7 Best Practices for Building Your Cloud Migration Strategy

This guide provides a brief introduction to the challenges associated with moving your applications to the cloud and covers a range of strategies to help you migrate smoothly and efficiently.

Overview

Cloud migration involves moving on-premise applications to a cloud environment. Organizations choose to move to the cloud to take advantage of the flexibility, scalability, and agility offered by cloud infrastructures. Moving to the cloud can also reduce operational and maintenance costs. As business demands evolve, the cloud is fast becoming a competitive necessity.

Key Challenges for Moving to the Cloud

Although cloud migration offers many benefits, it is not simple to implement, and cloud environments introduce security and data privacy challenges. If you don’t properly plan your migration strategy, legacy applications can become a liability, providing an entry point for attackers. Furthermore, the migration process can be drawn out as you need to keep refining your infrastructure and services to make the most of the cloud. Other issues include:

  1. Vendor lock-in — dependence on a specific cloud service or provider.
  2. Poorly planned budget — enterprises often fail to accurately analyze and plan for their cloud operation costs, which can easily balloon.
  3. Dissolved security perimeter — it can be challenging to manage security in a cloud. If you share resources, as in a public cloud, your system may be more vulnerable to attack. The security perimeter is harder to maintain as you may lack the necessary isolation between networks. Attackers can exploit the multitenancy of public cloud environments to gain access to your system.
  4. Insufficient defenses — Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) typically deploy front-line defense measures like firewalls, antivirus, anti-malware, and intrusion detection, but malicious attacks are becoming increasingly sophisticated.
  5. Limited control — Public cloud services offer managed security solutions but allow less control over your infrastructure, so you may not be able to implement the necessary security measures.
  6. Sensitive data — once an attacker has entered the security perimeter, it is nearly impossible to prevent them from accessing sensitive data. This can have implications for data privacy compliance. A related area of concern is if an attacker gains access to encryption keys or access codes.
  7. Culture of indifference — development and business teams tend to shift all responsibility for both the technical and security aspects of migration to the IT department and security teams. This attitude can hinder a successful migration and lead to increased data breaches as a result of human error or non-compliance.

4 Cloud Security Challenges and How To Overcome Them

As you migrate workloads to the cloud, you should be aware of security challenges inherent to cloud environments, and plan your security strategy and response.

1. Data loss

Data loss can be detrimental, as many organizations use the cloud to store critical business information. Organizations may lose data from the cloud due to malicious tampering, accidental deletion, or natural acts. All businesses should have a disaster recovery process in place and have an integrated system ready to mitigate malicious attacks. Businesses should also protect all layers of their network, including the application layer as part of their cloud security solution.

2. Data transmission risks

Organizations should secure their servers, however, this alone may not be enough. There is also the risk of data transmissions being intercepted and information being stolen. Organizations can use VPN and SSL encryption to mitigate this risk. Alternatively, they can encrypt files or data before they are transmitted to the server. They can also move the encrypt/decrypt process to the side of the client, instead of configuring it to run on the cloud server, as this adds additional protection.

3. Insecure access points

A key advantage of the cloud is that you can access it from anywhere and from all devices. However, sometimes the interfaces and the APIs users interact with are not sufficiently protected. Attackers can discover these vulnerabilities and use them to their advantage. Organizations can use a behavioral web application firewall to mitigate these types of threats. Web application firewalls monitor HTTP requests to a website to make sure that the traffic that is allowed in is legitimate.

4. Multi-cloud and hybrid cloud security challenges

Multi-cloud and hybrid cloud solutions present cloud security challenges, primarily because there is limited standardization between clouds. Issues, related to the lack of interoperability between cloud vendors can reveal possible attack surfaces. Furthermore, in many multi-cloud models, data is transmitted via the internet, and this can cause and reveal vulnerabilities. Organizations can manage this risk by implementing security policies, educating employees on security, and creating a common way to oversee monitoring and automation.

7 Tips to Build a Smart Cloud Migration Plan

If you are planning to move your operations to the cloud, you should consider the following best practices:

1. Choose the Right Cloud Solution:

There are several cloud deployment models that suit different requirements. Evaluate the operational requirements of your workload and your priorities regarding security, cost, scalability, flexibility, access, and usability. If you are handling sensitive data, you should find a solution that offers a high degree of control over your environment, and that integrates with effective security tools. Other important considerations include data assurance and the ability to track usage and billing data.

  • Public cloud environments — a cost-efficient and user-friendly option, often providing managed services. They also tend to have more redundancy. For example, AWS cloud services provide a simple backup system using EBS snapshots.
  • Private cloud environments — dedicated to a single tenant, making them more secure than public clouds. They allow for greater control over your infrastructure and security measures but require greater management.
  • Hybrid solutions — take advantage of both private cloud or on-premise security and public cloud scale and efficiency. You can keep your more sensitive data on-premise to provide increased protection. However, having the best of both worlds entails more complex management, and can be expensive.
  • Multi-cloud solutions — combine services from multiple providers. This helps prevent vendor lock-in and allows you to integrate features offered by different cloud providers.

2. Plan Your Migration Strategy

There are several ways to migrate your application to the cloud. You can also opt for a phased strategy to take advantage of the cloud immediately while allowing time for your development team to prepare for a more comprehensive migration. Migration methods include:

  • Rehosting — the simplest and fastest method, also known as lift-and-shift. You move your entire app to a cloud service without modifying it first. The host takes care of your infrastructure and maintenance. The drawback is that you cannot take full advantage of the flexibility of the cloud, and you have limited control over the environment, so it is a convenient first step, but not necessarily a complete solution.
  • Replatforming — this involves a slight modification of your infrastructure but is otherwise similar to rehosting, in that it offers a managed service. It takes more time to complete because you have to divide your app into smaller components, with each function in an individual container. You can keep your core architecture while reducing management and operation and licensing costs.
  • Refactoring — the most advanced approach, also known as re-architecting. You modify the entire app and supporting services to suit the new environment. This allows you to fully utilize the cloud and even run serverless workloads. It is also the most effective way to eliminate vulnerabilities and secure your applications. However, this strategy is very involved and time-consuming and requires expertise.

You should begin with smaller, less sensitive applications, which you can rehost easily. For more critical applications, refactoring is recommended.

3. Discover and Eliminate Components

Run a discovery to identify resources and applications running in the data center, along with any dependencies. Once you have full visibility of your resources, you can determine what you want to keep and what you can discard. This allows you to patch or eliminate components with known vulnerabilities and helps prevent security breaches in the cloud. If you use the replatform strategy, it helps to know which architecture components you can replace with cloud offerings.

4. Fix Your Applications First

If your applications have known performance issues, you need to fix them before you attempt to migrate them to the cloud. Ensuring performance includes investigating and fixing alerts, optimizing database queries, regulating erratic response times, and eliminating false positives. only makes matters worse. This should allow you to avoid outages and costly disasters. For example, glitches like memory leaks can consume resources, for which you have to pay. Unpatched vulnerabilities also provide potential windows for attackers.

5. Use Encryption to Ensure Data Privacy Cloud

You need to get assurance from your cloud service provider to protect the security of your data. This includes clarifying what actions your provider will take to prevent disruptions and breaches. Furthermore, many organizations need to comply with regulations to protect data privacy, which may involve encrypting backed-up data. As an added safety measure, don’t collect more than the minimum necessary data. It is also important to establish who is responsible for maintaining security.

6. Secure Your Cloud Environment With Key Management

Encryption is a critical last line of defense against cyber attacks, but it’s not enough. You also need to store your encryption keys securely, separate from the encrypted data itself. Some organizations adopt a Bring Your Own Key (BYOK) approach, which allows them to manage their own keys. You can also opt for an External Key Management (EKM) solution.

You can also use physical devices such as a Hardware Security Module (HSM), which you can plug into your computer or network server. HSMs use crypto-processing to manage and protect digital keys, and they allow you to monitor for signs of tampering. HSMs have different levels of security certification, and some industries have specific standards. For example, the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council stipulates requirements HSMs used in financial payment applications.

7. Maintain Isolation to Protect Your Data and Memory

To overcome the challenges to cloud security and secure your application, you should combine encryption and key management with measures that ensure isolation and provide an added layer of separation from the cloud environment. You can achieve this virtually with memory isolation (also known as process isolation) to limit the interaction between processes. Segment your network and use secure containers to prevent unauthorized access to your data.

You can also store sensitive data in a physical data center, separate from the cloud network. Offline data storage is often part of a broader Data Loss Prevention (DLP) solution, and can be implemented on-premise or using an off-site storage provider. Off-site physical storage can also help with recovery in case of a disaster.

Conclusion

Sooner or later, you will likely have to migrate your applications and operations to a cloud environment. Although this can be a tricky path to navigate, especially given security considerations, you can follow these best practices to ensure you arrive at your destination safely, seamlessly, and efficiently.

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