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Eleven steps to include in your Azure migration plan

If you’re planning a move to Microsoft Azure, you need a solid migration strategy to ensure your success and your security, says BUI Global CEO Ryan Roseveare.

Johannesburg, 01 Sep 2023
Get ready for the move to Microsoft Azure.
Get ready for the move to Microsoft Azure.

From cutting hardware costs to enabling remote work, there are many reasons why organisations migrate to Microsoft Azure. But whether you’re saying goodbye to your on-premises data centre or moving your entire business operation to the cloud, a step-by-step migration plan is critical for your success and security, says BUI Global CEO Ryan Roseveare.

Step 1 – Your objectives | Answer the ‘why’ questions

Your first step should be to define your cloud migration objectives, advises Roseveare. “Get all the relevant decision-makers involved so that you’re able to map out your business drivers and link them to specific outcomes,” he says. Are you moving to Azure to modernise your legacy systems? Are you trying to scale your business? Do you need to enable accessibility across your global workforce? “Whatever your objectives are, make them plain to all. You’re more likely to gain backing from your staff if you’re transparent about your goals and the route you’re going to take to achieve them.

“It’s important to remember that cloud migrations are not just about technology. They’re about people, too,” continues Roseveare. “Clear communication and proactive change management should be part of every transformation project because your employees will have to adapt to a different environment and possibly even a new way of working. If you can help them understand the ‘why’ at the beginning of your Azure move, keep them updated as you progress and give them the support they need to feel at home in their new surroundings, then they’ll be informed, empowered and better prepared to use the cloud tools at their disposal,” he says.

Step 2 – Your environment | Shine a spotlight on your current IT landscape

Next, you’ll need to look at your existing technology set-up. “It sounds like an easy step,” says Roseveare. “But it’s not as simple as making a list of your current infrastructure, applications, and data. You’ll have to inventory your resources, certainly, but you’ll also have to identify dependencies, collate performance metrics and consider your compliance, governance and security requirements within the context of your migration project. A comprehensive assessment of your IT landscape will take time, but it’s a necessary step to ensure that your eventual migration is seamless and successful.”

Step 3 – Your workloads | Decide which ones are your most important

Organising your workloads by their business impact, their technical complexity, and their dependencies is a key step in your Azure migration strategy. “When you categorise your workloads in this way, you will get a better idea of their nature and be able to make informed decisions about which ones to move first and how to manage them in the cloud once they are there.”

Workloads can vary extensively in terms of structure and sophistication, adds Roseveare. “Some resources may have straightforward architectures, while others may be very complex, with intricate dependencies and customised configurations. Categorising your workloads by technical complexity will give you a chance to pinpoint potential obstacles – and come up with appropriate solutions – early in your planning process. And categorising your workloads by dependencies will help you ensure that interconnected resources are migrated together.”

Step 4 – Your approach | Create a migration strategy that works for you

Microsoft Azure offers a range of migration methods to help you move your workloads to the cloud, explains Roseveare. “Rehosting, for example, is a relatively quick way to lift and shift your applications with minimal disruption, while rearchitecting usually involves significant changes to your application architecture over a longer period. In some cases, a hybrid approach might be the most suitable option because it allows you to transition gradually while leveraging on-premises and cloud resources.”

Ultimately, says Roseveare, you’ll need to create a migration strategy that works for your business and aligns with the objectives you identified at the beginning of your project. “Consider your workload complexity, your data volumes and your business schedule, and then choose the Azure migration method best suited to your requirements and timelines.”

Step 5 – Your checks | Test your migration strategy with a dry run

Migrating to a new cloud environment like Microsoft Azure may involve major changes to your existing infrastructure, applications and data. If you don’t test and validate your migration plan beforehand, you could end up facing compatibility issues, performance bottlenecks or security vulnerabilities on the day of your migration. “Pre-migration checks will help you identify and mitigate such risks ahead of time,” says Roseveare.

Step 6 – Your plan | Document, document and document again

A well-structured migration plan, detailed in writing, is an important step that will help you ensure a smoother, more organised move to Azure. “A documented migration plan provides clarity to everyone involved in the migration process,” says Roseveare. “It gives your project managers, operations teams, developers and other stakeholders a clear understanding of the goals, tasks and timelines of your migration.”

It also helps to keep everyone on the same page, literally and figuratively, adds Roseveare. “Cloud migrations involve a lot of moving parts and a lot of people. Your migration plan should serve as a central point of reference to guide everyone towards the same goals. It should also serve as a living document to record and track your overall progress. Try to include as much detail as possible so that your finalised document can also be leveraged during other migration projects. Your observations and notes will be useful to your future teams.”

Step 7 – Your security | Make protection part of your process

While cloud providers like Microsoft offer a shared responsibility model for security, Roseveare stresses that it is your duty to ensure your business resources are protected in line with your own organisational requirements and compliance obligations – especially during a migration. “When you’re moving data from your on-premises environment to Azure, you need to put appropriate security measures in place to safeguard the information against unauthorised access, leaks and cyber threats.”

There are several Azure tools to explore for this purpose, says Roseveare, referencing the Microsoft Cloud Adoption Framework for Azure and the capabilities of certain Azure features such as Azure ExpressRoute, Azure Key Vault and Azure Policy. “You can use Azure ExpressRoute to create private connections between your on-premises environment and Azure for secure data transfers. You can use Azure Key Vault to manage your cryptographic keys, secrets and certificates. And you can leverage Azure Policy to define and enforce specific security settings in your new cloud ecosystem.”

Step 8 – Your contingencies | Prepare for challenges and disruptions

Even with the most careful planning, challenges are likely during your migration, warns Roseveare. Anticipating them in advance, and having suitable solutions in place, will help you minimise business disruptions and downtime. “Think about the potential obstacles during each phase of your migration, discuss them with your project team and create contingencies together. Then, add this information to your migration document so that it’s available if needed.”

Step 9 – Your migration | Put your plan into action meticulously

On migration day, make sure your project teams follow the step-by-step guidance laid out in your Azure migration plan. “After you’ve moved the relevant applications, databases or services to Azure, focus on evaluating your new cloud environment,” says Roseveare. “You’ll need to test the migrated resources to ensure they’re functioning correctly and as expected and you’ll need to address any issues or incidents that may have occurred during the migration. Keep your communication lines open and make sure your end-users are informed about any delays or disruptions that may impact their productivity.”

Step 10 – Your review | Evaluate your success and explore the lessons learned

In the post-migration phase, a thorough review will help you evaluate your success. Did your move to Azure go according to plan? Was your migration strategy sufficiently documented? Were there any challenges or obstacles that you didn’t foresee?

“Every migration provides valuable insights,” notes Roseveare. “Use your review period to identify what went well and what could have been improved in your migration process. You can use this knowledge to refine your future migration strategies and improve your overall cloud adoption process. And don’t forget to update your internal documentation, from your architecture and configuration blueprints to your disaster recovery procedures, so that your technical teams have an accurate picture of your cloud set-up.”

Step 11 – Your optimisation | Strive for continuous improvement

The end of your Azure migration should not be the end of your cloud journey, advises Roseveare. “It’s a good idea to focus on continuous improvement going forward,” he says. “You need to make sure your Azure environment remains in tune with your organisation as it evolves. Keep an eye on your resource usage so that you can right-size your infrastructure accordingly and optimise your cloud costs. Involve your end-users in feedback sessions to gain deeper insights into Azure’s performance. Equip your IT staff with the skills they need to manage your Azure resources effectively. And stay informed about Azure’s new features and services so you can harness relevant innovations for your business benefit,” he concludes.

Moving to Microsoft Azure opens the door for you to take advantage of an industry-leading cloud platform and cutting-edge technologies. However, the journey requires thorough planning and meticulous execution. Use the 11 steps covered here as a guideline to help you prepare and co-ordinate a smooth and successful migration to Azure.

Further reading:

BUI is a Microsoft Azure Expert Managed Services Provider and Microsoft Solutions Partner for the Microsoft Cloud with certified expertise in Business Applications, Data & AI, Digital & App Innovation, Infrastructure, Modern Work and Security.

With 10 Microsoft Advanced Specializations in solution areas including Infra and Database Migration to Microsoft Azure, Microsoft Azure Virtual Desktop, and Adoption and Change Management, BUI is a trusted technology partner to mid-market and enterprise-level organisations across the world.

When you’re ready to move to Microsoft Azure, our experts can take you there – efficiently and securely. Let’s talk about modernising your organisation today.

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BUI

BUI is an award-winning IT consultancy delivering security solutions and specialised cloud services to mid-market and enterprise-level customers worldwide.

Founded in 2000, BUI is a Microsoft Azure Expert MSP, a member of the Microsoft Intelligent Security Association, and a Microsoft Solutions Partner for Business Applications, Data & AI (Azure), Digital & App Innovation (Azure), Infrastructure (Azure), Modern Work, and Security.

BUI has offices in the United Kingdom (London, England), the United States (Irvine, California), South Africa (Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, Free State), East Africa (Nairobi, Kenya), and The Republic of Ireland (Dublin).

BUI’s recent accolades include:

  • 2023 Microsoft Country Partner of the Year (South Africa)
  • 2022 Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Partner of the Year
  • 2022 Microsoft Modern Work Partner of the Year
  • 2022 Microsoft Security Partner of the Year

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Editorial contacts

Alison Ekland
Global Marketing Manager, BUI
(087) 740 2400
alisone@bui.co