Data is an organization’s most valuable asset and is a key foundation for business success. At times, companies will need to move data around the business and this has never been an easy task. These days, with many businesses now operating in a hybrid cloud environment, it is now even more complex than before.

This complexity is not going to go away. In fact, it is only going to increase as more and more businesses move into a hybrid cloud environment. A surveyof 1200 IT decision makers, carried out Vanson Bourne for Veritas, found that nine in ten IT decision makers say their organization plans to move more systems to the cloud in the next two years. In order to ensure the transition to a hybrid cloud environment runs smoothly, there are a variety of steps an enterprise must take.

Making the move

Storage cloud

Most organizations are in the process of moving at least some of their workloads to the cloud. The reason they are choosing this path is because they recognize the benefits of resiliency, data security, and the ability to stretch their budgets by moving capital expenditure costs to operating expenditures.

How quickly and reliably this can be done will influence the pace of digital transformation. The complexity associated with a hybrid IT environment means the potential for problems when migrating data is often unavoidable, delaying an organization’s ability to exploit the advantages of cloud computing.

This can be a lengthy and difficult process because there are a number of steps an organization should take to ensure its data and applications are highly available, its data is always protected and recoverable, and it has the insights to drive operational efficiency and regulatory compliance. If this process is ignored, an organization can put itself at risk of downtime and reputational damage.

While 94 percent of the respondents in the study said they were confident in their cloud service provider’s (CSP) ability to protect workloads against outages, over a third admitted to having experienced cloud service disruptions. Subsequently, 73 percent reported downtime, which resulted in 43 percent experiencing difficulties with customer satisfaction. These statistics show a need for IT departments to provide protection that extends further than what the CSPs offer.

Having data visibility

The first step of any data migration project is working out what data actually needs to be moved.

This means having a clear understanding of what data exists, where it resides, how sensitive it is, and who exactly needs to access it. Then, businesses are in a good position to set clear criteria for what data needs to be migrated and how.

Unsurprisingly, a hybrid IT environment makes this difficult to achieve, as it is often fast-growing and fragmented. An immersive visual experience that offers a complete picture of the data an organization is holding regardless of where that data sits is one method through which a business can obtain an understanding of its data. This will help in identifying areas of value, risk and waste, thus reducing the cost of unnecessary data storage and pointless migration.

Ensuring data is protected

Once an organization has an understanding of the data it has and its relevance to the business, it can then decide what needs to be protected. Ensuring all data is secure is challenging in a hybrid IT environment given the various locations, platforms and applications in which it is stored. Various CSPs and customised private clouds add an additional layer of complexity as IT systems often need a number of disparate tools to do this.

In environments where multiple clouds interoperate, blind spots can wreak havoc. In order to avoid disaster, enterprises need to have a data protection solution that can help backup and recover data across different environments, whether on-premises, virtual or cloud.

The type of backup method adopted also has to be considered according to the type of data, and its value to the business. On the one hand, the more business-critical the data is, the closer it must be held to the organization allowing for immediate recovery. On the other, data which is archived and infrequently accessed can be stored much more cost effectively offsite using cloud-based storage. The key to success here is maintaining visibility and control in order to strike the right balance between recovery and compliance requirements and costs.

If a business decides against implementing these measures, it is putting itself at risk of downtime during a migration, which can lead to a whole host of issues. Downtime not only increases the risk of data loss, it can result in business operations grinding to a halt. This has an impact from both a direct monetary perspective, and subsequent long-running customer and stakeholder dissatisfaction. This makes it near-impossible to put a cost on the true repercussions of downtime. All businesses know that brand loyalty is an invaluable asset, and a poorly planned migration is a large risk.

Whose responsibility is it?

When it comes to the cloud, there are often misconceptions around which party holds the ultimate responsibility for data management. Eight out of ten organizations mistakenly believe their cloud service providers take care of data protection. However, many cloud contracts state that the customer must back up its data and retains ultimate responsibility.

This misunderstanding is putting many companies’ reputations at stake. Enterprises need to understand that they must back up their data, regardless of it being held onsite, or in public or private clouds. If this is not understood, they risk serious corporate losses.

Staying safe when migrating data

To surmise, organizations cannot risk critical data getting lost because of a complex, disparate IT environment. This means that data management and protection should not be one-off activities, but instead an ongoing strategy.

In order to achieve this ideal, there needs to be an understanding of where the responsibility lies when it comes to data management and protection, which is most commonly in the hands of the enterprise. If this culture of data management is instilled, and responsibility rightfully owned, businesses will be able to take advantage of highly available and always protected data that they can derive actionable insights from. All of those factors will allow for a more secure data migration.

In order to meet that criteria, a business must ensure it has optimal data visibility, which is best achieved through a visualization of the entire data eco-system. When a full picture of an enterprises data is understood, it is then in a position to be protected. But remember, each dataset should have a backup method that is tailored to its value to the business. Once those strategies have been implemented, businesses will be able to migrate their data to the cloud as safely as possible.