Short answer

What is cloud migration

Cloud migration refers to the strategy of transferring an organization’s digital assets, such as databases, applications, IT resources, and other services, from their current environment, whether on-premises or an existing cloud platform, to a new cloud infrastructure. This process aims to enhance efficiency, scalability, and operational flexibility

Cloud migration is the process of shifting an organization’s data, applications, and IT resources from on-premises infrastructure to cloud-based services provided by third-party vendors such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud. It’s a pivotal step in the digital transformation journey, revolutionizing how organizations operate in the modern business landscape.

Migrating to the cloud is a transformative process that empowers organizations to leverage the full potential of digital technologies. It enhances efficiency, agility, security, and scalability while reducing operational costs. In today’s reality, where speed and innovation are paramount, cloud migration is necessary for staying ahead of the curve in the digital age.

Why migrate to the cloud?

There are a number of key benefits of migrating to the cloud, including:

Cost Savings

Cloud migration helps companies reduce their capital expenditures significantly. Instead of investing in and maintaining expensive on-premises hardware and infrastructure, businesses are billed for cloud services on a pay-as-you-go basis. This cost-efficient model means companies only pay for the resources they consume, eliminating the need for large upfront investments. 

Learn how to calculate cloud migration costs.

Additionally, cloud providers handle infrastructure maintenance and upgrades, reducing the operational costs associated with IT management. This financial flexibility allows businesses to allocate resources more effectively and redirect savings toward other priorities.


One of the most compelling benefits of moving to the cloud is its scalability. Cloud services can be easily scaled up or down to meet fluctuating business demands. Whether a company experiences sudden growth or needs to scale down during slower periods, the cloud provides the agility to adjust accordingly. 

This flexibility ensures that businesses have the computational power and storage they need, precisely when they need it, without the delays and expenses associated with traditional hardware upgrades.

Improved Security

Cloud providers invest heavily in state-of-the-art security measures, often surpassing what many individual companies can achieve. They employ dedicated teams of security experts, implement robust encryption, and maintain compliance certifications to protect data and infrastructure. 

Upgraded security on the cloud not only guards against cyber threats but also enhances data privacy and regulatory compliance. By migrating to the cloud, companies can leverage these advanced security measures to safeguard their critical assets more effectively.

Disaster Recovery

Cloud platforms offer robust disaster recovery solutions that are essential for business continuity during “worst-case” scenarios. They replicate data across multiple data centers, meaning that data is available and resilient, even in the face of unforeseen events like natural disasters or hardware failures. 

With cloud-based disaster recovery, businesses can minimize downtime, recover data quickly, and maintain operations, reducing the potential for revenue loss and reputational damage.

Accessibility and Flexibility

Cloud services are accessible from anywhere with an internet connection, fostering and managing remote work and collaboration. This accessibility enables employees to work from various locations, improving productivity and work-life balance. Cloud solutions often offer mobile apps, further enhancing accessibility and flexibility for both employees and customers.

The cloud migration process: A basic overview

Successful cloud migration involves careful planning, execution, and ongoing management. By following these fundamental steps, organizations can harness the full potential of the cloud, achieving a seamless transition with minimal to no downtime.

1. Assessment and Planning

The first step in cloud migration is understanding your current IT infrastructure and business needs. Conduct a thorough assessment to identify which applications and data should move to the cloud and which should remain on-premises.

Define your migration goals, whether they’re focused on cost reduction, scalability, or improved performance. Create a comprehensive migration plan that includes timelines, resource allocation, and risk assessment.

2. Choosing the Right Cloud Service Model

Cloud services are typically categorized into three main models: Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS).

Choose the model that aligns with your specific requirements. For instance, IaaS provides greater control over infrastructure, while SaaS offers ready-to-use software applications.

3. Selecting a Cloud Service Provider

There are several cloud service providers to choose from, including industry giants like AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud, as well as smaller, specialized providers.

Evaluate providers based on factors such as cost, geographic presence, compliance requirements, and available services. Your choice of provider should align with your long-term strategy and goals.

4. Data Migration

Plan and execute a strategy for migrating your data to the cloud. This may involve moving structured and unstructured data, databases, files, and historical records. Ensure data integrity and security during the transfer, and consider encryption and access control mechanisms.

5. Application Migration

Assess and adapt your applications for the cloud environment. Depending on your strategy, you may choose to lift and shift (rehost) existing applications, refactor them for cloud-native compatibility, or rebuild them entirely. Address dependencies, APIs, and integration points to ensure seamless functionality.

6. Testing and Validation

Rigorously test migrated applications and data to identify and resolve any issues before going live. This includes performance testing, security testing, and user acceptance testing. Establish rollback plans in case of unexpected problems during migration.

7. Optimization and Ongoing Management

Once migration is complete, continuously optimize your cloud resources to control costs and enhance performance. Implement cloud monitoring and management tools to track resource utilization, security, and compliance. Stay updated with the latest cloud innovations and best practices to make the most of your cloud environment.

What is cloud migration

Watch this video guide featuring Andrea Crawford as she details the process of cloud migration and highlights its numerous advantages

Learn more about cloud migration at the IBM website 

Key strategies for cloud migration

Cloud migration is not a one-size-fits-all process. Different applications and workloads may require distinct strategies to ensure a successful transition to the cloud. Here are five key strategies organizations can employ:

1. Lift and Shift (Rehosting)

The lift and shift strategy involves migrating applications and workloads from on-premises infrastructure to the cloud with minimal modifications. Essentially, it replicates the existing environment in the cloud.

This approach is typically the quickest and least disruptive but may not fully leverage the benefits of the cloud. It’s suitable for legacy applications or situations where rapid migration is essential.

2. Replatforming (Refactoring)

Replatforming, also known as refactoring, involves making slight modifications to an application’s code to optimize it for cloud hosting, without rewriting the entire application.

It allows organizations to take advantage of some cloud-native features and performance improvements while reducing the complexity and risk compared to full redevelopment.

3. Rearchitecting (Redeveloping)

Rearchitecting, or redeveloping, involves a more extensive overhaul of the application. Organizations redesign the application from the ground up, taking full advantage of cloud-native capabilities and scalability.

While this approach offers the greatest potential for optimization and innovation, it is also the most time-consuming and costly.

4. Rebuilding

Rebuilding is akin to starting from scratch. Organizations discard the existing applications and develop new ones specifically for the cloud environment.

This strategy is often chosen when an application is outdated, not well-suited for the cloud, or when a clean slate is necessary for optimization and innovation.

5. Retiring

The retiring strategy involves decommissioning or discontinuing applications or services that are no longer relevant or necessary for the business. By eliminating unnecessary applications and services, organizations can reduce operational costs and simplify their cloud environment.

The choice of migration strategy should align with an organization’s goals, the nature of its applications, and available resources. Some applications may benefit from a lift-and-shift approach for quick migration, while others may require the investment in refactoring, rearchitecting, or even rebuilding to fully leverage the cloud’s capabilities.

How to Migrate to the Cloud [Best Cloud Migration Strategies]

Watch this walkthrough video by Eric kimberling and learn all about cloud migration strategies.

Video by Eric Kimberling at Third Stage consulting

Checklist for IT Managers: Ensuring seamless cloud migration

To navigate this complex process successfully, it’s crucial for IT managers to follow a well-structured roadmap. Here are seven key steps, to ensure a smooth and seamless cloud migration.

Step 1: Define Clear Objectives

The first and most critical step in cloud migration is defining clear objectives. Without a clear vision, your migration efforts may become aimless and less effective. 

Determine what you want to achieve. Begin by identifying the primary reasons for migrating to the cloud. Common objectives include cost reduction, scalability, improved security, and agility.

Set clear, measurable goals. Transform your objectives into specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals. This provides a framework for evaluating the success of your migration efforts.

Step 2: Assess Your Current Infrastructure

Before embarking on cloud migration, it’s essential to have a deep, 360-degree understanding of your existing IT infrastructure. 

Conduct a comprehensive inventory. Document all your IT assets, including hardware, software, and data. This inventory will serve as a foundation for your migration strategy.

Analyze your dependencies and interdependencies. Identify how different components of your infrastructure interact with one another. This analysis helps prevent issues during migration by ensuring that all dependencies are considered.

Step 3: Choose the Right Cloud Model and Provider

Selecting the appropriate cloud model and provider is a critical decision. Your choice should align with your organization’s needs, budget, and long-term goals. 

Key considerations include determining which cloud service model and cloud provider are the best fit for your business.

Decide whether you need Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), or Software as a Service (SaaS). Each offers different levels of control and responsibility.

Evaluate various cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, and others. Consider factors like cost, geographic presence, compliance, and the range of services they offer.

Step 4: Develop a Detailed Migration Plan

A well-structured migration plan is the backbone of successful cloud migration. It should provide a clear roadmap for the entire process. 

Create a timeline with milestones. Set specific milestones and deadlines for each phase of migration. This helps keep the project on track and ensures accountability.

Define roles and responsibilities. Assign clear responsibilities to team members, both internally and externally. Knowing who is responsible for what is essential for effective collaboration.

Address potential risks and challenges. Identify potential roadblocks and challenges that may arise during migration. Develop contingency plans to mitigate risks and ensure a smooth transition.

Step 5: Data Migration

Moving your data to the cloud is a critical aspect of migration. It requires careful planning and execution. Here’s how to handle data migration.

Determine the best approach for migrating your data. This could involve methods like bulk uploads, data replication, or streaming. Ensure that data formats and structures are compatible with the cloud environment.

Data security is paramount. Encrypt sensitive data during transfer and storage. Implement access controls and monitoring to safeguard data in the cloud.

Step 6: Application Migration

Migrating applications to the cloud is a complex task. It involves assessing and adapting applications to function effectively in the cloud environment. Keep the following in mind during the process.

First, assess and adapt applications. Evaluate your existing applications to determine their cloud readiness. Some may require minor adjustments, while others may need substantial refactoring or redesign.

Then, choose the most suitable migration strategy for your business’s unique needs. Depending on your applications, select the appropriate migration strategy. 

Options include lift and shift (rehosting), refactoring, rearchitecting, and even rebuilding. The choice should align with your goals and application requirements.

Step 7: Testing and Validation

Thorough testing and validation are essential to ensure that your migrated applications and data perform as expected in the cloud. This step includes:

Rigorous testing is key. Test all aspects of the migrated applications, including functionality, performance, and usability. Conduct comprehensive regression testing to identify and rectify any issues.

This means engaging in extensive performance and security testing. Ensure that the cloud environment meets performance expectations and security requirements. Conduct penetration testing and vulnerability assessments to identify and address potential security threats.

Establish rollback plans in case things don’t go as expected. Despite meticulous planning, issues may arise. Establish rollback plans that outline how to revert to the previous state if migration problems cannot be resolved quickly.

By following this checklist, IT managers can help their organizations smoothly transition to the cloud, taking advantage of the many benefits it offers while minimizing potential disruptions.

Cloud migration is the future, and IT managers are leading the way

It’s important to remember that the cloud journey doesn’t end once migration is complete. IT managers must maintain vigilant oversight, continually assessing resource utilization, security protocols, and system performance. Optimization is the key to maximizing the value derived from the cloud, and IT managers should consistently be looking for ways to align resources with evolving business needs.

In a fluid business environment characterized by perpetual change, cloud migration is an ongoing transformation. By embracing this shift, empowering IT managers, and demonstrating unwavering commitment to continual refinement, businesses position themselves to thrive in a dynamic digital landscape. The cloud has emerged as the conduit to innovation and enduring prosperity, and businesses must fully adapt to this reality.