AWS migration best practices: 7 practical guidelines

AWS migration best practices: 7 practical guidelines

July 13, 2022

Pavel Buyevich

Solution Architect

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the most popular platform on the cloud market, and each day more and more enterprises are moving to it. According to Statista, AWS held about 33% market share of the cloud services market in the first quarter of 2022, while Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud had 22% and 10%, respectively.

AWS leads the cloud market

So why are enterprises migrating their applications, databases, virtual servers, and websites to AWS? Besides the obvious benefits of cloud computing over the legacy on-premise hosting approach, AWS provides users with several unique advantages, such as a wide selection of cloud services, including AWS DevOps tools, robust security and encryption, and advanced flexibility and scalability.

Despite the aforementioned advantages, AWS migration may be a complicated and costly process, so enterprises should prepare well or turn for AWS migration services to a reliable provider.

This article breaks down the main steps of AWS migration as well as challenges that may occur along the way and provides AWS migration best practices to help you successfully carry out this transformation.

What does the AWS migration process look like?

Before we discuss the main challenges of AWS migration and provide migration best practices, let’s look at the migration process itself, as it will help you better understand what to expect when switching to AWS.

The typical AWS migration process

Step 1. Project assessment

At this preparatory step, organizations run a technical analysis, assess the security and compliances, and calculate the total cost of ownership of AWS.

Step 2. Infrastructure configuration

At this point, the technical side of the migration begins, with developers setting up an AWS-based infrastructure (for instance, via AWS OpsWorks or CloudFormation) and implementing the necessary configuration management tools.

Step 3. System and data migration

Here, developers ensure the transition to cloud coding, migrate licensed products, and transfer information from legacy systems to Amazon databases.

Step 4. Harnessing the AWS cloud

At this stage, developers build dashboards to help users interact with the cloud, enforce security measures, and integrate additional AWS services.

Step 5. Deployment optimization

Once the migration is complete, developers must optimize the new cloud infrastructure. At this stage, developers should implement monitoring tools, track system usage metrics, collect analytics, and improve system performance.

Now that we have discussed the AWS migration process, we should note the main difficulties that an enterprise may encounter throughout this procedure. Then we will explain how AWS migration best practices can help.

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The main challenges of AWS migration

As you may have already noticed, AWS migration is a multi-stage process that implies a wide range of diverse tasks and activities. Here are the difficulties that arise commonly:

  • Migration costs calculation

The need to cut on-premise infrastructure management costs is one of the main reasons enterprises initiate AWS migration. However, the migration process may sometimes have the opposite effect.

The thing is that AWS migration typically implies more than just the rolling cost of ownership, including licensing and commercial software. It also involves additional costs related to staff training, system maintenance, configuration, and other aspects that are not so easy to calculate. If you fail to take into account these and other expenses in advance, you can spend a lot more than you initially expected.

  • Compatibility

To be migrated successfully to a new cloud environment, your apps and systems need to be adaptable to AWS, or otherwise they will not function as intended or will not work at all.

  • Data security

Even though AWS is considered one of the most secure cloud platforms, the migration process involves the transfer of large amounts of data (including confidential files), which one way or another involves certain risks. The thing is that transferring data as-is is not only quite expensive but also difficult, because organizations must meet security compliance standards (PCI DSS, HIPAA, etc.) and that the data is properly encrypted and backed up. The absence of relevant security measures may lead to data leaks and, as a result, loss of business reputation.

  • Post-migration system stability

As we have mentioned, the migration process does not end after the setup of apps and data in the cloud. After all, your business infrastructure constantly grows, accumulating new products and services, and you must be able to support it. Otherwise, significant issues may arise down the line.

Fortunately, you can overcome most of the challenges by following these AWS migration best practices.

Seven AWS migration best practices

1. Clearly define the migration objectives and goals

Begin with clearly defining why you want to migrate to AWS. You can hold a series of meetings with your colleagues and discuss the following questions:

  • Why do we need to migrate our systems and data to AWS? Will the migration help us reduce infrastructure costs, solve internal problems, or do we require AWS for the stable growth of our business?
  • What operations and workflows should we move to AWS and why?
  • How will we evaluate the success of the migration? What KPIs should we monitor during this process?

Down the line, answers to these questions will help you choose the best migration strategy and ensure that the migration process meets your business goals and requirements. On the other hand, you may realize that AWS is not the best choice for your business and that you need another cloud provider.

2. Evaluate your data, digital assets, and existing IT resources

Now that you have more or less determined the main AWS migration goals, you can better understand your existing infrastructure and ensure that you have enough capabilities to migrate its components to AWS. To get started, you can review your IT ecosystem and its applications. In particular, you should consider which of them should be migrated to AWS and determine if they can be moved without refactoring and code rewriting.

Then you should evaluate data for migration with the help of data mapping. For convenience, you can also prioritize data and other digital assets to understand what needs to be transferred first.

Finally, you should decide if your existing resources and IT team competencies are enough to migrate both apps and data to the new cloud infrastructure. If you do not have relevant capabilities, let us say, to leverage AWS DevOps architecture, you should train your staff in advance or hire third-party experts.

3. Calculate the overall migration costs as early as possible

As we mentioned earlier, calculating the total cost of migration is not an easy task and is riddled with nuances, so it is better to be done in advance. We would recommend doing it step-by-step using the following algorithm:

  • Calculate the approximate cost of your future cloud infrastructure

If you plan to move an on-premises infrastructure to the cloud, you should start by calculating its approximate volume and scope. After the evaluation, you can get an idea of what storage volume and network size you will need in the cloud, which means you can understand what costs you should expect. Here, the AWS Pricing Calculator may come in handy.

  • Calculate the cost of migrating your systems to the cloud

Now you can calculate the amount of money you will have to spend transferring all your systems to the cloud. However, it may not be easy to give one specific piece of advice here because everything mostly depends on the specifics of your particular business case.

For example, if you want to transfer some of your monolithic apps to the microservices architecture, you should factor in the exact cost of this modification. You should do the same if you opt for using serverless computing and containers.

  • Calculate the cost of no longer needed on-premise resources

If you no longer use some elements of your on-premises ecosystem, you won't have to spend money on supporting them and can invest these funds in AWS migration.

  • Calculate operational expenses

The monthly AWS cloud platform license fee is directly related to the volume of storage and the number of users and connected service. Given that you already know how much data you plan to migrate and which AWS services you need, you can use this information to calculate approximate monthly AWS costs.

  • Calculate the cost of the new administration and management tools

Migration isn't just about moving data and applications. You'll also need to change your approaches to managing and administrating the new digital environment, which can incur additional costs.

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4. Choose a suitable AWS migration strategy

Typically, enterprises move to AWS using one of seven time-proven AWS cloud migration strategies, often referred to as the 7R's; each of them differs in its complexity, price, skills and effort required. Depending on the needs of your business case, you can choose one of these strategies or develop your own scenario that incorporates a combination of several AWS migration strategies simultaneously.

The 7Rs of AWS migration
  • Retiring

This strategy implies eliminating those system elements that you no longer plan to use. So, after assessing your existing infrastructure, you realize that you will not need some digital assets, developers can utilize this strategy to remove them.

  • Retaining

If you haven't yet decided what should be done with some parts of your existing infrastructure (such as legacy apps or virtual machines), AWS migration experts can leave them as they are, and you will decide on their fate later on.

  • Rehosting

With this approach, developers take your systems, apps, and data and simply move them to AWS in their current form and condition. Rehosting may be optimal if migration speed is your top priority.

  • Replatforming

This strategy involves selective upgrading of your legacy systems to adapt them to the cloud. For example, this may include migrating apps to AWS Elastic Beanstalk or moving SQL databases to Amazon RDS MySQL.

  • Rearchitecting

Rearchitecting involves a radical system restructuring, which makes it one of the most expensive approaches to AWS migration. On the other hand, it can also be the most efficient for accommodating your legacy apps in the new business environment.

  • Repurchasing

This strategy involves replacing your on-premise software with cloud solutions. Most often, enterprises that opt for this approach ask professional AWS developers to replace their legacy systems with SaaS solutions from the AWS Marketplace database.

  • Relocating

This approach encompasses migrating multiple servers related to your systems and apps to the cloud. For instance, using VMware, AWS migration experts can migrate your solutions to the AWS cloud without rewriting them.

5. Implement automation

You don’t need to migrate large amounts of information to AWS manually, as there is a wide range of tools available for automating cloud workflows. For example, AWS migration specialists can implement tools such as AWS Auto Scaling and AWS Step Functions. Additionally, if you have an extensive cloud environment, developers can use AWS CloudFormation to deploy your infrastructure as code (IaC).

6. Enable monitoring and alerts

After the migration process is finished, companies need to continuously monitor the health of their cloud infrastructure to avoid errors and disruptions. This process can be streamlined with specialized tools that can analyze the system's condition and send alerts in case something does not work as it should. Thus, your IT team will be able to timely detect bottlenecks and continuously improve the performance of your cloud infrastructure through more efficient resource allocation.

7. Find reliable partners to carry out the migration

It is also worth mentioning that you do not have to burden your in-house IT team with AWS migration. Instead, you can hire experts and delegate them the responsibility for the transformation or have them join at certain stages of your migration journey. This might be especially relevant if your in-house team does not have enough experience or competency to conduct the migration or it is too busy with day-to-day tasks. So, if you cannot determine the best migration strategy and how to automate cloud workloads or configure your cloud environment, you have an option of turning to AWS Certified Consulting Experts.

Final thoughts

Despite all the advantages enterprises can gain from AWS, migrating apps and data to this cloud platform may be challenging. As a rule, organizations struggle with calculating the overall cost of migration, assessing compatibility between on-premise infrastructure and cloud, and ensuring data security throughout the migration.

You can follow AWS migration best practices from our list to overcome these difficulties. For example, you can evaluate your existing business infrastructure and use this information to calculate the hidden migration costs, implement automation tools, and enable monitoring and alerts to notice any anomalies in your system's performance.