Data Center Migration to AWS: What You Need to Know

by | Aug 10, 2023 | Tech

Originally published April 27, 2022

If you haven’t already started your data center migration to AWS, it’s time to start thinking about it. Over 9 million websites use AWS and reap the benefits of its advanced cloud computing capabilities.

In this article, we’ll cover what AWS is, the benefits of AWS, and how to start planning your data center migration. But if you need immediate help with your migration, check out our AWS talent solutions page to find the cloud professionals who will make your migration to AWS as smooth as possible.

What is a data center migration?

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A data center migration, or cloud migration, is a strategic process that involves moving an organization’s digital assets from one or more physical data centers to a cloud-based infrastructure, such as the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud. Migrating your on-premises workloads to the cloud is a comprehensive transformation that can drastically enhance your organization’s capabilities.

Cloud migrations involve transitioning various elements like applications, databases, IT infrastructure, and processes from on-premises to the cloud. By migrating to the cloud, enterprises can leverage AWS’s scalable, secure, and resilient services, significantly reducing operational costs and increasing efficiency.

However, it’s important to note that data center migration to AWS requires careful planning, skilled execution, and meticulous management to prevent any possible downtime, data loss, or security breaches. More on that in a bit.

Benefits of a data center migration

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The move to a hyperscale cloud provider like AWS brings numerous benefits that directly impact your organization’s bottom line. Let’s look at the top three benefits of migrating your data center to AWS.

  1. Scalability. As your business grows, so does the need for storage and computing power. AWS allows your organization to adjust these parameters on demand, avoiding unnecessary expenditure on underutilized resources.
  2. Pay-as-you-go model. With AWS, you only pay for the services used. This eliminates the need for substantial upfront capital investments in a new data center, which in turn, streamlines your budget and aids in long-term financial planning.
  3. Robust security and compliance capabilities. It’s hard to understate the importance of good cybersecurity in today’s data-driven world. AWS operates on what it calls a shared responsibility model, meaning it handles the security of the cloud, freeing you up to focus on hardening the security of your workloads in the cloud.

These are just some of the benefits of switching to AWS. Other benefits include decreased downtime, a lighter carbon footprint, and access to the ever-expanding catalog of over 200 AWS cloud services, to name a few.

Choosing a data center migration strategy

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When considering a data center migration to AWS, it’s crucial to choose the right migration strategy that aligns with your organization’s needs and goals. Here are the three main strategies organizations typically adopt when migrating to the cloud:

  1. Lift and shift (rehost). This is the simplest migration strategy where your existing applications are moved to AWS with little or no modifications. It’s a quick, cost-effective approach that effectively moves your operations to the cloud without the need for extensive cloud skills. However, it may not fully utilize all the cloud-native features AWS has to offer.
  2. Replatform. This strategy involves making a few cloud optimizations to your applications to achieve some tangible benefit, without changing the core architecture. Replatforming may include activities like moving your database to a managed service such as AWS RDS, which can offer increased performance and reduce the time you spend maintaining database instances.
  3. Refactor. The most complex of the three strategies, refactoring involves re-architecting your applications to leverage the full range of cloud-native features and services. This strategy, while resource-intensive, can significantly boost performance, scalability, and resilience, especially for applications that need to meet changing business requirements.

A fourth approach that doesn’t get as much attention is innovation — possibly because it is the most difficult and time-consuming cloud migration strategy. An innovation or native refactor approach involves completely rebuilding your applications from the ground up to run as cloud-native workloads. This approach can take years and be very expensive, but it can also offer the best ROI in the long term.

Each of these strategies comes with its own set of benefits and challenges, so choosing the right strategy will depend on a variety of factors. Consider your organization’s specific business needs, budget, time constraints, and the technical complexity of your applications before making a decision.

Understanding the migration process

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The process of migrating a data center to AWS can essentially be divided into three main phases: Assess, Mobilize, and Migrate and Modernize.

1. Assess

In the Assess phase, you’ll take a comprehensive look at your current data center setup. This is the time to carefully evaluate your existing applications, workloads, and data. You’ll also need to consider your business objectives, security needs, and budget constraints. The goal of the Assess phase is to gather all the information you need to form a strategic plan for your migration. It’s like creating a roadmap for your journey to the cloud.

2. Mobilize

Next, you’ll move into the Mobilize phase. This is when you start to put your plan into action. You might start by testing a small-scale migration or by requesting a proof of concept from a migration consultant. This helps you address any potential issues before they become larger problems. During this phase, you’ll also prepare your team for the upcoming migration. This might involve training, setting up a Cloud Center of Excellence as mentioned earlier, or working with a consultant to ensure that everyone is ready for the move.

3. Migrate and Modernize

The final phase is Migrate and Modernize. This is when the actual migration occurs. Your workloads, applications, and data are transferred to the cloud. But the work doesn’t stop there. Once your data center is up and running in AWS, you’ll need to modernize your applications and infrastructure. This could include optimizing for cost and performance, implementing new cloud-native features, or automating tasks to improve efficiency.

Depending on who you talk to or your organization’s unique migration needs, the migration process might include a couple of extra steps. But for most migrations, these three steps offer a good overview of the process.

Ways to make your migration easier

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For an easier data center migration, remember the three Ps:

  • Participation
  • Planning
  • Processes

These can manifest in a number of different ways, from getting cross-departmental participation with a Cloud Center of Excellence to having the right processes in place to minimize downtime and maximize cloud security. Let’s explore some ways you can make your migration easier:

  1. Build a Cloud Center of Excellence (CCoE). A CCoE is a cross-functional team tasked with developing and managing the cloud strategy, governance, and best practices for the rest of the organization to follow during migration. The CCoE serves as the cloud thought leader and evangelist and plays a critical role in ensuring a successful cloud migration.
  2. Engage a cloud migration consultant. Cloud migration is a complex process that often requires specialized skills. Hiring a cloud migration consultant can provide you with the expertise you need to navigate various migration challenges. These consultants are well-versed in AWS migration methodologies and will work closely with your team to develop and execute a tailored migration strategy.
  3. Use AWS migration tools. AWS offers a suite of tools and services that can help automate and streamline your migration process. These tools, such as AWS Migration Hub, AWS Database Migration Service, and AWS Server Migration Service, can help reduce the manual effort and risk associated with migration.
  4. Implement a solid security strategy. As part of your migration, you’ll need to ensure that your data remains secure both during and after the transition to AWS. AWS provides several security measures like encryption and multi-factor authentication that you can incorporate into your migration plan as well.
  5. Plan for post-migration optimization. A successful migration doesn’t end once your workloads are running on AWS. It’s crucial to continually optimize your AWS environment for cost, performance, and security. AWS provides several tools and best practices to help with this post-migration optimization.

These are good recommendations to get you started, but any cloud migration should always be tailored to each organization’s unique needs.

Common data center migration challenges and their solutions

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Migrating a data center to AWS is not without its challenges. Here are a few common difficulties you might face and how to overcome them.

1. Unexpected costs

Moving to the cloud can sometimes be more expensive than anticipated due to hidden costs like data transfer fees or overprovisioned resources. Investing time in carefully planning and budgeting for your migration can help here. Use cost management tools from AWS — such as AWS Cost Explorer and AWS Budgets — to track and control your cloud spending effectively.

2. Downtime during migration

Any disruption or downtime during the migration process can impact your operations and lead to potential revenue loss. To minimize this risk, plan your migration carefully, performing the move during off-peak hours or using phased migration techniques. AWS’s Server Migration Service can be a big help, allowing for incremental replication of live server volumes and reducing downtime.

3. Data security concerns

The security of your data during and after migration is paramount. AWS provides robust security features including data encryption, Identity and Access Management (IAM) for controlled access, and Security Groups for virtual firewalls. Make sure you understand and implement these features during your migration for a secure transition.

4. Complexity of the migration process

The migration process can be complex, particularly for larger organizations with numerous services and applications. To simplify this, consider engaging a cloud migration consultant or using AWS’s migration tools. The AWS Migration Hub provides a single location to track your migration progress across multiple AWS services.

5. Insufficient in-house expertise

Your team may lack the necessary skills to carry out a successful migration. To address this, invest in training and certification programs offered by AWS, or enlist the help of a professional through a platform like Nerdly. You can also form a Cloud Center of Excellence (CCoE) — a team of people within your organization who specialize in cloud technologies — to lead the migration.

Facing and overcoming these challenges will not only ensure a smooth migration but also allow you to reap the full benefits of the cloud.

Building your data center migration team

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Now that you have a high-level understanding of cloud migrations, it’s important to have the right team in place to make your migration a success. For more detailed information, check out our free AWS Migration Hiring Framework ebook. But in general, these are the roles you should have on your migration team:

  • Cloud/AWS Champion
  • Cloud migration consultant
  • Project manager
  • DevOps engineer
  • Cloud developer(s)
  • System administrator
  • Solution architect
  • Database engineer
  • Compliance and security specialist
  • QA engineer
  • Business decision maker
  • Cloud support engineer

Just as with most other aspects of a migration, keep in mind that your organization’s specific needs may vary. Partnering with a trusted tech recruitment agency can help you identify the right roles to hire for your team.

Additional resources

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Here are some additional resources and tips to ensure a smooth and efficient journey toward your AWS migration.

  1. AWS Well-Architected Framework. This is a valuable resource that provides strategies to help you compare your workloads against AWS’s best practices. It gives you a clear understanding of the pros and cons of various decisions made while designing your infrastructure.
  2. AWS Training and Certification. Understanding AWS services and features is crucial to a successful migration. AWS offers a wide range of free digital training content, as well as in-depth learning paths and certifications. There are also a number of solid third-party resources such as A Cloud Guru and Udemy to help your team pass their certification exams on the first try.
  3. AWS Migration Whitepapers. These documents offer comprehensive guides to migration planning, strategies, and best practices. They are an essential read for anyone considering a migration to AWS.
  4. AWS Partner Network (APN). AWS has a vast network of partners with expertise in migrating workloads to the AWS cloud. These partners can help guide your migration and provide additional support if needed.
  5. AWS Migration Acceleration Program (MAP). This program provides consulting support, training, and service credits to reduce the risk of moving to the cloud, build a strong operational foundation, and offset the initial cost of migrations.
  6. AWS re:Invent videos. AWS re:Invent is an annual conference held by AWS. Check out the talks and presentations online for insights and deep dives into various topics, including cloud migration. You can view past re:Invent keynotes and sessions on the AWS YouTube channel.
  7. AWS blogs. There’s of course the official AWS blog, but there are at least several third-party blogs worth checking out to stay up-to-date with the latest on AWS. Some of our favorites here at NerdRabbit are AWSInsider, Towards the Cloud, and the A Cloud Guru Blog.

We’d be remiss to not also include popular general tech and cloud-specific publications like HackerNoon, Wired, The Verge,, and Data Centre Magazine. But the internet is a big place, and there are bound to be some other great resources not listed here. Dig around, do some research, and even consider going offline to look for print resources for the cloud.

Setting your migration up for success with NerdRabbit

Migrating your data center to AWS is a significant but valuable undertaking that offers a number of benefits like scalability, flexibility, and cost-effectiveness. It’s a journey filled with challenges, but with a well-thought-out strategy, the right expertise, and the willingness to adapt, it’s an achievable goal.

Remember, you don’t have to go at it alone. With our US-based network of pre-vetted, AWS-certified talent, NerdRabbit can partner with your organization to provide the critical skills and expertise needed to ensure a smooth and successful migration. With these tools and resources at your disposal, your path to the cloud is clear.

Scalable cloud talent, on demand

Hourly, contract, contract-to-hire, full-time—we've got you covered. Explore our cloud talent solutions today to get the help you need.

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About Alexandra M
As the Lead Content Developer, Alexandra is responsible for improving website rankings on major search engines, as well as editing all company copy. Her hobbies include rock climbing and going to concerts.

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