Moving mission-critical applications to the cloud

The existence of billions of connected devices presents a number of challenges. These machines will significantly predict and understand how the world works, processing arrays of data in near latency-free time, this data will be highly valuable and potentially vulnerable.

More than half of technology leaders see multiple security concerns directly connected to digital transformation initiatives, including increasing cybersecurity risks (53%), the sophistication of cybercriminals (56%) and the increasing threat surface (53%). These threats are compounded by problems caused by a rigid technology infrastructure. The rigid infrastructure of embedded systems and their mission-critical applications.

Mission critical systems and applications are migrating to the cloud to create intelligent systems with secure data and to ensure business success. Mission-critical applications refer to applications that have a major impact on an organisation’s operations and whose failure has serious consequences for any business.

What are mission critical applications?

Mission-critical applications are the software programmes, or the software as a whole, that must run continuously for a company to be successful. If one of these applications suffers even a moment of downtime, it can have serious and negative consequences for the business.

Failure of these applications can lead to financial losses, productivity losses and even damage to the company’s reputation. Examples of critical applications vary from industry to industry.

What mission critical services have in common is that they are essential to operations and must be continuously connected. Stability and availability are fundamental to these architectures and the support associated with these applications. Components that help maintain stability include:

  • Backup and recovery: Backups are essential in any business. Procedures for rapid data recovery that ensure a short recovery time target are just as critical as the critical applications themselves.
  • Data management and analytics: With the abundance of mission-critical, cloud-based data sources, data has become the lifeblood of any business, and analytics has become central to day-to-day operations.
  • Virtual desktop infrastructure: this delivers the desktop image of an operating system to an endpoint device over a network. Thanks to this, a company’s employees have remote access to corporate applications from any device. This infrastructure is a mission-critical application, as it supports worker productivity.
  • High Performance Computing (HPC): All industries rely on HPC applications. These are generally more intensive workloads, managed as part of an enterprise IT portfolio. Major technological breakthroughs such as autonomous cars or aerospace designs are driven by this technology.
  • Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP): These systems are a central function in large companies, commonly based on SAP. ERP systems manage almost every aspect of a production or distribution company.

Moving mission-critical applications to the cloud

Migrating these mission-critical applications to the cloud has many benefits, as it provides a high level of scalability and flexibility. This allows companies to leverage more resources at a lower cost. However, the process of migrating to the cloud can be slow when migrating a mission-critical application.

Migrating to the cloud can be risky for companies, and many are unwilling to take risks with such applications. Generally, it is security and compliance issues that must be prioritised before migrating to the cloud. This is compounded by the potentially high costs involved. Today, solutions are available to help organisations successfully migrate to the cloud.

It is essential to invest time and resources in the planning stage, addressing challenges and customising the migration process to the particular needs of each company.

The industry is engaged in a debate about the benefits and risks of hosting mission-critical applications in the public cloud. Any enterprise must consider compliance, security, performance and availability. There are laws restricting where applications and data can be hosted and stored.

In general, the public cloud has come a long way in the areas of security and performance as large providers such as AWS have grown. As a result, security issues have been addressed. This results in an organisation being able to save money by relying on the right provider rather than investing in specialised tools and staff, leaving the provider to manage the infrastructure and resources. Conversely, there are also companies that prefer to control their IT infrastructure for mission-critical applications themselves, thus ensuring the availability of their resources.

Among the factors to be taken into account by companies is availability. This depends on the cloud provider’s ability to keep its services up and running, as full availability is essential for such mission-critical applications. Public cloud providers are typically better at maintaining infrastructure uptime than individual IT groups running applications in data centres. The downside of these providers is that they can become unavailable.

4 Steps to secure mission-critical applications in the cloud migration process

In short, mission-critical applications are attractive applications for cybercriminals to attack and are valuable. When these applications migrate to the cloud, security is critical and key to the process. Following the steps below can make or break the decision to migrate mission-critical applications to the cloud:

  • Choosing the right mission-critical applications: Companies must know exactly which applications are truly critical and to what extent in order to plan security, response, backup and recovery after assessing which aspects have the highest priority.
  • Planning security measures: Plan which applications will be migrated to the cloud and which will remain on-premises. Detailed descriptions of the usage policies of the applications being migrated, and backup and recovery should be made. The cloud configuration selected should facilitate failover to another location and constant recovery to the primary location.
  • Implement secure access: Application access security should not provide credentials to the administrator unnecessarily. In addition, credentials should be rotated and changed regularly. Sessions should be isolated to prevent credential theft and detailed audits should be generated for privileged activities within mission-critical applications.
  • Minimising risks: tools and lines should be created to minimise risks, such as denying administrator privileges to remote workstations, installing anti-malware and anti-phishing tools, and providing security training to staff members. They should be able to identify, report and prevent attacks.

Conclusions

Cloud-based services have grown from simple storage spaces to mission-critical applications that serve as the backbone of a company’s network and security infrastructure.

Organisations are relying on the cloud to run applications in the cloud, overcoming security concerns. However, the migration process must be meticulous and planned by enterprises and cloud service providers.

Among the conditions for this process to be successful are the pursuit of a healthy architecture and a controlled migration to the cloud, taking analytics capabilities to a new level. The result will be more competitive and company-tailored applications, including advanced analytics. Once mission-critical applications are in the cloud, AI and Machine Learning can be leveraged for efficient, high-performance application development.