Cloud Topics

What Is Cloud Migration? Everything You Need to Know for Your Business

By Nicole Lim / June 1, 2020

cloud with arrow pointing in for cloud migration

Cloud migration is the process of moving files and other data from internal databases to remote, often third-party servers and systems that are subsequently accessed through the internet. There are many benefits to adopting cloud computing, including access to more powerful resources and advanced hardware or software; knowing your data is protected even if local computers are damaged; ease of retrieval and backup; and more that may lead you to decide to migrate your work data to the cloud. You may choose to migrate all or only part of your work data, depending on your preference and the type of migration you choose. You may even selectively opt to source specific services through the cloud, accessing specific hardware, software, or other tools depending on your needs.

Types of Cloud Migration

Each type of cloud migration serves a different purpose or goal. Choosing the right type for your data will come down to the type of information you’re migrating, the importance or sensitivity of that information to your business, and the way you want it stored. Commonly called the six R’s of cloud migration, the types are as follows:

  • Rehosting — Also called the “lift-and-shift,” this is one of the simplest forms of cloud migration. This is when you lift your stack and shift it from an on-premise host to the cloud. Rehosting makes an exact copy of your current data and is most suited for companies looking for the quickest return on investment (ROI), or companies without a need or plan to use advanced cloud features. With rehosting, you’re not changing anything about the application’s architecture, you’re just moving it to an accessible public platform.
  • Replatforming — Similar to rehosting, replatforming lets you move your current application architecture but involves making a few changes in the code so that you can utilize more cloud-native features, such as increased system performance. This shouldn’t change the core functionality of your system; it’s simply meant to optimize your system for cloud function.
  • Repurchasing — For this type of migration, you’re purchasing a cloud-native application — often a software as a service (SaaS) platform — and moving your data over from your current application. This allows you all the cloud-native features and benefits but does involve learning the ropes of a new application type. This can be a cost-effective option if you’re looking for how to migrate legacy applications to the cloud that have become obsolete.
  • Refactoring — Refactoring, also called re-architecturing, involves rebuilding your current application from scratch on a cloud-supported platform. This can be the most costly strategy for cloud migration because it requires the most resources. However, refactoring allows you to make use of cloud-native features, and is typically the most compatible with cloud updates, meaning it requires less updating in the long run.
  • Retiring — During migration, you may find aspects of your existing legacy system unneeded, or no longer useful. In this case, you can turn off or archive these aspects. You may choose to replace them with cloud-supported technology, or simply omit them altogether. Through retiring, you may be able to save some time, storage space, and reduce the complexity of migration.
  • Retaining — If some or all of your data needs to stay on-premise, or you’re not feasibly able to migrate to the cloud currently, you can always retain your current application and revisit cloud migration when it makes more sense. Regulatory requirements, data sensitivity, and other internal issues may drive the decision to retain legacy applications.

Cloud Migration Steps

Once you’ve decided which type of migration makes the most sense for your business, it’s time to start the process of migrating. There are certain steps you should follow to ensure your experience is smooth, and that you aren’t losing any time, money, or data in the process.

Plan and Prepare

You should understand why you are moving your data to the cloud in the first place. When considering cloud migration, you should have established goals that cloud computing can help your business achieve. You should also conduct an assessment of the current application to see what changes you want to make, and which type of migration and cloud model would best aid those changes. This is where comparison-shopping through a cloud marketplace can help you better understand the array of services and cloud solutions available. Then, create a plan for migration and integration. It may help to assemble a small team to oversee the execution of this plan, and employee training on the new program if applicable.

Choose a Cloud Model

There are three types of cloud models that you can choose from; single cloud environment, multi-cloud, or hybrid. A single cloud environment is one cloud service provider — businesses often get these services through service-subscriptions — that hosts all applications of a business. Multi-cloud environments use multiple cloud providers, and each provider delivers a specific application or service. Single or multi-cloud environments can either be private or public, depending on what suits your business best.

Hybrid cloud providers are a mix of on-premise database applications, private cloud services, and public cloud services. They mix computing, storage, and services environments. Amazon Web Services is an example of a hybrid cloud environment.


This is where you begin the migration process. The type of migration you’re going with will influence how long or short this process will be. Your information may also be inaccessible at this time, so you may want to choose to migrate after work hours, and communicate to relevant parties — this could be employees and consumers — that the migration is happening and systems may be offline.

Data Review

Once the migration process is complete, review security precautions, and ensure that everything went accordingly. You may want to get into the application and run some sample functions to ensure everything is working. You will also want to backup all your information as soon as the migration is finished, and every time there is an update. Backing up your data is crucial in the case of an emergency so that you don’t lose important information.

Challenges of Cloud Migration

There are many benefits to cloud migration, but that doesn’t mean the process is without some nuance. Depending on your migration style, the act of migrating can be challenging, and require different levels of coding knowledge. Keeping your business functioning during the migration can pose some challenges, especially if you are running an e-commerce store and your marketplace is inaccessible during migration, or your employees can’t access their necessary applications. Challenges like these are why it’s important to make a migration plan and stay in communication with your employees and consumer base.