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What Is Cloud Transformation? 5 Best Practices for a Seamless Journey

The modern business market is constantly evolving, and in order to keep up with the fast pace of change, companies need to do everything they can to offer the kinds of services and individualized experiences that customers expect. In order to support these initiatives, organizations are turning to cloud transformation to take advantage of the efficiency and innovation that cloud-based environments enable.

Here, we’ll take a deeper dive into cloud transformation, exploring what it is, why it’s important, best practices, and how companies can use its benefits to their advantage. 

What Is Cloud Transformation?

Evolution of the cloud computing industry, with new technologies and trends shaping its future.

Cloud transformation plays an important role in a company’s digital evolution — it’s the roadmap organizations use to rewire their infrastructure so they can create value by deploying technology at scale. Once a company determines how it wants to update its processes, business models, and customer engagement, the cloud transformation stage of these updates can take place. This step involves the end-to-end migration of the organization’s data, applications, and infrastructure from on-site servers and manual processes to the cloud.

Businesses are leveraging the benefits of the cloud at an increasing rate, so it’s increasingly important for companies to have cloud strategy. This way, they can remain competitive by offering the services that customers expect. Cloud transformation helps organizations do exactly that all while providing a way to be more responsive to new opportunities, easily adopt new processes, and incorporate new technologies in their products and services.

Cloud Transformation vs. Similar Processes

When talking about cloud transformation and cloud migration, many of the terms that describe these processes are often used interchangeably. Conflating these concepts isn’t just inaccurate, it can lead to confusion and miscommunication at best and costly errors at worst. To help set the record straight, let’s take a closer look at the following:

Cloud Transformation

Cloud transformation is a roadmap (digital transformation plan) that organizations use to rewire their business processes as well as their IT infrastructure, creating value through better interactions with customers, automated workflows, and being able to deploy solutions at scale. Implicitly, it refers to the work done to figure out how the technology will achieve the business goals and objectives identified in the roadmap.

Cloud Migration

This is a part of cloud transformation and refers to the step in the process that involves transferring a company’s software and data to the cloud.

Digital Transformation

Digital transformation is the most distinct of these three terms and refers to the integration of digital technology into everyday business operations. Cloud transformation can sometimes play a part in this process but isn’t the main focus.

6 Cloud Transformation Benefits

In addition to helping organizations stay current in the competitive landscape — it’s estimated that by 2025, half of the world’s data will be stored in the cloud — cloud transformation comes with the following benefits:

  1. Better scalability — Cloud-based infrastructure makes it far easier for teams to scale operations up or down, making it possible to adapt quickly to changing demand.
  2. Improved operational efficiency — Without the need for time-consuming infrastructure upgrades,organizations that migrate to the cloud are able to release new software updates more quickly — to the tune of 29.5% greater code deployment frequency.
  3. Increased reliability and uptime – when compared with on-premises data centers.
  4. Increased data security — Storing data on on-premise servers means that businesses’ internal IT teams are charged with its security (in addition to regular system maintenance). With cloud transformation, this responsibility can be outsourced to a service that provides 24/7 monitoring. What’s more, companies with data stored on the cloud report 45% fewer security-related incidents.
  5. Enhanced cost-effectiveness — Did you know that adopting a cloud-based infrastructure can deliver a return on investment (ROI) that’s more than three times greater than on-premise systems? In addition to the cost savings that come with the resulting streamlined workflows, when using a cloud service provider, companies don’t need to hire extra IT staff to manage on-site systems. All in all, companies who migrate to the cloud see 31% infrastructure cost savings on average.
  6. Easier innovation — When using a cloud-based platform, developers can build, test, and deploy new software and applications (or any needed updates) without needing to work around the limitations of outdated legacy infrastructure. On average, this results in a 29% increase in staff focus on innovation, which leads to three times more new features per year.
  7. Improved collaboration — Since cloud-based platforms can be accessed anywhere in real time, teams that are spread out across time zones and/or countries are able to collaborate on projects no matter where they’re based.

5 Common Cloud Transformation Challenges

While cloud transformation offers many benefits to organizations, it isn’t without its challenges. Some of the most common ones that businesses face as a part of cloud transformation include:

  1. Cybersecurity options — When transitioning on-premises systems to the cloud, the security techniques that companies previously relied on to protect their data may not translate. Additionally, most public cloud platforms (such as Amazon Web Services, or AWS for short) have what’s referred to as a shared responsibility model, which means that they take on the responsibility of securing their servers while companies are left to build in the cybersecurity measures that safeguard applications and stored data themselves. One way that companies can manage this responsibility is to consider investing in cloud security posture management (CSPM) technology, which can detect and prevent the types of threats that lead to data breaches.
  2. Sharp learning curve — While cloud transformation is a crucial step that businesses must take to remain competitive in today’s constantly changing digital landscape, these changes come with a whole new set of technologies, best practices, and skill sets that teams need to learn. If a cloud transformation plan doesn’t include cloud-centered training, businesses risk everything from ineffective solutions and wasted time to security vulnerabilities. To avoid these pitfalls, it’s important to provide learning opportunities or, if that’s not feasible, partner with a dedicated cloud specialist.
  3. Regulatory compliance — When it comes to storing sensitive data in the cloud, there are strict guidelines put forth by industry-specific regulating bodies that require certain storage standards to be maintained. HIPAA, GDPR, and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act are all examples of laws that govern data storage. To be found in violation of these and others can result in hefty fines and other penalties for offenders. As new laws are made and existing ones get amended, it’s crucial for companies to remain well-versed in the regulations that apply to them.
  4. The cloud transformation process itself — Even though a cloud transformation plan may appear seamless in theory, in reality, the opportunity for mistakes always exists once it gets put into action. It’s only once the migration process starts that it becomes easy to spot oversights in the transformation roadmap.

    For example, the project may unexpectedly go over budget because of poor planning, or downtime could occur if compatibility issues between legacy software and the new, cloud-based systems aren’t properly accounted for. Cloud transformation is never straightforward; potential roadblocks that get overlooked during planning can become expensive problems down the road, which is why teams should always be thorough when putting together a transformation plan.
  5. Migration vs. modernization — When considering cloud transformation, companies need to decide how heavily they should lean into modernization, which can be determined by answering the following question: How urgent is the need to re-architect their applications?

    With the classic lift-and-shift model — replicating current on-premises infrastructure on the cloud by creating virtual, cloud-based servers — companies can get to the cloud more quickly in a way that involves the least amount of software change. However, this method comes with minimal benefits and higher operational costs when compared with cloud-native software.

    True modernization relies on technologies like containerization, serverless, managed database services, and modern DevOps to create cloud-native applications, and this requires a greater investment of time and labor to get re-architected applications up and running. However, cloud-native software yields faster innovation, quicker code releases, and lower operational costs.

5 Best Practices for Cloud Transformation Strategy

To lower the chances of running into delays and other setbacks as teams begin the cloud transformation process, it’s always a good idea to follow a set of known best practices. The following are five ways companies can be proactive to help their migrations proceed according to plan.

  1. Get buy-in from company leadership. Without the full support of the leadership team, projects risk being grounded permanently. So in order for cloud transformations to take off, it’s crucial to get the organization’s top decision makers on board. This can be achieved by proving the project’s benefit to the business.
  2. Win the hearts and minds of business stakeholders. Similarly, helping cross-departmental leaders understand how cloud transformation will benefit their teams will make collaboration much easier. Working with resistant managers can result in project delays, so it’s important that all stakeholders understand (and support) the goals of the project.
  3. Work with a cloud expert. Whether that means hiring permanent, in-house cloud specialists or working with a cloud expert service partner for the duration of the transformation, having cloud expertise on the team can be the difference between an efficient process and one that risks costly mistakes.
  4. Break the process into incremental steps. This can help make the process more manageable — both in terms of quality and finances. By breaking down the transformation into a series of batches, teams can concentrate on ensuring that the implementation is completed correctly. Additionally, cloud transformation comes with a high initial investment, and a segmented adoption process can help spread out those costs.
  5. Promote a culture of cloud literacy. The road to becoming a cloud-native company isn’t a straight path with a clear ending point. It’s one that extends beyond the transformation itself and involves continuous learning to understand how to effectively work within a cloud environment and use it to the best advantage. In order to get the best ROI on a cloud transformation, companies need to be prepared to foster a culture that encourages cloud literacy.

The Cloud Transformation Journey

To ensure that the cloud transformation process goes as smoothly as possible, it’s important for companies to identify the steps of the transformation. Having a well-thought-out plan in place ensures the best chance for success, making it easier for teams to anticipate potential challenges and roadblocks and take proactive measures to avoid them.

At the very least, a cloud transformation plan should include these seven steps:

  1. Understand the goals, objectives, and organizational changes that the process hopes to achieve. By having a firm grasp on the intended outcomes of the cloud transformation, teams will be able to make more informed decisions and have a clear way to measure success or course-correcect.
  2. Determine the architecture and processes needed. With the project goals in place, development teams can more easily identify the technologies and approaches that are best suited for achieving objectives as efficiently as possible.
  3. Develop a migration plan. As is the case with any project, having a migration strategy in place will help the process go as smoothly as possible once started. Identifying different workloads, prioritizing them, and establishing strategies for each are all common components of migration plans.
  4. Execute the migration mindfully. In other words: Follow the map as closely as possible. Theoretically, with a well-thought-out plan in place, all teams need to do to ensure a successful migration is stick to the strategy. However, when issues arise, it’s important to remain flexible, agile, and able to pivot if necessary.
  5. Implement observability and monitoring, then optimize. Once apps and software are migrated to the cloud, teams should take the time to monitor their performance. By measuring how applications behave in a cloud environment, teams can diagnose and resolve issues in real time — and use the learnings to improve on future performance.
  6. Establish data governance. In the words of Google, data governance is “everything you do to ensure data is secure, private, accurate, available, and usable.” This involves enacting a set of strict internal policies that dictate how data is obtained, stored, used and ultimately disposed of. Data governance also includes following external data storage laws set by industry and other governing bodies.
  7. Prioritize security and compliance. Once businesses begin storing sensitive information on the cloud, the next step is to keep it safe. As the goal of data storage regulations is to ensure sensitive information stays secure, maintaining compliance is one way companies can safeguard their data. But staying compliant is only half the battle. It’s equally crucial that organizations prioritize additional cybersecurity measures, which can include data encryption, performing regular backups, and establishing a proactive data recovery strategy.

AWS Cloud Transformation with VividCloud

Think you’re ready to reap the benefits of cloud transformation at your own company? Starting the conversation with VividCloud is the first step. As an AWS Advanced Tier Services Partner, we can help your company plan your cloud transformation journey and migrate and modernize your systems and data onto AWS — including a smooth transition for your users and customers.