Moving your entire business – apps, data, infrastructure, workloads – to Azure, whether a cloud-only or hybrid model, is both a long-term investment and complex undertaking that needs a steady hand.
In the ideal world, an end-to-end documented strategy should already be built to guide your migration. This gives your key decision-makers and IT team a well-defined structure to your soon to-be new cloud environment, and anchors for future services built on top of it.. The cloud migration is then backed by the right people, processes and strategy necessary to guarantee success and maintain the right amount of control for a smooth transition - yet it is still common for companies to be pulled in two directions.
If you’re still building out your migration plan and need more structured guidance in how to maintain control and ensure a seamless move to Microsoft Azure, our blog covers 5 ways you can ensure greater control over your cloud migration and help your journey avoid a lot of unnecessary headaches,
#1 - Sort out governance and security immediately
When moving your business to Azure, one of your first priorities should be to address governance and oversight early to ensure a successful enterprise-wide cloud transition.
Having the right governance and security framework in place means when your business eventually begins migrating applications, databases and workloads into your target Azure IaaS or PaaS environment, the assets you move remain secure, policies are properly enforced, and no unexpected resource usage or costs creep up during the move.
Key areas of governance and security to define and implement for control over your migration:
- Auditing and policies: Defining your policies within Azure Activity Log allows you to readily understand the status of your migration operation and other relevant properties – resource health, security, service health and administrative updates. With Azure Resource Manager (ARM), you can directly create and manage policies in Azure to ensure data protection and sovereignty by auditing, enforcing or restricting certain actions. One recommendation is to require tags for all resources.
- Cloud data encryption: Take the time to learn and utilise the several encryption and management capabilities of Microsoft Azure to store your business-critical data safely and reduce the risk of any intentional or unintentional security breach – during or post-migration. Azure Disk Encryption, Azure Information Protection and Azure Key Vault are all essential tools to follow best practices for cloud data security and encryption.
- Naming conventions and tagging: Not knowing who is creating more servers or whether resources are being used in a cost-effective way is the biggest culprit behind uncontrolled cloud spend during the migration, which is why enforcing server tags early is essential. Create names and values for the workloads you’re moving to Azure like you already have for on-premises infrastructure, filtering by app, department, region, database or web server, so you maintain efficient management of all assets at all levels so decision-makers can quickly identify resources in the bill, and IT can find them in the Azure portal or within scripts.
- Network join and security: It is essential to lay the foundations for network connectivity between your on-premises network and Azure network to enable your migration and ensure the transition process runs smoothly and securely.
- Role-based access control (RBAC): Maintaining security and managing access to resources in Azure Cloud by setting up role assignments and permissions early is vital to keep track of the number of users and groups that are involved and utilising Azure resources during the migration process, and to ensure unrestricted or unexpected usage is never a problem.
Several businesses often migrate to Azure and allow their IT teams time to explore the new scalable platform, creating multiple test environments without policies.
By defining and planning governance framework prior to your migration to the cloud, your organisation ensures you avoid orphaned workloads, resource wastage, potential security risks and unexpected bills.
#2 -Set secure remote access
For any cloud migration, whether it’s Azure or another platform, it’s essential to implement remote access controls to properly secure privileged access to all resources across your organisation’s infrastructure. For hybrid cloud migrations, this means being able to access both on-premises and Azure environments via remote desktop.
The purpose of configuring secure remote access to the network sets the foundation for safe, role-based access to resources post-migration and for admins during migration.
It allows your staff as well as third-party contractors remote access to your new cloud environment whenever they need it, based on predefined permissions through an access gateway, without the need for VPN connectivity directly into your company’s network.
Take the time to build administrative access controls, combined with two-factor authentication and Azure Active Directory (group policies, expiration dates, named accounts, etc) to ensure sufficient security and auditing of access is in place for domain and non-domain joined devices to your newly migrated Azure cloud environment.
#3 - Understand the costs of migration in detail
Nothing can derail a cloud migration faster than lack of understanding around Azure costs.
Microsoft Azure offers proven cost benefits in its fully-managed, pay-for-what-you-use model; it can easily scale up and down based on compute and resource need; and it’s extremely cost-efficient and less complex in licensing than on-premise solutions.
However, that doesn’t mean it’s automatically cheaper than what you’re moving away from, or that everything should be run in Azure. To keep everyone aligned with realistic expectations and the transition in control, it’s vital everyone understand the exact costs and spend involved.
Learn more tips on understanding Azure Cloud costs in our supporting blog: 3 considerations for building your Azure case.
#4 - Review and prepare for application compatibility
It might seem like an obvious checkbox, but too many companies still struggle to ensure business critical applications work out-of-the-box in a Microsoft Azure environment.
Line-of-business applications most likely are developed and fine-tuned to work in specialised on-premises environments. Work closely with your cloud consultancy or partner like Xello to outline the actions needed to ensure compatibility, and examine options to consolidate and retire legacy applications with newer, cloud-enabled tools.
For those legacy apps without a direct cloud replacement that you still need to operate, give your team ample time for planning and integration with your new Azure environment, whether through application virtualisation/VDI or options like Microsoft Remote Desktop Services.
#5 - Don’t skip the backup and disaster recovery strategy
It doesn’t matter how unlikely it seems - sometimes unexpected disaster can occur.
Whether it’s an unforeseen downtime on your end or a (very) rare cloud outage, having a Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery (BCDR) strategy to align with Azure’s backup, DR and site recovery systems is vital to avoid unnecessary loss of data or complications.
The more effective your Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery (BCDR) plan and strategy on how to respond to a disaster recovery or loss of data is, the better you will recover. There’s a simple yet very effective recovery structure that organisations should follow, outlining:
- Critical System: Define your critical systems so you know how to respond to each.
- RTO/RPO (hours): Define both RPO and RTO in hours, or minutes.
- Threat: Define the threat, e.g. AD object deletion.
- Prevention Strategy: Protecting accidental deletion of objects.
- Response Strategy: Restore deleted objects using the right restore solution.
- Recovery Strategy: How approach the recovery, who needs to be involved etc.
That plan is transformed to a process or strategy on how to respond. This maps out steps that will need to be taken in case of a disaster, and the following should be outlined:
- Critical System: Your defined critical systems.
- Threat: What was/is the threat?
- Response Strategy: The defined response strategy.
- Response Action Steps: Documented step-by-step on how to respond.
- Recovery Strategy: The organisation and IT- defined recovery strategy.
- Recovery Strategy steps: Step-by-step map of the recovery strategy and future prevention.
If you’re moving your business applications, data, servers, websites or workloads from ageing or otherwise legacy on-premises hardware, you may be reliant on local backups within equally ageing recovery solutions that won’t translate when you make the eventual move to the cloud.
Azure has several in-built and streamlined backup services and it’s vital to examine their capabilities early, understand how they align and benefit your migration objectives, and leverage them to ensure all assets you are moving to your new environment are protected, safe and accessible from the get-go.
Maintaining control with Azure Migration: What’s my next steps?
Migrating workloads to Microsoft Azure is never an entirely risk-free process, and there’s plenty of work that needs to be done to ensure your business is in full control.
If you need help understanding best practices and the optimal framework for a successful, controlled Azure migration, Part 2 of Xello’s new Azure Aligned Webinar series takes attendees through how to migrate business services to an Azure Cloud environment, and the exact framework required to ensure safe passage is realised, end-to-end.
Take control of your Azure Migration and make the move with the right framework in place - learn the step-by-step process by watching our webinar today.