Getting Ready for Clexit: What’s Your Enterprise’s Cloud Exit Strategy?

Riding on the coattails of the recent Brexit, we’ve been thinking about what to do to prepare for the time we may need to part ways with any of the cloud platforms we use. This can create massive change that can affect every aspect of our business.  This Clexit—or enterprise cloud exitis a strategy that needs to be taken seriously to ensure continuity and forward momentum.

A cloud exit strategy is an enterprise’s plan to safely, efficiently, and cost-effectively withdraw data from a cloud in order to quit the cloud vendor. Enterprises create them to prepare for a worst-case scenario: the cloud platform is going out of business or providing poor service, or your enterprise just doesn’t require its services anymore. Whatever the case, your enterprise data has to come off the cloud, you need to replicate the business processes the cloud provider had been performing, and you may need to move to a new solution.

The problem is that this migration is not an easy task. In fact, it often is much more difficult and expensive to get data off a cloud than onto it.

Having a plan in place beforehand, in case a Clexit does occur, will save you time, frustration, stress, and potentially, data. If things go wrong like they did for clients of cloud storage provider, Nirvanix, who were initially given just two weeks to get all their data off the cloud, having a Clexit is an actual data saver.

An enterprise that expects the unexpected when first joining a cloud vendor is the one that is able to transition out of their cloud service. While it may seem strange to consider how to leave a cloud vendor before even joining it, for an enterprise, it distinguishes the right choice from the wrong ones.

There are long term consequences to not having a clear Clexit strategy in place when moving to a cloud vendor. Files can become disorganized if clear protocols are not followed to sort them. The high expense of trying to end a vendor cloud relationship can be so high that the initial benefit of joining is quickly lost. Thus, by not implementing a Clexit strategy early, an investment is being made, perhaps unknowingly, into a long-term cloud vendor-enterprise relationship. While at first this might sound like a good thing, not being able to get rid of a vendor is called vendor lock-in, because even if you want to, you can’t get out of using that cloud vendor.

Here’s a high-level checklist to help you plan your strategy:

  • Start early.  There’s no time like the present to formalize your exit strategies.  As we mentioned, the ideal time is during solution selection, but if that didn’t happen, anytime sooner is better.  They say the best time to plant a tree is thirty years ago; the second best time is now.
  • Do a Data Inventory.  Exactly what data is managed in this platform?  If it’s an HRIS, is that your authoritative source for personnel data?  Salary data?  If it’s an ITSM solution, is it your equipment and incidents?  Are you tracking your data as Configuration Items (CIs) in your CMDB?
  • Ensure any exports are in a portable format.  Most cloud vendors promise your data back to you if you depart, but that doesn’t mean they necessarily make it easy.  Are you aware of what format your data will be in, such as raw SQL, XML, JSON, or a proprietary format?  Will your new tool be able to accept the data?  How much data is at play?  Bear in mind, If you are retrieving multiple terabytes of data, it may need to be delivered in a physical format as opposed to a simplier online transfer.
  • Involve Your Change Managers.  What business processes will change as a result of this change?  This is Classic Change Management and your organization probably has professionals that do this sort of activity every day.  It would behoove you to use every resource at your disposal.
  • Do a Gap Analysis.  What business processes will you be giving up from leaving this cloud solution behind?  Will you be placing your enterprise at a strategic disadvantage?  Have all stakeholders met and coordinated everything they currently do with the cloud solution?
  • Talk to references.  You’re never alone, and probably not the first organization to migrate from a particular cloud platform.  Good luck finding such a reference from the vendor itself, but there are ways to identify these people.  Visit local user groups, search on LinkedIn, and talk to people at trade-shows and events.  What was their experience and what did they wish they had done? Someone once told me that, “good artists copy ideas, but great artists steal them”, which is an appropriate mantra in this case.
  • Practice.  There is one sure-fire, guaranteed way to know for a fact that your organization will be successful in moving off a cloud platform: actually test it.  Does your cloud platform provide multiple instances for production, testing, and development?  Have you undergone a complete migration across environments?  Was this a scheduled project that involved all stakeholders, and did you capture the lessons learned from the exercise?  Practice makes perfect and it’s always much less-stressful to test this on your own schedule.

There are a lot of factors to consider to plan a Clexit, when your enterprise is transitioning to a cloud vendor. Management issues arise with the termination process and migration. It also raises the question of how to safely get data off the cloud without corrupting it, and how to ensure all the data is retrieved. All these factors must be thought of and included in a Clexit strategy, to ensure that your transition into and out of a cloud vendor is smooth and efficient.


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