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Grow Your Business Technology

The Realities of Migrating to the Cloud

Realities of migrating to the cloud
Credit: Phonlamai Photo/Shutterstock

Migrating to the cloud can be an exciting prospect for businesses wanting to cut down on in-office equipment upkeep, and it can make operations more efficient. Yet, many businesses don't exactly know how to get started and may not think about the realities of shifting internal infrastructures to the cloud.

Migrating to the cloud takes time and money. How much can depend on the size of the business and how much of their computing they want to shift to the cloud. Another factor to keep in mind is if the migration will disrupt day-to-day operations. For example, if your website is stored on an on-premises server, you'll need to plan when you make the switch and how much downtime you'll experience.

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Migration to the cloud can benefit businesses of all sizes. The new owners of a bed and breakfast in Nova Scotia, Canada, decided to move the business's computing operations to a cloud and SaaS model, according to Ed Rossiter, co-owner of Kaulbach House. Before they took over, the business operated with minimal online activity, mostly through Booking.com, and handled most everything else over the phone and with paper records. This process required extra employees to manage everything.

They opted for a cloud system that integrated their accounting, customer management and booking into one platform. This integration removed the need for a full-time accountant and freed up time for the owners to handle other aspects of the business. They also ditched using Booking.com, which takes a 15 percent commission.

For small businesses like Kaulbach House, it's an easier endeavor to migrate to the cloud, with minimal costs besides paying for a new platform, since they didn't have any previous data to move. For small businesses that have on-premises data that needs to be migrated, there are a few more costs involved.

DentalPlans.com migrated their nine servers that contained their web, app and database tiers to virtual servers, according to chief technology officer Barry Newman. The process took about three months to configure and test the new system. Despite initial costs, the project resulted in an overall cost reduction of 40 percent. [Interested in cloud storage services? Check out our best picks for small business.]

The challenge is in planning and preparing for the actual migration. In a two-month migration, 98 percent of the time was spent planning and setting up the cloud architecture, said Cody Swann, CEO of Gunner Technology. Fortunately, most major cloud providers, such as Amazon Web Services, have tools to make migrations easier.

As you might imagine, enterprise-sized companies that move to the cloud need much more preparation for a successful migration. Consulting company 42 Apex oversaw the migration of a financial service firm that involved moving data from 30 physical servers across multiple locations, said founder Mike Munroe. The process took about one year and cost roughly $1 million. However, they were able to reduce their yearly cost of $250,000 to license and maintain their on-premises servers to $5,000 of yearly hosting costs.

Migrating your network and IT environment to the cloud can be manageable if you have staff who know what they're doing. However, if you lack the expertise to oversee such a project, or would like it handled quickly by professionals, you can outsource your migration to services that specialize in moving data.

WSM International is a service that specializes in migrating data to new locations, including cloud locations. The service claims that migrations of 25 servers or less can take up to three business days plus half a day per server. More than 25 server moves will take much more time, such as moving 25 to 50 servers per week. The company also aims to move your database without causing any downtime. [Read related article: How to Become a Cloud Architect.]

Hiring a service like this may be viable for a large enterprise, since it comes with a big price tag. Organizations need to audit their IT costs to see if moving to the cloud is worth it in the first place. Migration plans involve heavy upfront costs, so businesses need to be cautious when budgeting such a move and ensure the savings will quickly offset the initial investment.

Andreas Rivera

Andreas Rivera graduated from the University of Utah with a B.A. in Mass Communication and is now a  writer for Business.com and Business News Daily. His background in journalism brings a critical eye to his reviews and features, helping business leaders make the best decisions for their companies.