For a long time, the only way to store data was to physically download it to some kind of on-premises hardware, typically a server. Then cloud storage came along, which allowed businesses of any size to transfer their data on off-premises servers.

While it was once rare, cloud technology advances have now made cloud adoption the default. Today, very few businesses have the need, the staff, or the money to maintain their own on-premises servers. This shift to cloud storage managed services means that many companies have already completed a cloud migration process, or will need to complete one in the future.

In this guide, we’ll cover the main types of application migration options and then outline the nine essential steps for creating a successful cloud migration strategy.

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What is cloud migration?

A cloud migration project simply refers to moving your data to a cloud computing storage provider such as Amazon Web Services (AWS Cloud), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, Oracle Cloud, or IBM Cloud. A successful cloud migration may involve migrating the data from hardware to a cloud platform, or from one cloud provider to another.

Cloud service providers typically follow at least one of three cloud computing models:

  • IaaS (infrastructure as a service): This covers on-demand access to virtual and/or physical servers that are hosted in the cloud.
  • PaaS (platform as a service): This covers on-demand software and hardware tools that are available over the internet.
  • SaaS (software as a service): This covers on-demand software tools that are available over the internet.

There are also three types of cloud storage options that you need to know about:

  • Public cloud: In a public cloud, the hardware and software is operated by a third-party company and multiple clients share them.
  • Private cloud: In a private cloud, the cloud computing resources are used exclusively by a single business.
  • Hybrid cloud: In a hybrid cloud, different environments are combined; most typically, on-premises software used exclusively by one company is combined with a cloud storage solution that is shared with other businesses.

Types of cloud migration options

There are multiple ways that you can migrate part or all of your data during cloud adoption. Here are the four main types of application migrations that you should be familiar with:


Reshifting is also called the “lift-and-shift” or “forklift migration” approach, and you may also sometimes see it referred to as shallow cloud integration. This approach involves moving data from the server to the cloud infrastructure without changing anything. Reshifting is the easiest cloud migration strategy, but it isn’t always possible depending on how the original apps are structured.


Refactoring is also called the “rip and replace” or “redesign” approach, and you may also sometimes see it referred to as deep cloud integration. This approach involves rewriting and restructuring the architecture of applications, data, and schemas either before or after migration in order to make them compatible with the cloud storage infrastructure.


Replatforming is also called the “move and improve” or “revise” approach. Replatforming involves making changes to an application while keeping its core functions before moving it to the cloud deployment. It falls in between reshifting and refactoring in terms of the level of changes that need to be made.


In the replacing approach, data is moved from original on-premises applications to the cloud environment, and then the original applications are discarded.

Cloud migration steps and checklist

Ready to get started with your cloud adoption? Follow these steps to complete our cloud migration checklist:

1. Determine why you are migrating to the cloud

Before you do anything else, you need to have clear goals and objectives in mind for your cloud migration strategy so you can pick the right platform that provides all the cloud capabilities you need. You should also establish what cloud migration KPIs you will be measuring so you can prove that the cloud strategy is providing the benefits your company is seeking.

2. Set your budget

While switching to cloud computing can save you money, in some cases, the cloud data migration process can cost as much or more as the cloud storage itself, depending on the amount of data you need to import and how sensitive it is. Thus, it’s important to account for the migration process itself in your budget and use that as a decision-making factor when it comes to selecting a cloud partner.

3. Choose your cloud migration destination(s)

Cloud cost isn’t the only factor you need to consider when choosing a partner: You also need to evaluate pricing, security, expansion opportunities, and other factors in addition to the costs of the migration itself. You should also consider whether your company would be better served by a public cloud, hybrid cloud, or private cloud option.

4. Re-architect your application

In some cases, you might need to make changes to your on-premises applications to make them work in the cloud infrastructure. This might include virtualizing the app by running it in a virtual machine (VM), containerizing the app, modularizing the code so parts can stay on premises, or refracting the code to take advantage of certain cloud technologies. If you determine that any of these processes are necessary, you will need to complete them before the data can be moved to the cloud environment.

5. Consider using data migration tools

You aren’t on your own when it comes to performing a successful migration process: Many cloud providers offer native offerings that will help you import your on-premises applications into the cloud, like the AWS Migration Hub. You can also use a third-party tool such as Cloudsfer, AWS Database Migration Service, Azure Migrate, or Google Cloud Migrate to Virtual Machines if the native tools aren’t cutting it for some reason.

6. Select a transfer method

To have a successful cloud migration process, you also need to figure out how you will actually move your data from your current hardware or cloud provider to your new cloud environment. Your main options include public internet, a private/dedicated network, and a physical transfer, and each of these methods present tradeoffs in terms of time, speed, security, and cost. For instance, migrating over public internet can result in more downtime for your company, so it may actually be more cost effective to pay to migrate it via a private network instead if that means less downtime.

7. Make a cloud migration plan

Once you’ve made all the decisions we outlined above, you are ready to put together a cloud migration project plan that outlines what data will be transferred in what order. It’s very important 

to have an overall strategic road map so that you can double-check that you are accounting for everything. Once you have the dates in place, communicate the upcoming migration to your current customers and let them know if there will be any service disruptions.

8. Start with a small migration

When migrating to the cloud, you never move all your data on the first try. Instead, select a small set of data or an app that isn’t mission critical, migrate it to the cloud, and test it to be sure that everything transfers properly. If any errors arise, troubleshoot them and perform the test again; you shouldn’t proceed with a wider-scale migration process until all the kinks are worked out

9. Complete the data migration eventually

Once you have confirmed that your application migration process is successful and error-free, it’s time to transfer all of your on-premises apps into the cloud. Complete the migration process, then check everything again to confirm that it made the transfer safely. Enjoy using your new cloud solution and all the advantages that it offers!

Choosing a cloud migration partner

Moving from your own servers to a cloud storage partner can offer lots of benefits, including lower costs and maintenance, comparable security measures, and more flexibility when it comes to storage capacity. If you’d like to find a new cloud service, check out our software guide for the top cloud storage providers you should consider.

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