the cloud.
Choose the right cloud storage service
Just as there is more than one way to host an application in the cloud (you could use VMs, serverless functions or containers, for instance), there are many types of cloud storage services. The main options include:
- Databases, which are ideal if your on-prem data exists in a database and you need to keep it in the same format when it moves to the cloud.
- Object storage, which is good for storing large volumes of unstructured data, like documents or media files.
- Block storage, which you'd typically use for attaching file systems to cloud-based VMs.
Different types of cloud storage come with different pros and cons. For example, object storage tends to be the least expensive form of storage, especially if you take advantage of cold storage tiers. But its unstructured nature makes it a poor fit for applications that require data to be organized in a certain way.
To migrate data into the cloud, you must therefore assess which kinds of data you have and what you need it to do in the cloud, then figure out which type of cloud storage service is best for your use cases.
Consolidate data before it moves to the cloud
Consolidating data, which means combining data from multiple sources to reduce its total size, can help you save money by decreasing the amount of data you have to store. And cloud data migration is an excellent time for performing consolidation.
After all, you don't want to wait until your data is already in the cloud to figure out which data you can merge together. Do that work while the data is still on-prem so that you have less data to move to the cloud in the first place.
Secure access to data
The access-control systems that protect data on-prem don't always work in the cloud. For example, highly sensitive on-prem data could be air-gapped, which means disconnecting it from the network to minimize the threat of Internet-based attacks. You can't do that in the cloud, since the cloud is always online.
Likewise, the access-control frameworks that you use on-prem to determine which access rights users have to your data may not work in the cloud, where you'd instead use your cloud provider's Identity and Access Management (IAM) system for access control needs.
This means that you must rethink your data security strategy when you move data to the cloud. You'll likely need to implement different tools, and you may need to rethink fundamental aspects of your data architecture in order to mitigate the risk of unauthorized access.
Rethink data backups
Along similar lines, you may need to rethink your data backup strategy when you move data to the cloud.
If your data lives in the cloud, backing it to an external location – such as on-prem storage, another cloud or, even better, both – is arguably the safest way to keep the data safe. You may also choose to back up data to a separate region in the same cloud, from which you can typically restore the data more rapidly than you'd be able to do if the backups resided in an external location only.
Address data sovereignty needs
Moving data into the cloud may change the geopolitical jurisdiction in which your data physically resides. That shift could carry compliance implications. Your business may be subject to rules that require it to keep certain data within a specific country, or you might find yourself subject to new compliance mandates by storing data in a new region.
Whatever the details of your situation, it's important to be aware of the compliance implications of migrating data to the cloud and be sure you are prepared to address them.
Migrating data from on-prem into the cloud can be more complex than it at first seems. It's rarely as simple as lifting-and-shifting data from one storage location to another. If you want to keep your data secure while also optimizing for cost and performance, you must weigh a variety of different considerations as you chart a cloud data migration strategy.