By Trent Odgers, Cloud and Hosting Manager, Africa at Veeam.
Organisations today have islands of data residing with a multitude of cloud providers. And when it comes to migrating between them, companies must ensure that their data remains safe in the transition. This requires continuously backing up, testing, and measuring its recoverability in the event of a disaster. Guiding decision-makers in this regard is a foundation built on effective data management.
After all, workload mobility has become essential to doing business today. It should inform and guide the data management and protection strategy of an organisation. IT departments both locally and abroad face a growing need to have this portability as part of their overall cloud strategy.
“This mobility is less focused on accessing data from tablets and smartphones and deals more with the management of workloads between customer sites and other cloud models such as public, private, or hybrid. The underlying complexity entails more than just a simple copy and paste exercise especially given the security and regulatory concerns of the digital landscape,” says Trent Odgers, Cloud and Hosting Manager, Africa at Veeam.
The basics of such a strategy revolve around using a solution capable of taking a backup of a physical server or virtual machine workload and moving it to a hosted environment in such a way that the data is structured and unpackaged according to the requirements of the cloud provider.
Once this migration is completed, the business can simply ‘turn it on’ and have the data accessible in the new environment. It makes adopting a public cloud platform a more user-friendly and cost-effective exercise. Similarly, if the data needs to be moved back into the previous environment (or even an altogether new one), the solution easily automates much of the process.
The benefits of having such a strong strategic foundation cannot be ignored. From increasing organisational agility and enabling better data recovery, to improving availability and unlocking more testing and development options, organisations can more effectively embrace a multi-cloud strategy with less risk and complexity, while ensuring compliance is adhered to.
“This is where the concept of cross-cloud mobility comes to bear. For example, even if a customer is completely committed to an Azure platform, compliance requirements necessitate copying data into a different environment such as AWS. This transition needs to happen as seamlessly as possible and not have any impact on existing operations,” says Odgers.
Of course, cloud mobility is more complex than only migrating workloads across different service providers. Organisations must be cognisant of the security precautions that must be put in place if the worst should happen, as well as the networking requirements.
This can be likened to a person getting a new phone and just copying data from the old model without having a backup in place. And for organisations, it could be akin to plugging in a new server into an existing environment, without adequately testing the impact it will have on the existing environment and the operations to maintain the platform. There must be testing, and an impact analysis carried out beforehand to ensure a smooth transition.
“From an organisational perspective, in the beginning of the cloud adoption journey, a company cannot switch off one environment and turn it on in another cloud environment. A mindset change is required especially when it comes to migrating workloads. So, instead of moving a live production environment, a company must first move a backup, test to see if it works, and monitor to see if it delivers on what the business requires. Only once it has been tested, approved, and signed off by the infrastructure, security and compliance officers, can the switch-over process begin,” he says.
One of the biggest challenges in this entire framework is that of existing perceptions around the safety of data in the cloud. The assumption is that once data is moved to the cloud, it is completely safe. And while data centres are significantly more secure than what local companies can afford to have on-site, there are certain considerations to keep in mind.
“Shared responsibility is going to be a focal point in this regard. Shared responsibility models differ between cloud providers, so businesses need to understand the details and specifics of each. Regardless of what service level agreements (SLAs) are in place with cloud service providers, some cloud service providers will only guarantee network availability, or the durability of infrastructure – rarely customer data or its availability. In this, it is the responsibility of the individual organisation to ensure that its on-site data and the way it is migrated to a hosted provider are done securely. Once the workload is migrated, the desired Recover Point Objective (RPO) needs to be implemented and the discussion around how much data can be lost needs to be mapped back to how frequently the provider is backing up. Similarly, the cloud vendor cannot move customer data without ensuring there are backups in place to avoid any loss or risk to the business,” he says.
This approach is designed to protect not only data, but both the company and the cloud provider. It comes down to ensuring there is a restore point in place to recover from, in case something doesn’t go according to plan.
“A restore point is critical to delivering any cloud solution whether it is public, private, or hybrid. And at a time where data mobility will be a strategic deliverable, the company needs to have a way of going back to a previous state if something should go wrong,” he concludes.
Cloud mobility will become a business requirement before too long. Data has become too important a resource to be locked away at a single provider. Ultimately, organisations must review how they approach their data management and ensure they have the systems in place to accurately and safely manage potential migrations.