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Top 10 Tips For Migrating To Microsoft Azure 

When you move your IT system from on-premise infrastructure to Microsoft Azure, you immediately begin to leverage the latest technology and transform your business.  

Perhaps most importantly, you lower costs. Microsoft research shows you can save up to 54% with Azure compared to on-premise solutions (1). In addition, you only pay for the infrastructure you use and nothing you don’t. Azure is also more convenient, as physical Windows server hardware is expensive to own and maintain. With cloud solutions like Azure, there are no components to fix or replace. You also don’t have to worry about power consumption, cooling, lost office space and the complexity of upgrading. Moving your organisation to Azure instantly makes you more agile. It boosts scalability as it’s easy to add capacity as your business grows or scale back your resources during quiet periods to reduce costs. You also benefit from tools like Azure Security Centre to help you respond to cybersecurity threats faster and more effectively. 

Migrating to Azure can be quick and easy (provided you follow the correct process). However, there will always be challenges with any cloud migration. Do you know the obstacles you’re likely to face? Have you sat down to make a detailed plan for your Azure migration? Do you know what success looks like? 

In this article, we’ll show you ten steps to a successful Azure migration. Let’s get started. 

1 – Define Your Migration Goals 

Why do you want to migrate to Microsoft Azure anyway? To ensure a successful transition, identify the outcomes you want to see so you can prioritise your resources correctly. For example, you could be looking to: 

  • Optimise costs – Migrating to Azure shifts your expenses from lumpy capital expenditure (Capex) to a more streamlined operating expenditure (Opex) 
  • Streamline your premises – When you move to Azure, you can remove all your on-premise infrastructure. You don’t need a server or network room (and its associated power and cooling costs) anymore 
  • Scalability – Migrating to the cloud makes it easier to adapt to changes in the market or customer demands. You have that all-important flexibility to add or remove services as and when you need them 
  • Improved performance – Being on MS Azure means you can move faster, implementing innovative new ideas and bring projects to life quicker, to drive your business forward and build your competitive edge 

To ensure all stakeholders are on board with the transition, ensure the goals you prioritise also align with your wider business goals. 

2 – Assess Your Current Infrastructure 

Before you begin your MS Azure migration, you must audit your current IT infrastructure to determine what can and cannot be migrated. Assess all the hardware and software in your organisation. Why do you have it? What is it used for? Is it essential or would it be better to jettison it as part of your Azure migration ‘spring clean’? 

Not all workloads are suited to a direct migration, so it’s critical to get an early understanding of what applications can work as they are and what needs adapting or replacing. 

3 – Choose the Right Azure Migration Strategy 

There are several strategies available that you can follow as you move to Microsoft Azure (3). These include: 

  • Lift and shift – Migrating your existing workloads to the cloud without modifications 
  • Replatforming – Redesigning some specific elements to ensure you get the most from your new presence on the cloud 
  • Refactoring – Redesigning your application entirely to maximise effectiveness in the cloud environment 

While ‘lift and shift’ is the fastest and the path of least resistance, it may not be the most effective. Choose the strategy that best suits your business requirements and aligns with your migration goals. 

Alternatively, outsourcing your migration could help you get the strategy right for business. You can leverage Azure migration experts who have worked on projects with businesses just like yours, so you avoid common pitfalls and position yourself for success. 

If you would like to find out more about Azure migration strategies, we’ve got an article where we outline them here.

4 – Develop a Migration Plan 

Next, create a detailed migration plan for your MS Azure transition. It needs to outline the step-by-step process of migrating to Microsoft Azure, including timelines, resource allocation, workload assessment and any potential impact on your business operations.  

Some factors to consider include: 

  • Connectivity – Is your network up to the job of providing bandwidth for MS Azure? 
  • Application suitability and performance – Will your existing apps work correctly in a cloud environment, or do you need to make tweaks? 
  • Resilience and business continuity – Think about the disruption the migration might cause to your business and how you’ll keep things functioning during that time 
  • Azure Region – Each geographical region has different regulations around data sovereignty. Make sure you select the appropriate one 
  • Support and management – Consider what you’ll need from your IT support team during and after your Azure migration 

Some organisations find success by building an Azure ‘landing zone’. This is an initial platform that supports your environment, including domain controllers, network gateways, and virtual networks that hold and control access to your environment. Could this approach work for you?  

Finally, consider the potential upheaval moving to the cloud could generate in your business. How will it change how your people work?  

5 – Prioritise Applications and Data 

When you move to MS Azure, you don’t need to do everything at once. Create a migration strategy that works for your business by prioritising the order in which you’ll migrate your applications and data. 

You’ll be able to transition some applications easily, while others might be a more challenging proposition. You should also consider minimising potential disruption by moving low-risk applications first and gradually moving towards mission-critical solutions.  

There may be also compelling events on the horizon like an office move, a particular server falling out of warranty, or an operating system falling out of support. These compelling events will likely have an impact on how you prioritise your migrations. Consider the 80/20 rule; it might be that moving 20% of your systems solves 80% of your problem. 

Again, outsourcing your migration leverages the experience of people who have done this many times and can anticipate any bumps in the road. 

6 – Ensure Compatibility and Compliance 

The next step should be to verify the compatibility of your applications and data with the Azure platform. While some applications will be able to move over as-is, others may need some adapting or even replacement. Consider factors including operating system support, database compatibility and regulatory compliance requirements. 

Gartner’s guide to successful cloud migration planning (2) recommends using your cloud migration as a springboard to discover new apps that will drive your business forward. For example, many organisations also upgrade their email, finance and HR systems to SaaS platforms at the same time as they move their operations to the cloud. Moving to newer SaaS solutions allows you to take advantage of better functionality, useability and security.  

However, migrating to Microsoft Azure can also be an opportunity to modernise your back end too. Could it be the right moment to retire your Windows 2012 R2 servers and replace them with Windows 2022 servers? 

7 – Plan for Data Migration 

Moving your data over from your on-premise systems to MS Azure is a critical step in the process. It’s a step you absolutely have to get right, as any mistakes can lead to data not migrating properly or even being lost entirely.  

Develop a data migration strategy that ensures a seamless transfer of your data to Azure. Depending on your specific needs, this could involve migrating databases, files and other data types. Build a view of the dependencies between your various databases and applications to make sure everything gets transferred smoothly. 

When you outsource your migration strategy to a partner with industry-specific experience in migration with other organisations like yours, it’s much easier to navigate these risks. Why reinvent the wheel when you can learn from others’ experiences? 

8 – Test and Validate 

Before you execute your migration plan in a production environment, test and validate it. This should include: 

  • Functional tests 
  • Performance tests 
  • Security checks 
  • Evaluating the effect on the functionality of your applications and services 

When evaluating functionality, get the people who actually use these systems to test them, so you can get direct feedback from the people who really matter. This could take the form of a pilot or proof of concept, followed by user acceptance testing. 

A good pilot is never a wasted effort. An efficient migration strategy is to build your environment on a foundation laid by successful pilot testing. Then, if something doesn’t work, or you identify a step of the process that you could improve, you can tweak your plan to ensure a seamless transition. 

9 – Train and Educate Your Team 

Moving from the on-premise solutions they’ve dealt with for years to a shiny new MS Azure environment could be a big step up for your people. Give training and education to your team members to ensure they’re well-equipped for any changes to their working processes. 

When you outsource your Azure migration to a managed services provider (MSP), you automatically get all the help you need at this stage. Your employees can lean on your MSP if they encounter issues learning how to use the new system. Never be afraid to ask for help. 

10 – Monitor and Optimise 

It’s time to execute your well-thought-out migration strategy and start moving your infrastructure to Microsoft Azure. Once you’re up and running, it’s time to make sure you’re getting all the value you need from your investment.  

Once you’re up and running in the cloud, perform regular maintenance and monitoring on your infrastructure to make sure emerging changes and improvements, cost, security and performance are all under control. 

Conclusion 

It’s clear that there are massive benefits available from moving your IT infrastructure from on-premise to the cloud with Microsoft Azure. From cost savings, to freeing up office space, to the possibility of exciting new SaaS solutions to drive your business forward, moving to Azure brings your organisation into the cloud age. 

While migration can be complex, if you follow the proper process, you can develop a strategy that aligns with your business’s specific needs, and then execute it for a seamless transition.  

Doherty Associates are long-standing Microsoft partners. Our four Microsoft Solutions Partner designations include “Infrastructure Azure”, “Digital & App Innovation Azure” and “Data & AI Azure”. We work with businesses like yours every day and have successfully migrated more than 50,000 users to the Azure cloud to date. 

Once you’re up and running on Azure, we offer a managed Azure service, ensuring that the systems and services inside it are running well, your data is protected from attack, and that your business achieves the benefits of scaling appropriately.  

Trust us to be your guide on your cloud journey from the first step to the last – and beyond.  

To find out more, visit our cloud migration web page.  

Sources: 

1 – Microsoft Tech Community 

2 – Gartner – Migrating to the Cloud: Why, How and What Makes Sense? 

3 – Forbes.com – 5 Preparation Steps To A Successful Cloud Migration 

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