4 Steps to Managing Data During a Cloud Migration

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Security doesn't have to be a sticking point.

Despite the innovations and efficiencies that come with cloud migration, only about 20 percent of federal agencies have migrated their applications and data to the cloud. Why such a low adoption rate? One reason is the challenge of securing data. Deciding how to move information from an on-premises data center to the cloud, securing it, and backing it up are all sticking points for agencies as they decide when and how to implement a cloud migration.

By following a few key recommendations, agencies can mitigate these security challenges and set themselves up for a smooth transition. Here are four steps to properly handle data during your agency’s migration to the cloud:

Develop a Data Migration Strategy

The first step is to create a data migration strategy or roadmap to determine which applications should be migrated first.

To create a roadmap, first assess your applications and rank them according to risk. Those with sensitive data, such as personal or classified information, would be considered high risk and thus a lower priority for early migration.

Another factor when assessing data sensitivity is the ability to break it apart. For example, if a human resources application contains certain data about an employee and a payroll application contains different data, it’s more secure to keep them separate. When the data is combined, it becomes highly sensitive, but when it’s split apart, it is safer to transfer.

Create a Security Plan and Set Up Your Environment Accordingly

After analyzing the data and applications ranked in your roadmap, you will need to decide if you can move all your data to the cloud or if you need to keep some of it in your data center.

Before moving data to the cloud, it’s important to ensure that you’ve implemented the same level of security in the cloud that you have on-prem in order to meet security and compliance requirements. To do this, you should set up a security policy parameter around all of your data, including who can access it. A well-thought-out security strategy can be fully audited, verified, and insured.

In addition to creating a strategy, you must set up your environment to meet the security requirements you’ve established. For example, you need to secure your storage and the connection needed to move data from the data center. After security protocols are in place, your security team should review them and sign off on the policy.

Identify and Implement a Back-up Strategy

After setting up a secure environment, you’ll need to back up your data. Nothing exists in the cloud until you set it up, and it’s important to duplicate in the cloud the best practices, policies and procedures you have on-prem.

To simplify the process, think of a cloud platform as an extension of the data center you have today—you’re just extending your data center, making it larger, and hosting it in a different place. If you think of it this way, everything that you’re required to do in your data center—policies, practices, audits—will be replicated in the cloud, including your back-up strategy.

Start Small, Then Build

Because of the complexities involved in the decisions related to moving data to the cloud, it’s best to start small. You don't want to start with a monolithic application, even if it’s relatively low risk. Begin with something achievable and then build upon it.

By taking a planned, thoughtful approach to securing data before, during, and after a cloud migration, agencies can confidently make the move to the cloud and reap the benefits of modernization.

Charles Fullwood is senior director of software solutions at Force 3.