I’m willing to bet that when Chinese philosopher Lao-Tzu coined his famous phrase around 500 B.C., “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” he wasn’t thinking about the time it takes to migrate legacy data center operations to the public cloud. But it couldn’t be more applicable.

For many IT departments, shifting operations to the public cloud can be a long, daunting, and frustrating process. However, it doesn’t have to be. Understanding where the public cloud migration journey begins and where it will ultimately end allows IT professionals to ensure that the first step — and all subsequent steps — are taken in the right direction. And well before the cloud journey actually begins, it’s critical that all stakeholders involved understand the value of moving some or all their IT operations to the public cloud. No one wants to walk a thousand miles in the wrong direction.

While the enormous potential of the public cloud has been well documented, realizing that potential in terms of both quantitative ROI and measurable qualitative benefits requires that a plan be developed and implemented to achieve specific desired results. The reality for most companies embarking on this path is that they can’t do it alone. They require a partner that has experience; they need a “Cloud Sherpa” — a partner who can ensure that their journey into uncharted IT territory will be safe and successful. By moving some or all of your applications to a third-party expert’s management and care, IT departments can better focus on their specific objectives, which can result in significant organizational bottom line results.

The main benefits of transitioning to the cloud are agility, increased scalability, reduced total cost of ownership (TCO), and improved security. To reach your ideal results, below are five main steps for companies implementing the public cloud, and thoughts as to how a third-party provider’s management and care could aid the process.

Begin with the end in mind.

It’s key to keep the long game in mind when planning the move to the public cloud. It starts with identifying challenges to be solved and opportunities to be pursued. Make sure all stakeholders are kept in the loop and involve them in the process. CEOs are typically more open to new applications that increase sales and improve customer satisfaction. CFOs, however, often put more emphasis on cost containment and profit-building, and CIOs usually want service-level improvements. By keeping these individuals in the loop, you increase your chances of success because you will have executive leadership buy-in.


Take stock.

Once you have pinpointed the company’s IT goals, it’s important to conduct a high-level inventory or a refresh of the current list of all the apps being used across your enterprise. The appropriate teams and departments conducting this inventory may uncover utilities, databases, and websites you may have missed. Include information about the purpose of the application, who uses it, and the sensitivity and importance of the data to the business. In order to chart your path to the cloud, you need to know the current state of all apps being utilized.


Map demand.

Mapping demand is crucial in strategizing your move to the public cloud. Ask managers to project growth for existing apps over the next three years, and include new apps the company will take online. By identifying and anticipating future traffic levels and spikes, the team can plan accordingly and be ready for increased growth.


Determine the best cloud candidates.

Review your inventory of applications and data and find the best candidates for cloud migration and implementation. You can pick and choose which apps to move to the cloud and which can stay running on-premise. Apps that experience spikey demand or involve parallel processing (e.g., batch) are naturally a better fit for the public cloud. This is also true for apps requiring DR or needing broad geographic placement.


Decide how far you’ll go.

The beauty of the cloud is that you don’t have to go 100% in all at once. Usually, legacy apps should be left where they are, as they typically can’t benefit from cloud scalability. On the other hand, if you have a pending capital expenditure (CAPEX) investment to refresh infrastructure providing legacy apps, it may make sense to move them to the cloud. Scenarios such as this explain the growing popularity of the hybrid cloud amongst enterprises. Low-risk operations such as project management, file sharing, and any other non-revenue generating applications are all low-hanging fruit that can be moved into the public cloud. With cloud, you can start small and grow at the pace that suits your business.

Any IT trek into new territory is bound to encounter unforeseen issues and challenges. With all the factors to consider when migrating to the cloud, it’s beneficial to have seasoned experts that have successfully managed the transition before. The process is much more streamlined with a guide walking you through it, step by step. Once you’ve narrowed down the list of possible managed public cloud partners, the journey begins.