Migrating to Microsoft Azure can help you leverage the latest technology to transform your business. Lower costs, greater agility, enhanced scalability, and easier management are just some of the benefits this cloud computing platform has to offer. However, any cloud journey can be confusing, and Azure is no different—you need to select the appropriate service model for every workload and develop a migration strategy for all your enterprise applications and data. Systematically outlining your approach and performing the necessary preparation can help you make the transition without detrimentally impacting your business. Take a look at the following top tips to ensure your Azure migration goes smoothly.

A Phased Migration Approach

Taking a step-by-step approach can help ensure a successful move to the cloud and ultimately decrease your risk of something going wrong. Moving to Azure should not be undertaken without a strategy—you need to identify every workload you want to move to the cloud and assess which service model is the best fit. You also need to test every system to ensure the performance meets your stated objectives and then formulate a migration plan. It’s also imperative that you define and implement the relevant processes and practices you will follow once your workloads are running on Azure. Finally, you can’t manage what you can’t measure, so configuring a monitoring solution should also form part of your migration plan.

Qualify Your Workloads

There’s no doubt that Azure can help your business lower costs and improve productivity. However, not every workload that runs on premises can offer your business these cloud benefits. For example, some legacy applications may only be able to run on Azure’s infrastructure as a service (IaaS) model. As IaaS can get very costly, especially if you need to run high-performing virtual machines (VMs) on a continuous basis, leaving specific workloads on premises may be the best option for your business. In other instances, you may need to refactor some applications to run on Azure’s platform as a service (PaaS) model. Even though this model is more cost effective than IaaS, you may run into prohibitive upfront development costs involved in refactoring your application to run on Azure. Taking all these factors into consideration is vital to the overall success of your Azure migration strategy. When you plan your migration project, you must determine the costs involved in migrating and operating every workload on Azure.

Calculate Your Data Transfer

One of the primary factors that influence the time it takes to complete an Azure migration is the amount of data you need to transfer. Depending on the quantity of data as well as your Internet speed, the data transfer process could take an excessive amount of time. If the data you’re transferring to Azure is critical to your business operations, you need to formulate a data transfer strategy to ensure that the migration process doesn’t impact your organization.

Microsoft has taken these factors into account and offers multiple methods you can use to migrate your business data to Azure. For large amounts of data, you can leverage Azure’s Import/Export service, which allows you to securely import large quantities of data to Azure Blob storage and Azure Files by shipping disk drives to an Azure data center. For archived data or data that you don’t need immediate access to, you could use Azure Backup. Once you’ve backed up your data to Microsoft’s cloud, you can then restore it to the relevant storage solution. Another option is to utilize StorSimple, a storage area network (SAN) that you deploy on premises; it then copies data stored on this platform to Azure automatically. The main benefit of a StorSimple device is that it provides you with access to your business-critical data both on premises and in the cloud.

No matter which option you choose, it’s imperative that you take your recovery time and recovery point objectives into account. For example, if you need constant access to your data while the migration takes place, you need to either separate it into smaller parts and migrate it over time or utilize an enterprise solution like StorSimple.

Consider Every Policy and Procedure

Migrating your systems to Azure requires a phased, methodical approach. During the planning and assessment phase of your project, it’s vital that you implement organizational policies and procedures and adhere to them both during and after the migration. In this way, you can rest assured that your Azure environment is compliant and that the necessary security is in place to protect all your users, workloads, and data. For example, if your organization’s security policy states that encrypting all data, whether it be in transit or at rest, is mandatory, then your Azure migration plan must adhere to this directive.

It’s also crucial that you formulate and test every procedure you’ll be leveraging during the migration phase of your project. Several enterprise solutions can assist you in documenting and automating this task. Azure Migrate is one set of tools that can help you automate the migration process for particular workloads. If you’re moving on-premises VMs to Azure, this solution can help you discover, assess, and migrate them seamlessly. It also enables you to evaluate the current state of your on-premises VMs, maps their dependencies, and provides recommendations on the appropriate Azure services you need to configure. Whatever set of tools you use, you should test and retest every workload before starting the migration of your production environment.

Users and Groups

The user experience is crucial to the success of an Azure migration project; your move to the cloud should have as little impact on your user base as possible. Planning and thorough testing can help you manage this user experience process.

One of the strategies you can deploy is the creation of a test user group. Testing your strategy on a subset of users before the migration takes place can help you identify risks and resolve any issues. Having the ability to trial specific use cases and workloads before you migrate your entire enterprise ensures that you don’t disrupt any critical work during the process.

If you’re moving your identity and access management service to Azure, you also need to make sure you have provisioned the necessary user accounts on the Azure service. In addition to provisioning the relevant accounts, you must also ensure every user has the appropriate permission settings they need to access your migrated Azure services. As you would in an on-premises environment, you should adopt the principle of least privilege, ensuring that every user only has access to the services they need. Often, organizations give users blanket permissions during a migration with the intention of going back and assigning the appropriate permissions once the move is completed. Taking this approach may ease the burden on the project team but exposes your organization to unnecessary risk. It’s therefore imperative that you set the appropriate user access settings before you move your workloads, users, and data.

Management and Monitoring

Once you’ve migrated your services to Azure, you need to configure the relevant management and monitoring systems. Implementing these solutions ensures that you can proactively respond to any issues that threaten the availability of your Azure environment.

Microsoft has several services that help you manage and monitor your Azure services. For example, you can leverage Azure Monitor, which consumes data from other point-monitoring solutions such as Azure Application Insights and Azure Log Analytics. Using these services, you can proactively monitor your Azure environment and address any security, performance, or availability issues.

During your migration project, it’s also vital that you configure these monitoring services at the time the migration phase commences. In this way, should any issues arise during the migration, you can address them before they jeopardize your normal business operations.

Planning, Preparation, and Due Diligence

Undertaking an Azure migration project can seem overwhelming—with so many options and variables to consider, the entire process can be a little confusing. However, if you do the proper planning and perform the necessary due diligence, you can execute a migration project with minimal risk to your organization. Taking a phased approach, estimating your data transfer time, adhering to set policies and procedures, and keeping the user experience in mind can help make your Azure migration a success.

Written by Sophie Furnival Marketing Communications Manager @ SherWeb

Sophie leads a team of expert marketers in charge of building SherWeb’s brand awareness. Responsible for activities such as email marketing, social media and driving organic web traffic, her role is critical to ensuring SherWeb is recognized and respected by prospects, partners, competitors and other stakeholders. Sophie has extensive experience working in journalism and corporate communications for different industries, including science, technology and the non-profit sector. When she’s not championing SherWeb’s brand, Sophie enjoys diving, cooking and watching The Office.