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It was 2011 when Steve Jobs announced at WWDC 11 that iCloud would replace MobileMe. A product the latter that Steven called “not our finest hour.” Amid the distrust and criticism that also followed this product, some 20 million users decided to synchronize songs, email calendars, and contacts with this technology rather than using dropbox to regularly move data from one device to another.
Today, Apple’s cloud services include keychain (password manager), “find my device” (lost device finder), backup of data, profiles and information, and instant synchronization between devices. Exciting growth in offerings that have increased the productivity of our devices, but who remembers the 2014 leak? Private photos of entertainment celebrities stolen from iCloud and shared with the public caused quite a stir and reminded everyone how functionality at the expense of security was never good business.
Yet the cloud computing industry exceeded 100 billion in value as early as 2020, and today some projections suggest it will exceed one trillion in 2030. Amazon, Google and Microsoft are making their cloud services the leading edge of their offerings to businesses. Could it be that everyone has lost interest in security? Or perhaps something has changed?
What is cloud migration
Cloud migration usually refers to the migration of an IT structure from an on-prem structure to the cloud (in full or partial form). In simple words: a company that until now kept its data and applications on servers to which it could physically access (and of which it was presumably in control), decides to move its entire structure (or part of it) to the cloud. The term facility refers not only to data and applications, but also to entire physical network equipment: switches, routers, and firewalls can now all be outsourced as services purchased with pay-per-use payment plans. There are several ways to accomplish this migration, most usually grouped into three categories.
The types of cloud migration
Migration from on-prem to cloud can take place following three well-known models : IaaS, PaaS and SaaS. Specifically :
- IaaS: infrastructure as a Service ( infrastructure as a service). The provider allows you to use its cloud infrastructure as if it were a service. While you do not have ownership and possession of the infrastructure, such as servers and databases, you can freely dispose of it by paying a fee upon use. In case you want to use operating systems you own or have a special need to have the infrastructure in all aspects, this is the solution you can opt for.
- PaaS: Platform as a Service. You use platforms provided by the cloud provider, that is, environments that are already configured and ready to use that support applications or services. For example, if you need to use a standard environment in which to run your app, you can rely on this type of service without needing to control the underlying infrastructure.
- SaaS: Software as a Service in case you do not need to set up an infrastructure but simply want to use a preconfigured program or function, SaaS facilities (such as office 365 or google docs) are cloud services to opt for.
A combination of these three types of cloud services makes up your migration strategy, which is the best migration strategy for you to adopt based on the type of infrastructure you have and goals you plan to achieve.The benefits of cloud migration
Before defining a proper strategy, you should know the benefits that cut across these three types of cloud adoption. Cloud migration allows you to:
- Turn fixed expenses into variables: Instead of having to invest heavily in infrastructure you can pay only when you consume
- Take advantage of considerable economies of scale: cloud computing service providers leverage hundreds of thousands of customers who use their infrastructure to lower maintenance costs. This translates into lower prices with pay-as-you-go for you when you need to expand your infrastructure
- Eliminate estimating and forecasting costs: if you make a demand decision before launching an application, you risk finding yourself over- or undersized. You can access the maximum or minimum capacity you need and scale up or down as needed with minutes’ notice.
- Eliminate day-to-day management costs: Cloud computing allows you to focus on your customers rather than the heavy lifting of updating, securing and powering servers.
- Go global: Easily deploy your application to multiple regions around the world with lower latency and a better experience for your customers at a reduced cost to you.
At this point, only one element is missing to define a good migration strategy: knowing the risks associated with cloud infrastructure.
The risks of cloud migration
Although cloud computing is a technology that improves enterprise security while reducing costs, in many respects, it is not the ultimate solution to all problems and, more importantly, it carries consequences that are not worth ignoring. The most important and cross-cutting ones are:
- Costs: pay per use is a convenient model because it allows you to pay only for what you use, but if you use technology that does not require continuous upgrades, that is readily available, and that you can resell at a comparable price in ten years, the price difference between pay per use and investment may not be worth the cost of an infrastructure migration. Inflation and vendor changes in cost are another risk to think about.
- Infrastructure: geographic deployment enables improved performance, but not all cloud computing services are equally globally distributed, and there is no guarantee that their geographic availability, if available today, will not vary in the future.
- Security: as much as having the always-up-to-date facility, various physical security guarantees and increased resilience that ensure the reliability of cloud facilities, the old boring saying that “there’s no cloud, only other people’s computers” is still accurate. The cloud is an infrastructure over which you have limited control because it remains a third-party owned facility. In industries of national criticality, for government agencies, for companies that place a premium on confidentiality, this factor may not be insignificant.
Cloud services have gone from offering data synchronization to replacing entire enterprise structures. They can be a great opportunity to start an IT enterprise with a click of a button, but without a proper migration strategy they can become a misguided investment of time and money.