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An Introduction to Cloud Data Migration
Businesses are moving to the Cloud as their data proliferates beyond their handling. In fact, Application Modernization, together with Cloud Data Migration soon will become mainstream.
In this article, let’s discover what Cloud Data Migration is, the two methods of doing it, its advantages & disadvantages, and finally some considerations before moving your data to the Cloud.
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What is Cloud Data Migration?
Cloud Data Migration means transferring data from your bare metal servers to a Cloud Infrastructure, which is managed by a Cloud Provider.
Businesses migrate their data to the Cloud because it is the optimal environment today—in terms of costs, performance, security, better data analytics, and more.
Cloud Data Migration Methods
Cloud Providers will offer many options to migrate your data to the Cloud. That said, you can group those options into 2 large categories: one is online, and another is off.
Offline Data Migration
In the offline method, you use a portable storage device to transfer your data to the cloud provider’s data center. This method requires Local Area Network (LAN) bandwidth, as distinct from Wide area network (WAN) bandwidth and direct connection.
You should migrate your data to the cloud offline if you cannot afford high-speed connections—they are not available in your areas or just plain expensive.
There are typically two types of devices used for Offline Data Migration: customer-owned device and provider-owned device. Which type to choose depends on the amount of data you intend to migrate.
A customer-owned device is ideal for transferring workloads of 10 terabytes or less. Having a low capacity, this device could be your hard drive, CD, USB stick, …, that has been encrypted. The migration is this simple: you copy your data onto the device and send it to the cloud provider, who then uploads your data to the target cloud environment. Once the migration is finished, the provider will send the device back to you. Some also offer to destroy the device, if that’s what you want.
A provider-owned device, on the other hand, is used to migrate tens to hundreds of terabytes of data. Here, the cloud provider will ship a portable storage appliance with high capacity to your place. When receiving this device, you will upload your data onto it—either the provider will take care of this data load or you do it yourself. Once the device is mounted, you ship it back to the provider’s data center. The provider will offload your data from this device, and into the target cloud environment. Finally, the device, which has been formatted, will go back to the inventory, waiting for the next customer.
Online Data Migration
In Online Data Migration, the cloud provider will transfer your workloads across the network and to the target cloud environment. In other words, this data migration will happen mostly over a network.
You can either use the Public Internet or private/dedicated network to migrate data to the cloud online, which means it requires WAN bandwidth.
Using Public Internet is the easiest, and most inexpensive. But the internet is not always a secure, nor an efficient way to transfer your data, partly due to unstable bandwidth, unreliable network, and time-consuming transfer.
Transferring data over a private/dedicated network is more reliable and efficient but goes with added costs. As the network is dedicated to your migration only, connectivity and bandwidth would be much more stable than that of Public Internet. Also, security is ensured as no one can affect traffic during the transfer.
As for the online method of migration, the network's stability and speed are key considerations. If, after assessing everything, you conclude that online transfer is going to take too long, you should seriously consider the offline method. This is because the longer you consume the network resources, the higher the costs will be.
There are many ways to speed up online data migration. One of them is data compression, where the size of data is compressed so that more data can be migrated using the same network bandwidth.
Benefits of Cloud Data Migration
By storing your data on the Cloud—and letting another party manage it, you can enjoy several benefits that could not be found in bare-metal servers: cost advantage, reduced maintenance headaches, limitless scalability, and improved security.
Data centers put you to risky capital expenses (CapEx). To build data centers, you face the direct costs of physical hardware and facilities.
In contrast, Cloud is pay-as-you-go: you only have to pay for the resources you use, when you use them. This makes Cloud classified as an operating expense (OpEx). By migrating data to the Cloud, you are likely to cut most of the costs associated with building and maintaining data centers.
Yet, Cloud Data Migration brings cost advantages, not cost savings. In the long run, the costs of using the Cloud may not be lower than those of data centers.
Migrating data to the Cloud means that you exchange risky CapEx for ongoing OpEx. And Opex is easier to control.
Reduced Maintenance issue
To keep data centers running, you have to deal with lots of maintenance: you want to keep the hardware facilities up and running 24/7. These routine maintenances include power, cooling, network, labor, repair, upgrade, and so on.
After moving your data to the Cloud, it becomes the responsibility of the Cloud provider to keep your data safe and secure.
Cloud providers allow you to scale bandwidth up or down according to your needs, usually without limitations. Some also offer auto-scaling, where resources are adjusted automatically by how much you consume.
Although there's concern about Cloud's security, it's in fact much safer to store your data in the Cloud, rather than in data centers. Most data breaches in recent years happened internally, caused by employees. Security issues related to Cloud were very rare.
Also, Cloud Providers often offer data encryption. Your data is converted into code, preventing unauthorized access. Data encryption is one of the most effective ways to protect your data.
Most Cloud Providers are improving their security practices. They hire new cybersecurity professionals every day. Meanwhile, you may not have enough resources to employ such an in-house team to protect your data.
Risks associated with Cloud Data Migration
It's clear that migrating data to the Cloud can benefit businesses in many ways. However, Cloud Data Migration is far from risk-free. When doing it, you will likely face the following 3 risks.
- Security: Migrating data to the Cloud poses certain security issues. There could be identity thefts, malware infections, or data breaches. If you migrate data online, make sure that data is encrypted. For offline data migration, see to it that the shipper provides trusted logistics services.
- Prolonged transfer time: While you can guesstimate the transfer time, it's impossible to account for unexpected events such as network congestions or network bottlenecks. They can slow down your transfer time, which will improve costs.
- Cost overruns: Unexpected costs are mostly the result of poor planning. Online transfer, when constrained by network connection, will lead to costs incurred. Likewise, if you keep the portable devices longer than specified when doing offline migration, the provider will charge you more.
Key Considerations for Cloud Data Migration
Before migrating your data to the Cloud, ask these three questions:
What types of workload will you migrate to the cloud? Some cloud providers offer tools that support the migration of critical workloads, like your databases or applications. Without such specialized tools, you certainly will experience downtime during the migration. To reduce downtime, there are two approaches. The first is by dividing the migration of critical workloads into different stages. The second is by migrating workloads outside of the production period.
How much data you are migrating? While online migration can be used to transfer any volume of data or workload, it’s another story for offline migration. For the online method, if all that you migrate is 10 terabytes of data or less, using your own storage device will be the easiest, saving you both time and cost. But for any amount larger than that, you should ask the cloud provider to supply a specialized, high-capacity storage device.
How fast do you want the migration to complete? The speed to completion of online migration will depend on two factors: (1) how much data you intend to transfer, and (2) how fast your network connection is. If you choose offline migration, you should consider the travel time of the transfer device between your place and the Cloud Provider’s.
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