Cloudy sky above a building
PHOTO: Tim Gouw | unsplash

The cloud is the new normal.

In fact, the vast majority of IT businesses have already migrated to the cloud. Cost is not longer a deal breaker, even for small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs).

But if your SMB is debating the merits of cloud services, it's important to make a thoughtful, strategic move that includes analysis of potential risks.

The main objective should be increasing the efficiency of your corporate IT systems — and not just following the crowd. 

So, let’s take a closer look at cloud migration and the pitfalls SMBs should take into account.

1. The Cloud Comes with Risks

Putting business data “somewhere on the web” may raise concerns about keeping all-important assets at hand, within a business owner’s own space. 

Common concerns about using a cloud infrastructure are:

    1. Data security
    2. Availability

Data security is the most important issue for those who consider moving their data to remote storage. Everyone needs to be sure that unauthorized users will not have access to it, which is why major cloud vendors are keen to fulfill security-related demands of their customers.

Statistica: Public cloud Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) hardware and software spending from 2015 to 2026, by segment (in billion U.S. dollars).
Public cloud IaaS hardware and software spending from 2015 to 2026, by segment (in billion US dollars).PHOTO: Statistica

Another issue is: What if the Internet connection goes down?

Corporate customers should have high-speed Internet access with a reserve channel to handle any type of forced offline. However, modern cloud vendors guarantee uptime and responsiveness of their solutions through special service-level agreements (SLAs).

They allow you to scale up your business by means of cloud infrastructure resources without keeping in mind available hardware resources. It is also possible to avoid payment for underutilized systems, thanks to the pay-as-you-go model.

2. Top 3 Providers to Consider

There are few big cloud vendors in the market, but only three companies have formidable rosters of cloud solutions that meet the needs of any customer: Amazon Web Service, Google Cloud Platform and Microsoft Azure. Each of them owns a huge worldwide network of data storage and computing facilities.

CloudBerry Blog “Azure VM vs. Amazon EC2 vs. Google CE: Cloud Computing Comparison”
Azure VM vs. Amazon EC2 vs. Google CE: Cloud Computing ComparisonPHOTO: CloudBerry Blog

3. The Cloud Comes with Migration Tools

Take the time to explore what migration scenarios are offered by vendors. Most server applications have native data export tools for moving documents and databases to the cloud, as well as for creating a virtual infrastructure.

If a network with an Active Directory server is to be moved to Azure Cloud, it might be convenient just to set up an Azure AD account and then synchronize the on-premise AD network with Azure AD. A similar solution is available for the MS SQL Server migration to Azure.

AWS allows restoring SQL Server databases backup directly to Amazon RDS (Relational Database Service). You can also link on-premises resources directly to AWS cloud with AWS Direct Connect.

With Google Cloud Platform, it is possible to import Linux-based systems into Compute Engine as new virtual machine instances. A raw disk image, an Amazon Machine Image and a VirtualBox image are also supported.

It is recommend researching all migration solutions offered by each vendor and choosing the one that best fulfill your needs. You can start by checking the following cloud guides:

If you need to transfer a small IT infrastructure, check out cloud backup software that can create a snapshot of your physical server and then restore it as an Amazon EC2 instance.

4. Image-Based Backup & Recovery: A Good Solution for SMBs

SMBs have smaller IT infrastructures with a few applications not related to each other. It is therefore possible to use a more unified tool for any server migration without significant consequences.

There are cloud backup solutions with image-level backup and restore functionality that are integrated within Azure, AWS and Google cloud platforms. These backup tools are capable of moving an infrastructure unit to the cloud with the least possible complications.

Here is how image-based migration works:

  • Backup your server. Сreate a point-in-time snapshot of the system. Snapshot data includes settings, preferences, installed software, files and networking options.
  • Upload to the cloud. Transfer an image of your system to the cloud.
  • Restore as a cloud VM. Spin up a new virtual machine in the cloud and restore physical server to that instance

While image-based migration is a good way to get a server to the cloud, you should know about application-specific requirements. The first example that comes to mind is Microsoft Active Directory recovery issues.

There are other apps that can cause some issues after image-level restoration, so check app’s restoring and migration guide before proceeding.

5. Estimate Costs

While estimating the cost of migration to the cloud and its further usage, consider the following:

  1. Cloud services pricing. It is convenient to pay on a regular basis have the option to “freeze” unnecessary resources. Note that computing and storage resources are typically billed separately. Below are cost calculators for Amazon, Google and Microsoft:
    1. AWS Simple Monthly Calculator
    2. Azure Pricing Calculator
    3. Google Cloud Platform Pricing Calculator
  2. Application licenses cost. It is possible that the use of your corporate app on another machine will result in additional costs.
  3. Operational costs of migration and maintenance processes. Migration efforts will be paid back through low costs of maintenance, high scalability.
  4. Internet provider fees. If you move a lot of services to the cloud, consider using a few separate Internet connections with bigger bandwidth and traffic limits.
  5. Initial seeding fees. When uploading big amounts of data you need to pay for data import/export services.

Final Thoughts

Migration to the cloud is an excellent choice for small and medium-sized businesses. However, it is not risk free: SMBs should carefully choose a cloud vendor and prepare a migration plan for specific server solutions in your network.

Some server applications have their native tools for convenient transfer to the cloud. However, system image backup and recovery is the most straightforward way to perform this task, regardless of the cloud vendor you chose.