Getting your data into the Cloud is easy.  But, getting your data out may not be so easy. There are a variety of ways to migrate your data and applications to the Cloud.  Cloud providers typically make it fairly painless.  After all, it facilitates their business model to get as much of your data as possible to their Cloud and quickly.  It starts their MRC (Monthly Recurring Charges) meter ticking.  Cloud providers are incented to make moving your data to the Cloud quick and easy.  Welcome to the Hotel California. Such a lovely place.  While there are typically setup and professional service charges involved in getting your data to the Cloud, they are often minimal and may sometimes be negotiated to $0 depending on what the Cloud provider estimates the MRC might be. 

There are a variety of tools that are typically used to move data and apps to the Cloud - Web based architectures (REST, others), APIs, Cloud Storage Gateways, Cloud Seeding Devices (portable storage media), and of course over the wire transmission tools.  Which of these options you choose really depends on a variety of factors, perhaps starting with the amount of data you have to move.  But, not to worry…There’s plenty of room at the Hotel California. 

Once you’ve gotten all your apps and data to the Cloud, why would we ever want to get it out of the Cloud?  There are probably many reasons.  Here’s a few. 

  • The Cloud Provider business fails or is failing
  • Verizon’s recent announcement that they are getting out of the public Cloud business.  Customers had 45 days to migrate their data
  • Switching to a different Cloud Provider
  • Lower costs
  • Better service levels
  • Compliance
  • Application requirements
  • Security
  • Performance
  • Risk mitigation
  • Hybrid Cloud interoperability

Perhaps the most important consideration of how to get data out of the Cloud is first understanding what the source state of the data is and what the end state of the data will be post migration.  For example, let’s assume you are moving your on-premises data to a Cloud provider and that your on-prem data is currently resident in a Microsoft SQL or Oracle database or any other widely used data storage architecture.  If the end state of your data is a similar or same data storage architecture, then getting your data out of the Cloud may incur time and effort, but will be fairly straight forward given you’re moving it back to MS SQL, Oracle or widely used storage architecture.  But, if you choose a provider solution that makes use of some proprietary storage architecture or encryption algorithm, getting your data out may introduce a whole new set of issues.  While the Cloud provider will provide services and assistance in migrating to the proprietary architecture in such a way as to make the process efficient and fairly painless, the same processes and people resources to move your data to a different provider or back on-prem may not be readily available and/or may come at a premium charge, and in some cases may be so difficult so as to be prohibitive.  Please know that getting your data out of the Cloud is in direct conflict with the Cloud provider’s business model.  They are NOT incented to make it easy nor inexpensive.  Relax said the night man, we are programmed to receive.  In fact, I would suggest that one of the best Cloud provider business models I’ve seen is where you are drawn to move your apps and data to a proprietary architecture based on significantly lower costs for on-line and/or archival data.  Then maybe you’re encouraged to encrypt your data to insure security.  Perhaps you’re also encouraged to add more and more proprietary technology services that provide some high-appeal functionality that you would otherwise never be able to afford.  With all these proprietary technologies in place, you could surely see how difficult it becomes to ever move your data back to your non-proprietary, commonly used storage architecture.  Cloud providers refer to this as their “sticky factor” and it’s by design per their business model.  You could check out any time you like; but you could never leave.

While the key consideration for how difficult it is to get your data out of the Cloud revolves around the end state architecture of how you choose to store your data in the Cloud, there are other important questions you should also ask your provider and some additional considerations you should keep in mind at contract signing time.  Contracts should clearly specify end of service stipulations.  For example, insure you have access to any proprietary software necessary to access your data at the end of the contract term.  This should include any data encryption software necessary to decrypt your data as part of the export process.  Additionally, ask what happens to all of your data backups when you leave the Cloud provider.  Where are they?  Will they be destroyed/erased? How is that process verified?  Insure responses to these and other end of term questions are contractually guaranteed as to who does what, when, and that all costs are fully understood and defined in the contract.  Also, consider the data content and the content owner relative to the business impact of moving the data from the Cloud.

With all of this considered and contractually addressed, the remaining step of how to effect the actual migration of the data out of the Cloud needs to be developed.  It may involve using a variety of methods including data compression and transmission, portable mass storage media (FedEx is often faster than network transmissions), and other tools offered by the provider or readily available in the marketplace.  Again, this takes time, effort, and expense.  Many times the perceived time and effort and costs to move from a Cloud provider, coupled with the internal IT workloads themselves, provide the incentive to simply stay and endure the negatives.

In summary, your exit strategy must be carefully considered as you develop your Cloud strategy and execution plan.  How you choose to store your data matters greatly.  Be aware of all of the considerations of using proprietary storage technologies beyond simple cost savings.  Choose your Cloud provider and the technology solutions they offer wisely.  See .  Otherwise, you may indeed find yourself checking into the Hotel California.