Which comes first, the cloud migration or the upgrade?
by Rob Curls, Solutions Consultant, Tribridge
published June 23, 2014
More organizations are migrating their existing on-premise solutions to the cloud than ever before. They’ve received good value from commodity cloud services like email and collaboration and now see a pathway to get out of the datacenter business. They want to put as much as possible into the cloud, and they want their cloud service provider to handle the maintenance tasks, so they can focus their time on being more aligned with the business. As part of these transitions to the cloud, organizations are also evaluating if it’s a good time to upgrade to the latest versions of their applications.
For some solutions, a transition to the cloud is a great time to upgrade, but for more complex workloads like ERP or CRM it may not be the right decision. In order to determine whether a migration or upgrade should come first, or rather together, it is important to ask a few key questions.
Is it too much change at once for your users?
We all know that most people don’t respond well to big changes. When you alter the way users access their applications along with the look and feel of the app, you may be introducing too much change and therefore disrupt business processes.
It is critical that your cloud migration have executive level buy in that trickles down to your user base. Users notice delays or small differences and can be very vocal, unless they have buy in. We have found that for most Microsoft Dynamics deployments, it’s best to perform upgrades in phases. Migrate the workloads to the cloud as they exist today, then stage out the upgrade when it is most convenient for your organization. The migration can be accomplished in several ways. One method is to reinstall the applications fresh on new servers and migrate the data. Other times it’s more beneficial to replicate the existing servers to the cloud directly.
Are you experiencing issues?
When you replicate existing servers, you will inherit the organization’s legacy issues. A recent customer was experiencing significant problems with their on premise deployments of Dynamics ERP and CRM. They were deployed in a virtual environment and their disk subsystem was at maximum capacity. Their server room was also at maximum capacity from a power, cooling and rack space perspective. They were experiencing daily outages of the ERP and CRM environments due to the lack of available storage, and they had no way of adding additional capacity. They needed help to stop the constant disruption caused by downtime, and additionally there were integrations built into the CRM system by a third party that was no longer in business.
In order to help this customer, it was far better to migrate the existing environment to the cloud prior to going through the upgrade. We replicated the virtual environment into our cloud, added more capacity and segregated additional services to rapidly deliver a stable solution for the customer. Then we were able to better focus on upgrading and converting their latest versions of Dynamics to improve on their processes.
Will an upgrade disrupt critical business processes?
Some of our customers have deep investments in customizations and integrated industry-specific solutions. Careful planning and testing is essential to upgrading the customized functionality without disrupting the business. In these cases, migration to the cloud without performing an upgrade may be the best option until a plan and strategy can be defined.
Is an upgrade inevitable or a short project?
There are situations in which performing both an application change and a migration to the cloud are inevitable. On one side of the spectrum are customers that are moving from a legacy ERP system to a more modern solution such as Microsoft Dynamics. In this case, it doesn’t make sense to move the legacy system to the cloud, as the historical data will be placed in a new system or cataloged based on what the organization needs.
On the opposite end of the spectrum are situations in which the upgrade component is so short that it makes the most sense to perform the migration and upgrade tasks at the same time. This is often the case in smaller Dynamics GP deployments where the customer decides that they are ready to upgrade, don’t have any integrations and simply leverage the system for core financials such as GL, AP and AR.
The upgrade process for these implementations can be as short as a week. In this scenario we recommend performing the upgrade as part of the cloud migration. The process typically involves deploying the cloud infrastructure, including a test environment, and copying the GP database backup into the cloud environment. Due to the size of an average GP database, secure FTP is often the best solution for this. The migration team then performs a mock conversion of your data in the test environment. Once complete we allow for user acceptance testing of the connectivity method, either via Remote Desktop Services or the GP Web client (or sometimes a combination of both). After we’ve confirmed accessibility and the data has passed the initial conversion process we run an updated copy through the conversion process again. We’ve found this methodology offers the least amount of risk for any upgrade.
The needs of your organization will ultimately determine whether upgrading and migrating to the cloud makes sense. Any migration brings risk, but if you take the time to perform proper planning, phasing and testing you will mitigate those risks and help ensure a better user experience during change.