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5 Universal Steps to Cloud Database Migration

Chances are if you’re reading this, you are (or are thinking about) moving to cloud. While cloud migration isn’t a new term and many people are migrating, there are a few things you should know before taking the leap. Migrating your database to the cloud is worth the hours of planning, sorting through data and running tests because if it’s not done right, it may come with more bad than good. The following five steps will help guide you through your cloud migration and cover the main obstacles you may encounter when switching over. If it’s done right, you’ll be well on your way to reduced costs, easier user access, better performance, and several other cloud benefits.

Find Your Cloud

I know, it sounds dreamy, but finding your cloud should be a process in which you’re fully awake and aware of your environment. Choosing the right cloud for your business is the first step to migration and should include in-depth research. First, you should be aware of the downtime that comes with migration. You’ll need time to switch everything over, either all at once or with a slower phased approach, but downtime can be best avoided if your data is copied over to the cloud while you’re still running on-premises. Another important factor to remember is your on-prem system and your new cloud system may not have the same capabilities. There may be some things you can do on-prem that you can’t do in cloud. So, writing cloud-based code may be necessary when transferring your on-prem data into a cloud environment. Fully understanding your old and new systems can keep you from having to make too many of these changes, and researching your cloud provider can help you prepare for any differences during migration.

Clean It Up

The last thing you want to do is move to a new cloud with extra baggage. It’s kind of like moving into a new house with boxes of unsorted objects you haven’t used in years. Before you move to the cloud, sort through your data and do away with anything that would only take up space but offers no business value. Leaving unnecessary data behind when moving to the cloud can speed the process and help you start fresh with high quality data. Having a clean, organized cloud can also cut down on your storage space and costs, and may even allow your system to work faster.

Log the Specifics

Alongside sorting through your database before moving, you should make note of every important system document, so nothing is lost in transition. Documenting your data can be tedious, but it’s important for migration. Begin by looking into your data dictionary and discovering your data lineage. Make notes of the steps your data has already been through, from inception through ETL processes, and perhaps into your production database or a data warehouses. Data lineage can tell you where your data has been. If it’s been reviewed in the past, if it’s been cleaned, transformed, or even moved. This will allow you to decide if your data needs to be modified before it’s transferred or copied over. Keep in mind, not everything you have on-prem can or should go to the cloud, but documenting your data and database will at least give you an idea of where it should go.

Mirror Your Data

In a perfect world, we’d be able to copy everything from on-prem to the cloud and not experience any issues. Unfortunately, a lot more goes into it. To avoid the complications that inevitably come with transferring your data, your DBAs should take the extra steps to compare the two systems to ensure they’re compatible—this should be done during your initial research stage when finding your cloud. When migrating, consider the ETL process. Extract, transform, and load—this process allows you to copy data and applications to the cloud while your end users are still on-prem. It also allows you to keep your data and applications parallel to your cloud during migration. In this process, you may find you need to reconfigure your data and applications to suit your cloud. This can mean copying each layer of the stack separately or even writing new cloud-friendly code. Don’t forget, code that performs poorly costs more in the cloud.

Testing. Testing. 1,2,3.

Now that your cloud is all set up, it’s time for the fun part. Just kidding, it may not be fun, but testing your cloud thoroughly is vital to finding any issues that may affect your migration later down the line. To start, compare your previous on-prem system to your cloud. This can help you see what’s missing, if anything, and will allow visibility into where your cloud can be improved. Build performance baseline reports, monitor your new system, and be sure to test for issues that may occur in the future and not just what you’re seeing in the initial migration. Even if you don’t need a specific process to work at the beginning of your migration, you should still ensure it’ll work seamlessly months or years down the line before completing your migration. And remember, you shouldn’t start using the new cloud system until you know it’s reliable and has been tested by the business users. While these five steps will get you started in your cloud migration journey, remember cloud may not work for everyone. It can be a great option, but if your on-prem system and cloud-based system of choice don’t have the same capabilities, you may run into problems when switching. By researching the right cloud-based system for your business, cleaning up your current database, documenting important system details, duplicating your current system, and testing EVERYTHING, you should be five steps closer to a quick and reliable cloud migration.
Kevin Kline
Kevin Kline is a Head Geek, noted database expert, and software industry veteran. As a 13-time Microsoft Data Platform MVP and with 35 years' experience…
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