Thinking of moving to the Cloud? It’s vital to decide whether you transition or transform

If you, like many other businesses, are planning on moving your workloads away from internally managed servers to a private or public Cloud provider, there is one critical decision you must make which is difficult to change later.

This is whether you transform or transition your IT estate.

One of the biggest factors is risk. If your current IT estate has evolved over many years it is likely to be far from optimal. IT practises of yesteryear were far less focused upon security, governance, and risk. For instance, you will likely to have old user, computer or service accounts, possibly with the same password set many years ago. And the product of years of troubleshooting and changes will have taken its toll on system stability.

Transition involves “copying” your servers to your new Cloud environment. So although your servers are running on new hardware in a new location, they are still the same “old” operating system, the same configuration, running the same software. In fact, they are virtually identical.

This saves a huge amount of setup and design time. But any risks are copied along with everything else.

Therefore the best option is surely to transform? Not always.

Transform involves building your IT estate from scratch. New server operating systems, new applications (often utilising your existing licenses), and new configurations.

Clearly starting afresh comes with its own set of risks. A lot more work must be completed which makes the project more expensive. And with more work, comes more testing, and more involvement from your business in deciding on folder structures, user permissions, etc.

In fact, a transformation project is often 2-3 times the cost of a transition project. Although to keep costs down, it is often possible to reduce your total number of servers and utilise SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) alternatives, like Office 365.

There is a third option. Both. You can transition your servers that are more complicated to rebuild, for instance Sharepoint or CRM servers, and then transform other servers which will help reduce the risk profile of the project.

Of course, one huge advantage of cloud, is you should be able to easily perform UAT (User-Acceptance-Testing) of your new Cloud solution while your existing IT systems remain operational. So you and your colleagues can be completely confident the new platform delivers on your requirements.

So what criteria should influence your decision?

 
    • Age - When was your IT estate last rebuilt. If it’s simply evolved over the last 5+ years, it's probably time to consider “transforming” your estate.
 
    • Stability - How stable is your current IT estate. If you’ve experienced a few outages there could well be an issue with your existing configuration. In which case a transformation could be your best option.
 
    • Projects – If you have an on-going IT project you may be unable to change the underlying infrastructure. In these cases a transition will be your only option.
 
    • Risk – Some businesses can cope with a few hours of downtime, others cannot. If system stability and availability is critical, then a transformation project would be the most appropriate option.
 
    • Timeline – If you have a limited timeframe in which to perform the migration the quickest method is transition.
 
    • Support – Many IT providers will not provide SLAs around infrastructure they have not built themselves. This is because it is impossible to determine whether every device has been built to best-practise specifications. If contractual protection within a support contract is important, then transformation may be your only option.
 
  • Cost – If you want to take advantage of a Cloud solution for minimal cost, a transition is often the cheapest option. But consider the hidden costs if issues exist within your current IT estate.