Cloud Transition

9 Tips For A Smooth Cloud Transition

The cloud is undoubtedly a disruptive force within IT. But that doesn’t mean you have to settle for months of operational disruption during your cloud transition.

Here are nine proven tips for making the process of moving to the cloud smoother.

1. Plan for hybrid operations

Despite offering superior flexibility and scalability, not all workloads belong in the cloud. For this reason, you should be planning for a hybrid cloud future, where some applications and data sets are retained in-house, while others are migrated off-site.

For best results, you will want your deployment to make hybrid operations as seamless as possible.

2.  Inventory what you already have

Understanding the systems you currently have in place – and their importance to the business – is a crucial aspect of migration planning. This assessment allows you to prioritise which applications to move first – and those which can be retired entirely.

Do not underestimate the importance of retiring underused or unnecessary applications – you will still pay for the cloud resources they consume. Your cloud partner may be able to assist with the discovery and inventory process.

3. Use smart migration tools

Disaster Recovery (DR) tools are typically used for ensuring operations can continue in the event of a localised outage.  However, the same technologies can also be used to streamline the cloud migration process, accurately and reliably replicating data sets to your hosted platform of choice without affecting ‘live’ operations.

4. Choose a native VMware cloud platform

If your business uses VMware for server virtualisation, it makes sense to choose a partner who offers a native VMware cloud environment. Selecting the same underlying technology will help to simplify and accelerate the migration of your workloads and templates.

You will also find ongoing management and maintenance much easier because the tools and techniques are familiar.

5. Identify a future for your legacy physical workloads

Legacy systems continue to be a drag on IT budgets because of their complexity and management overheads. Migration to the cloud offers an opportunity to virtualise these legacy systems, bringing them into line with your more up-to-date applications. Wherever possible, this is the preferred option moving forwards.

If virtualisation is not an option (some licenses prohibit it for instance), you should speak to your provider about the potential for provisioning physical systems in the cloud. This will involve making some difficult choices as the cost and complexity of migrating physical systems can be relatively high.

6. Use data seeding for massive data sets

Because of the time required to transfer enormous data sets over the internet, it may be advisable to ‘seed’ your migration first. Shipping physical drives to the cloud data centre is much faster and reliable, allowing you to jumpstart the migration process. You can then sync updated information over the internet as normal.

7. Test your bandwidth capacity

Hosting systems in the cloud places an even heavier burden on your internet connection. Work with your cloud provider to assess current bandwidth and whether it is sufficient to handle an increase in traffic. Where there is a predicted shortfall, you will need to arrange an upgrade.

8. Train IT staff to use new cloud management tools

Managing the cloud platform will be different to your current on-premise setup. Once you have selected a partner and platform, ensure your IT team are fully trained to use the new tools to manage your cloud environment.

And don’t forget to assess support provisions, our team needs to be sure they have a backup if something goes wrong – or need guidance and assistance.

9. Refine your future strategy

Cloud migration is not a one-time, big-bang project but an ongoing process of continual refinement and improvement. Working with your cloud provider, map out an effective migration plan that aligns with your strategic goals. They can also advise on how to re-architect systems to better contain costs and improve efficiency.

Get your cloud migration underway today

To learn more about successful cloud migrations and how WTL can help your business with a successful cloud transition, please get in touch.

NetApp

How NetApp became a vital part of your public cloud strategy

As businesses look to balance current resource demands with strategic growth plans, hybrid cloud offers a useful platform for both. Now research from IDC suggests that NetApp is a critical enabler of hybrid cloud strategies – and you should seriously consider these technologies for your projects.

Leading the way with NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP

NetApp’s flagship ONTAP technology has been instrumental in helping existing customers embrace the public cloud. Using the same familiar interfaces and tools, ONTAP users can quickly and easily manage workloads in any location – including the cloud.

ONTAP is now available on all the major platforms – AWS, Azure and Google Cloud – allowing users to expand into the public cloud within a matter of minutes.

And for non-NetApp users?

NetApp has continued to develop tools to assist businesses with their strategic cloud tools – including those who are not currently customers. NetApp Cloud Volume Service is a fully managed file storage service that accelerates the journey to the cloud and helps users maximise value from their hosted investments.

With the Cloud Volume Service subscribers can get started immediately; there is no need to own any other NetApp products or services. They still benefit from the same file storage technologies, but with the added benefit of expert management.

Azure users have an additional benefit – the Cloud Volume Service can be purchased from Microsoft direct as a native service This reduces the number of contracts and suppliers you need to deal with, further lowering TCO.

But why NetApp?

This all sounds great in principle – but why has IDC singled out NetApp specifically? Two major reasons – flexibility and future-proofing.

Initially, NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP was designed to allow users to migrate workloads between on-premise data centres and the cloud. As hosted technology has matured, businesses have begun to consider the potential of multi-cloud infrastructure. By selecting the best services from each vendor, they can better contain cloud costs, increase flexibility and optimise the performance of every aspect of operations.

Because ONTAP and Cloud Volume Services are available on multiple platforms, moving files between providers becomes much easier – and potentially quicker too. NetApp empowers businesses to migrate between providers to ensure they are always receiving the best value from their investments and allowing them to change providers as circumstances change.

Discover the NetApp cloud

IDC advice is clear. Businesses should seriously consider NetApp’s cloud service offerings to improve cost and performance for their cloud workloads. The ability to view workloads wherever they are located (on-premise or in the cloud) will allow them to deliver a consistently good experience in any setting.

To learn more about NetApp cloud services and how they will help you turbocharge your file storage strategy, please get in get in touch.

Cloud-based backup and disaster recover i

Cloud-based Backup and Disaster Recovery Planning – The Essentials

Because data is the lifeblood of your business, you need to ensure it is always protected against loss. This short guide will take you through the essentials of planning your data protection strategy and explores the options for cloud-based backup and disaster recovery solutions.

Technology choices

Backup and disaster recovery (DR) are similar – but different – concepts, designed to protect your data against loss. Although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably (even by technology vendors), you must know the difference to ensure you choose the right systems for you.

Do I need backup?

Backup technologies are designed to create an exact copy of your data so that you can always restore it in the event of a major problem. If your file server is infected by ransomware, backup allows you to recover affected files quickly and efficiently. This technology is particularly well suited to lower-priority data sets and systems.

Do I need Disaster Recovery?

Disaster recovery technologies are typically focused on helping your business resume operations as quickly as possible after a significant outage. Data from your mission-critical systems will be continuously replicated to the cloud (or similar off-site facility), allowing you to bring operations back online quickly.

Backup and disaster recovery (DR) are similar – but different – concepts. Although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably (even by technology vendors), you must know the difference to ensure you choose the right systems for you. You will probably need a combination of both – backup for low-priority systems, DR for the most important.

Building a workable plan

A successful plan relies on knowing what data you have and how important it is to your operations. Prioritising data will help you decide how it should be backed up and recovered.

Assessing RTO

Recovery Time Objective (RTO) describes the amount of time between your systems going down and you bringing them back online again. For mission-critical systems, your RTO targets must be as low as possible – perhaps just minutes – so you can restart operations quickly.

Systems with a high RTO are best suited to cloud-based disaster recovery solutions that offer near-instant fail-over capabilities.

Assessing RPO

Recovery Point Objective measures how much data is lost when your systems go offline. Some of your line-of-business applications will be updating constantly; any updates during a period of downtime may be lost entirely. Other systems update far less frequently – a few hours of downtime would not cause any data loss.

Systems with a low RPO are best suited to DR technologies that offer instant replication to ensure every detail is captured and protected. Higher RPO data can be used with lower-cost traditional backup mechanisms.

Replaceability and interdependence

As you assess your data estate, you need to answer two questions:

  • How easily can we replace lost data?
  • How does each application relate to the others?

Some data is more important to operations than others. Your financial data is essential – the CFO’s financial modelling spreadsheet for the financial year 1998/99 not so much. Plan your backups so that critical data is prioritised and protected accordingly.

Second, don’t forget to assess the interdependence between systems. Sometimes rarely-used systems underpin your mission-critical apps. If the ‘unimportant’ system is not backed up correctly, it’s more important sibling will be unusable. Both systems need similar levels of protection to avoid these problems.

Implementing backup

A good backup plan has three key elements:

  • Retain at least three copies of your data
  • Data is stored on two different media
  • At least one of your backup copies is stored offsite

Cloud backup solutions make this process incredibly simple, with many services offering multiple versions for restore. And because the data is stored offsite, it takes care of media and geography concerns.

Implementing disaster recovery

Disaster recovery is all about restoring operations as quickly as possible. In most cases, this will be in the form of a co-located data centre or cloud-based platform.

When choosing a partner, consider:

  • Are their replication capabilities sufficient to prevent data loss?
  • Do they offer tools and support to manage the post-failover and fail-back processes?
  • Do they offer a pricing model that aligns with your budgets?

Again, cloud technologies offer a good level of protection, flexibility and scalability that is more suitable for most businesses than a traditional co-location setup.

Testing your provisions

Replicating and backing up data is relatively easy – but can you recover it when needed? The final stage of any backup and disaster recovery plan is to test that your fail-over and recovery systems work.

Essentially, you need to be sure that your RTO and RPO goals can be met. This will mean testing backup mechanisms to ensure data can be properly restored within the specified timeframes. Similarly, you will need to trigger a live failover event periodically to confirm DR resources kick in as expected and any disruption falls within acceptable boundaries.

Through testing, you will identify weaknesses and opportunities for improvement before encountering a show-stopping outage.

Get in touch

For more help and advice about Cloud-based Backup and Disaster Recovery technologies that help protect your business against disruption and data loss, please get in get in touch.

Cloud backup and disaster recovery - Cloud like filing cabinet, hosting or database with folders isolated on white background.

Creating a Successful Cloud Backup and Disaster Recovery Plan

Cloud backup and disaster recovery is easy to set up. But how can you be sure these provisions will actually work when the worst happens, and you encounter a genuine disaster?

As always, success is dependent on planning, the better your plan, the less risk of failure.

Audit your systems and data

Effective backup (and recovery) relies on having at least one copy of all of your data duplicated off-site to protect against loss of the original. As you begin designing a backup and DR plan, there are three questions to answer:

1.  What data assets do we have?

2.  Where is the data stored?

3.  What tools do we need to backup that information to the cloud?

As your business adopts more cloud services, defining what you have and where it is located is the first step to defining a workable plan. As well as the on-premise file shares, you probably have information stored in several SaaS services, including Office 365 and OneDrive. You may also have hosted email (Outlook 365) – anything stored there will also need to be included in your provisions.

You will then need to assess the available technologies to find one that can backup all of your data from every location. Do you need to install local agents? Can backup and restore operations be completed from a single console? Are there any permissions issues you need to address when connecting to third-party services?

Once you have these answers, you are in a position to select a cloud backup provider and to begin backing up to their hosted service.

Prioritise your systems and data

During a disaster, your business must be able to resume skeleton operations as quickly as possible. This means prioritising applications and data so that they are recovered in order of importance to the running of your business.

You should also look to automate as much of the recovery process as possible, freeing your IT staff to focus on other tasks (there will be plenty during a show-stopping outage).

Test your recovery plan

The worst time to discover your disaster recovery plan doesn’t work is during a disaster. Any kind of oversight could have significant consequences – which is why testing is so important.

By testing the DR plan in advance, you can confirm that:

    • All of your data is being backed up correctly
    • Your cloud backup archives are usable
    • Your order of restore does match your operational priorities.
    • Recovery completes within the acceptable timeframes.

You can then refine your DR plan, tweaking, optimising and re-aligning the various elements as required. Your cloud backup and disaster recovery plan must then be reviewed and tested regularly to ensure it continues to meet your needs.

Define – Prioritise – Test

Much like any other DR plan, an effective cloud backup strategy has three elements; define, prioritise and test. So long as your plan addresses them all, your business systems should be ready to face any outage.

To learn more about cloud backup and how to build a disaster recovery plan that meets the needs of your business, please get in touch.

cloud backup strategy

Do you need to get physical with a cloud backup strategy?

Virtualising backup with the cloud is powerful, effective and extremely safe. But just because data is now being archived off-site does not mean that hardware can be completely removed from your backup strategy.

In fact, physical hardware may still have an extremely important role to play in your cloud backup strategy.

1. Export by hard drive

The initial speed of a cloud backup may take weeks to complete as you transfer terabytes of data offsite. The actual time taken will depend on network and broadband speeds. Without careful traffic management, the uploads may negatively impact day-to-day operations too.

The process can be accelerated by shipping physical drives to the backup provider so that the data can be copied locally. This will be exponentially quicker – and arguably more secure – than trying to upload over the internet.

2. Restore by hard drive

Restoring from cloud archives is just as important – and fraught with the same difficulties. Speed of recovery will be limited by available internet bandwidth and download speeds.

For downloads that can be sized in gigabytes, online recovery will probably be acceptable. But for a disaster recovery scenario which involves a large amount of data, the speed of transfer is critical.

In the same way that physical hard drives can accelerate seeding of backups, they can also be employed to speed up recovery. If you plan to make cloud backup your principal method of data recovery, check to see if your service has the option of shipping physical disks.

3. Cloud as backup

The issue of time to recovery is of critical importance. Knowing that a complete dataset may take days to recover from the internet, it may be that the cloud is best deployed as a secondary backup.

In this scenario, your existing systems provide real-time services for instant recovery, while periodic (daily / weekly / monthly) backups are replicated to the cloud. Maintaining physical backups on-site minimises time to recovery, while off-site backups help to maintain the integrity and ensure that data is always recoverable.

4. Local servers for recovery testing

You know that your data is always protected when using cloud backup services – but how do you go about recovering it? Keeping spare physical servers will allow you to test your recovery protocols and ensure that they deliver against business needs.

For best results, keep at least one example of each bare metal server to ensure everything works correctly.

5. Physical recovery documentation

Modern business is driven by digital data – but there will always be a place for hard copy records in certain circumstances. In the case of disaster recovery, you must maintain physical, off-line copies of the information required to brings systems back online.

Records must include the recovery action plan, applications and serial numbers. And don’t forget to include contact details for the individual who holds the administrative passwords required for recovery and reconfiguration.

The future is hybrid

Until available bandwidth increases exponentially, there will always be a place for physical assets in your backup regime. The trick is knowing where to divide the load between local and cloud.

WTL offer a range of cloud based solutions. that can extend the rigour of your on-premise backup without without compromising control, visibility, or auditability.

For more assistance in defining a cloud backup strategy that delivers the reliability, speed and security your business demands, please give us a call.