Guest Column | October 28, 2021

Going Big: Tips To Help Large Enterprises Migrate Data To The Cloud

By Rohn Noirot, Nasuni


There are many benefits to transitioning to the cloud, but you must be able to get there first. While it could be said that today’s startups have the luxury of starting their businesses in the cloud, many large enterprises must transition legacy systems and migrate large amounts of data to take advantage of the benefits.

Moving your data to the cloud can reduce on-premises storage hardware by up to 80%, while often cutting storage and maintenance costs in half. Workflow, agility, and system intuitiveness are heightened as employees can work on project data from any of their locations. When accessing data on locally cached appliances, system performance is likely to improve if you go from spinning to solid-state disks. At a minimum, retrieval from the cloud using cached disks will be as fast as historical local LAN speeds.

For IT employees, transitioning to the cloud is nothing short of a game changer – managing less hardware, storage and backups mean streamlined overhead, simplified environments, and fewer headaches. The CEO will love the cost savings, technical directors will have a more powerful solution, users can get the support they need with an agile scalable architecture.

Here are some best practices and tips for handling those large migrations.

Make It A Process

The devil is in the details and precise planning and preparation are needed to prevent disruptions and delays to your business. This requires a multi-phase process - the following example is based on five key phases.

To start, a managed service provider (MSP) should hold a client kickoff call, asking detailed questions about the customer’s environment that will enable them to create a conceptual design. This also will help project managers to map out all team member responsibilities. Consider using a RACI Matrix to outline major decisions to be made and milestones to reach. This assigns responsibility, accountability, and who must be consulted or informed, ensuring everyone is on the same page and ready to hold up their end at the right time. This will streamline planning and maintain resources throughout the project.

In phase two, a design is developed, covering everything from the types of hardware needed to cloud preparation. It should be determined which cloud destinations will perform best, factoring in regional locations of data centers, latency from edge sites to the cloud, and data sovereignty hurdles. Migration time should be estimated based on the amount of data in scope. Migration strategies incorporating Azure Data Box and Amazon Snowball can fill gaps in migrating sites when appropriate bandwidth is not available. Of course, there are all types of adjustments MSPs can use to streamline the migration process, including adding filers and volumes to increase the number of targeted destinations for data in the cloud.

Phase three should include a survey of all data in scope. Doing so will allow the client to organize data in a proper intuitive workflow for the users. It should also include any needed network preparations and hardware procurement.

Phase four, the exciting part for the engineers, is when all infrastructure preparations are complete and then data migration can begin. In this phase, users are identified for acceptance testing and cutover planning begins.

Lastly, in phase five, we begin to cut over/transition-sites to the cloud. Post cutover the project team may conduct “hyper care,” where steady-state teams support the business post cutover. It’s encouraged for the project team to be involved in some capacity with client support teams, so all critical information is handed off and users don’t experience slow response times when asking questions around the new cloud system. Post-implementation assessments are also critical because things may slightly change in the migration and cutover. Providing proper documented architecture and configurations to support teams ensures good knowledge transfer.

Crossing Hurdles

One of the foremost challenges in successfully migrating data to the cloud for large enterprises is understanding the data itself. Project teams should know which protocols are in use with the on-premises storage, which domains the data resides in, and recognize if the domains are trusted. Permissions also need to be managed with domain accounts, not local group permissions on a server. Migration engineers also need the proper access to migrate data.

Know that some data types are harder to migrate than others - such as when data is encrypted at the source or compressed - and set expectations with customers accordingly. Remember, a large number of small files can make migration appear slow at times, but this is due to the sheer volume of small files on the source storage. Be sure to measure progress not just in the quantity of data migrated, but also in the number of files migrated over time.

Still, perhaps the greatest hurdle to cross is making sure the client and project teams remain engaged throughout the entire process. There will be technical and logistical challenges and it’s important everyone is in lockstep.

Throughout it all, MSPs should keep in mind that in a large enterprise, various resources are sometimes required to cut over to the cloud. It’s vital Network, Server, Storage, Active Directory and Application teams stay engaged and provide plenty of advance notice to those working on the project - and that resources and approvals are in place when you’re ready to move.

Disrupt History

A key focus should be to minimize business disruption when transitioning to the cloud, which in many ways is decided by the customer. Businesses may want a service provider to transition their existing shares and server names “as is” to minimize or eliminate disruption to users. However, enterprises may decide to institute a more global intuitive workflow and transition away from inefficient, historical practices.

Most decision makers at large enterprises will realize the move from distributed file systems to a cloud-based architecture is a rare opportunity. The transition is considered a massive milestone in the maturity of a company and it’s a chance to easily bring about healthy, systemic change which will better position companies to compete in the market. And as cloud-based developments continue to mature, as remote work expands, companies will realize a more cost-effective solution and increased productive workflows for users.

About The Author

Rohn Noirot is Senior Global Project Executive at Nasuni.