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Migrating legacy apps to the cloud is a modernization strategy that can enhance services and engagement. Government agencies can't afford to be left behind


Legacy App Migration to the Cloud for Government Agencies: Innovating in the Public Sector

Posted by Angela Davis on June 14, 2023
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“Legacy applications” refers to outdated software applications typically based on older technologies. These applications are critical to day-to-day operations but are difficult and complex to interact with, so they no longer keep up with the needs of organizations or businesses. The software applications also require resources with knowledge of legacy technologies (for example COBOL).  

As government agencies offer vital services to the public, it is becoming more and more of a priority to migrate or modernize these applications.

Legacy systems migration is one modernization strategy that can enhance services and engagement. It also improves collaboration and productivity and offers access to the latest technologies and features.

We examine how it works and the ways it can be beneficial in the article below.  

A chart showing the growth of the cloud migration services market by region worldwide.

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Benefits of legacy application migration for the public sector

Let’s begin by looking at the main benefits of migrating legacy applications for the public sector to the cloud. 

Improved services and engagement

Legacy applications in the public sector are often a bit outdated for the modern consumer. They lack the flexibility to meet the needs of the public, which are constantly changing. Luckily, cloud migration is one of the strategies that offers government agencies a chance to upgrade and modernize their systems. 

Migration of systems can lead to improvements in the services provided and better engagement with the public. Migrating legacy applications to the cloud can also reduce wait times and enhance the user experience for customers using public services online. 

Enhanced collaboration and productivity

Using the cloud allows public sector employees to work remotely, share data, and collaborate on projects in real time. This can translate to an increase in efficiency and productivity, as physical location is no longer a limitation. 

Migrating your apps to the cloud enhances collaboration across cities and countries and improves efficiency among colleagues. 

Access to the latest technologies and features 

Legacy apps are typically housed on-premises.  This means integrating new modern features and tech can be a herculean effort for government agencies—or even introduce additional risks. 

Cloud migration gets around this by allowing governments to access the most up-to-date functionalities and technologies, along with tools that can help to streamline their operations and enhance their services for citizens. 

These tools can include machine learning and data analytics, which allow governments to conduct data-driven processes that improve their services.

Challenges of legacy app migration to the cloud that state offices might face

Despite the many benefits, there are also several challenges to keep you on your toes when it comes to legacy app migration to the cloud. These vary from the sheer complexity of the undertaking to whether your app is compatible with the cloud platform. 

Managing important security risks and finding someone who can carry out the work for you are other crucial factors.

Whether you have the necessary skills in-house or are outsourcing the work, migrating your legacy apps to the cloud is rarely a straightforward or linear process. 

Complexity and compatibility

Migrating legacy applications to the cloud can be complicated and requires technical knowledge of the legacy app in question as well as the cloud platform. With very old apps, it’s possible they’ll be incompatible with the cloud platform, adding another layer of complexity.

Ideally, you’d be able to migrate applications and data to the cloud using a lift-and-shift method, without needing to redesign any of them. Nonetheless, cloud migration is often more complicated in reality, especially when there’s minimal technical knowledge in-house relating to the cloud.

Many government agencies’ legacy applications simply aren’t compatible with a cloud environment. In this situation, there’s no point migrating the app unless you undertake a long and expensive overhaul of the system in place.

One solution is to re-architect applications that are possible to tweak, while those that aren’t, are relegated to the past. 

Security risks and data protection

Migrating sensitive data to the cloud also requires robust security systems to avoid any potential data breaches. Governments need to be careful when moving data, as it could be devastating if it were to get into the wrong hands.  

Carrying out extensive risk assessments around the migration of critical services and sensitive data can help governments fully grasp the importance of secure migration practices. 

Risk management processes need to clearly identify and outline security policies and risks, including internal, strategic, external, and obvious ones. A robust security policy with multifactor authentication and critical access checkpoints is vital for successful cloud migration.

Lack of expertise and resources

Migrating legacy applications to the cloud usually requires specialized skills and expertise that government agencies may not be able to provide in-house. This means outsourcing the work, which can be costly and time-consuming. 

If you decide to upskill your staff instead, this can also come with a hefty price tag. Training isn’t just a matter of creating the right training materials and getting in professionals; it’s also a matter of time spent learning and relearning unfamiliar information and processes. 

Cloud monitoring and environment skills, as well as architecture skill sets, can be hard to come by. This may make it necessary to team up with a cloud management company to ensure a successful migration process. 

A visualization predicting the growth of the global cloud migration services market from 2021 to 2025.

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Best practices for successful legacy app migration 

Now we’ve covered the challenges, let’s look at some best practices for successful migration of your legacy app. 

Conduct a thorough assessment

Government agencies should conduct a thorough assessment of their existing legacy applications, data, and infrastructure before proceeding with a migration of their legacy applications to the cloud. 

The purpose of this assessment is to find any compatibility problems, risks to security, or other hidden obstacles, challenges, benefits, opportunities, or drawbacks.

For example, a holistic, big-picture assessment will help you figure out any operational, financial, technical, or training issues ahead of time and prepare for them appropriately. 

Will you need third-party software integrations? How much will you have to spend on employee training, security, and compliance? These are the types of questions you need to answer.

Develop a migration strategy

A migration strategy is essential for moving your app to the cloud. It should outline all the steps involved and include a timeline, budget, and risk management plan.

Here are some approaches to consider: 

  • The application evolution approach involves identifying parts of the application to move to the cloud incrementally, allowing for gradual migration. While this will be a more time-intensive process, it reduces the risk of data loss, allows staff to adjust to system changes gradually, and offers greater control of the migration. Openlegacy’s hybrid services can support this approach by allowing you to deploy legacy systems in the cloud.
  • The lift-and-shift method copies everything to the cloud as it is. This method requires little to no effort to migrate applications, but it can waste resources and result in higher operating costs if you end up paying for unused data.

OpenLegacy’s cloud-native, no/low/full code platform can also make a lift-and-shift migration easier, as no unique legacy skills are required for rehosting.

  • The application rearchitecting method involves breaking down the application and rebuilding it with a more scalable and modern design, eliminating any code that hinders agility and preserving crucial business functionalities. This preserves legacy applications that remain relevant and offer a competitive edge to a business, however, the process can be labor- and time-intensive, therefore increasing migration costs. 

OpenLegacy can help you evaluate your needs and choose the best new tools for your business. A hybrid cloud platform can also allow your old and new systems to coexist during a re-architecting migration, which reduces disruption to customers.

Choose the right cloud platform

Government agencies also need to carefully consider which cloud platform is right for them on the basis of their specific needs and requirements, as not all cloud platforms are built the same. 

Whichever platform is chosen, it should be compatible with the legacy application and meet all the security and regulation standards of the agency in question. It should also suit its budget. 

Implement and prioritize critical applications

Critical applications should be migrated first, followed by non-critical applications, to minimize disruption to services and reduce the risk of downtime. This will result in an easier migration and a seamless experience for users. 

Test and validate

Finally, before deploying the migrated app and allowing users to access it via its new cloud platform, it needs to be thoroughly tested and validated to ensure it meets all security and functionality requirements.

Why government agencies must embrace cloud migration for legacy apps 

Government agencies should embrace cloud migration for a whole host of reasons, from modernizing and upgrading outdated systems for the sake of efficiency to improving services for and engagement with the public. 

Cloud migration can also improve colleague collaboration and productivity as well as provide access to the most modern features and technologies on offer. 

Isn’t it time that you looked to the future with the help of OpenLegacy?


FAQs about legacy app migration to the cloud

Let's now answer some common questions about legacy app migration to the cloud.

What apps can’t move to the cloud?

While most applications can be moved to the cloud, those that rely on very specific hardware or have high-performance requirements might not be compatible with cloud software. They may also be especially expensive to migrate. 

Apps with highly specific or strict compliance requirements might also be difficult. For example, specific security measures would be needed as a feature in this case.

Apps that are closely integrated with other on-premise apps and systems might also be hard to move, as integration points would need to be replicated in the cloud environment, which isn’t always easy. 

How long does it take to migrate applications to the cloud?

 A diagram showing the steps involved in cloud migration.

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The time needed to migrate apps to the cloud varies depending on their complexity, the size of the data, the amount of customization required, and the team's technical experience in cloud migration.

Simpler applications can be migrated in days or weeks, while more complicated apps can take several months or even years.

Migrating to the cloud involves several stages, such as planning, assessment, design, implementation, and testing. All of these require time and resources for the migration to be successful and for the applications to function as they should once in the cloud. Many businesses are now using a hybrid migration strategy to reduce these effects. In a hybrid approach, cloud integration co-exists with a migration strategy, allowing legacy applications to be used in the cloud at the same time as migrating to the new environment. 

Which applications should you migrate to the cloud first?

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to deciding which applications to migrate first, but the following are some ideas to help you decide how to prioritize based on your situation.

  1. You could consider migrating apps with lower regulatory requirements before any others to test the cloud environment and ensure it’s compliant with security regulations. 
  2. Alternatively, moving applications to the cloud with lower complexity might be a good place to start your migration because these will typically require less customization, allowing your staff to gain experience before tackling more complicated apps.
  3. Starting with applications that are essential to your operations (aka business critical applications), such as financial systems or customer relationship management (CRM) apps, can have a big impact on business continuity as they tend to be critical for day-to-day operations.
  4. Apps that need to scale: If your current infrastructure can’t deal with the changing demands of an application, you might want to prioritize migrating it to the cloud, where it’s easier to scale up or down as required.
  5. Applications requiring a high level of computing power or specific hardware could be good to prioritize, as the cloud can provide access to high-performance computing resources at a lower cost than is possible with on-premise systems. 

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