While cloud adoption has been on a steady increase, it’s now set to accelerate as more and more businesses are becoming aware of its cost and agility benefits. Migrating to cloud-based databases has been central to this adoption, as the setbacks that come with alternative, temporary software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions are now largely recognised. For many business leaders, cloud migration serves as the first gateway step to the wider use of cloud computing.
The COVID-19 pandemic in particular spurred cloud adoption, for key reasons such as:
- Growing business opportunities for eCommerce and other digital business models in an era of social distancing meant that they needed to up their game.
- The rise of remote and hybrid working making seamless online collaboration a priority.
- Deployment of the cloud easily addressed the increasing business demands of scalability and availability across multiple sectors.
Cloud adoption has continued to accelerate as the world has emerged from the pandemic. Gartner recently released its latest cloud adoption forecast: worldwide spending on public cloud services is forecasted to grow by 20.4% in 2022 to a total of $494.7 billion, up from $410.9 billion in 2021.¹ Cloud adoption is continuing to become more mainstream and for good reason.
The cloud offers a wide range of capabilities and has the potential to unlock key growth-enabling benefits for your business. But at its core, cloud migration is about enabling better data management, a factor that many businesses have recognised and since utilised accordingly. Flexera found that 48% of organisations already have their data in the public cloud, with respondents expecting to add another 7% over the next twelve months.²
In this article, we’re going to take you through the advantages of migrating your databases to the cloud and — more broadly — the benefits of cloud computing in general.
What is a cloud database?
A cloud database is a database service built and accessed through a cloud platform. It enables users to host databases without buying dedicated hardware and can support both SQL and NoSQL databases.
There are two main deployment alternatives: you can run your database on the cloud provider’s Virtual Machines (VM) or you can make use of the provider’s managed cloud database-as-a-service (DBaaS). Each comes with its own pros and cons.
Running your database on a cloud VM requires a similar level of database administration as running it on-premise, but offers more flexible configuration options than managed cloud databases. Managed cloud databases on the other hand take care of CPU and storage provisioning and include maintenance such as backups, patching, and recovery, but are not as configurable as cloud VM solutions.
The first use of cloud for some is as a redundant storage site as part of a Disaster Recovery approach — typically opting for a cloud VM that mirrors their on-premise solution. Organisations that are committed to the computing power of the cloud often migrate their data to a cloud-managed database as a first “gateway” step. Selecting which makes most sense for you will depend on your organisation’s circumstances and objectives for moving to the cloud.
Benefit 1: Cost efficiency
For many, realising cost gains will be a key objective. In building the business case for cloud migration, it is important to recognise the full range of potential cost benefits available, such as:
- Initial rightsizing. Rightsizing your infrastructure’s resource usage has been a major indicator of cost improvements for organisations with complex on-premise data footprints.
- On-demand scaling. The cost of adopting cloud databases can be considerably less than expanding your existing on-site data centres. As cloud services are pay-as-you-go, your costs will only increase if you expand or require additional services.
- Maintenance costs. The reduced maintenance and upgrade costs of a typical DBaaS deployment can cut administrative costs substantially. This also extends to the cost of updates that are made to match changes in data compliance and regulations.
- Accessing high fixed-cost capabilities. Data migration can serve as the first step to introducing your organisation to best-in-class capabilities — such as advanced analytics and machine learning tools — that would otherwise be prohibitively expensive.
Benefit 2: Trustworthy security
As the security protection offered by cloud services has expanded, organisations have become more open to moving sensitive data to the cloud. This increased confidence in the security of the cloud contrasts with the growing costs and risk exposure of managing complex on-premise data footprints. More than half of Flexera’s survey respondents said they’ll consider moving sensitive consumer data or corporate financial data to the cloud.
Cloud providers like Microsoft Azure, for example, offer a layered defence approach comprising of four elements:
- Network security: For managing network access based on IP address or Azure Virtual network traffic origin.
- Access management: For authentication and authorisation permissions — including low-level database access management.
- Threat protection: To assist in monitoring database usage for potential abuse and security violations.
- Information protection: To enable encryption-in-transit, encryption-at-rest, and encryption-in-use.
Benefit 3: Primed for hybrid/remote workplaces
Working practices are changing fast. In the wake of the pandemic, employee expectations of enterprise apps — including greater flexibility, mobility, and support for remote collaborative working — have risen dramatically. Satisfying them with on-premise enterprise solutions is no longer possible.
As your business expands its number of hybrid and remote teams, the ability of cloud platforms to be accessed and used from a range of devices is a huge benefit to take advantage of. Database-as-a-service can replicate and distribute immediately, offering almost real-time access to data worldwide. Users no longer have to deploy middleware to deliver database requests anywhere in the world as users can connect applications directly to their database.
Benefit 4: Competitive advantage
Organisations now interact with their customers through a huge variety of touchpoints: websites, email, loyalty programmes, social media marketing, and search advertising, to name a few. Organising and integrating all of this data to bring competitive customer experiences to market and enable visibility over customer insights is a big challenge to fulfill in an on-premise environment. Separate and distinct product and distribution systems are creating insurmountable data silos.
By comparison, the cloud offers world-class data integration, storage, and management capabilities off-the-shelf. As your applications grow in size and complexity, a cloud database solution can grow along with them. Hosting databases in the cloud lifts the limits on the growth of your customer and enterprise apps.
Growing past the challenges of the cloud
Nonetheless, capitalising on the benefits of cloud databases requires overcoming some common challenges:
- Scoping: Getting the scoping and phasing of data migration right is critical to managing migration complexity and realising benefits. This requires not only assessing technical feasibility and on-premises versus cloud costs, but also understanding the application dependencies on databases. For example, if you have an SQL server you want to move to the cloud, it may make sense to move the applications that are dependent on it as well. If you separate the two, performance may suffer as a result.
- Cost optimisation: Fully realising the cost benefits of cloud migration requires conscientious and continuous post-migration cost management and usage optimisation. The job isn’t done upon data migration.
- Growth enablement: If data migration is your first step to overcoming the constraints of in-house systems, then having a clear sense upfront of the full cloud roadmap is essential to ensuring that your organisation has appropriately set its growth goals and has a shared vision for the cloud at the executive level.
Enable your business growth with the cloud
So, adoption of cloud databases is the central part of a high-performing growth strategy and yields four distinct benefits: cost efficiency, trustworthy security, enablement of hybrid/remote working, and competitive advantage.
Nonetheless, there are a number of commonly encountered challenges when designing and executing a data migration strategy. Working with a suitably experienced technology partner to address these is the most beneficial approach.
Talk Think Do has helped many organisations successfully design and deliver effective cloud migration strategies. We bring the critical ingredients needed to craft and deliver cloud transformations that enable your growth ambitions. We understand the full capabilities of the cloud, are a Microsoft Gold Partner, and have deep expertise in the Azure platform. We invest time upfront to understand your business priorities and ambitions, your approach to innovation, and your appetite for risk.
To realise the benefits of our highly-personalised solutions and help your business grow today, get in touch today and discuss your requirements with one of our experts.