Cloud migration is rapidly becoming the new hot topic for companies of all sizes. Flexera conducted a survey of technical professionals and found that 58% of respondents place a high priority on moving workloads into the cloud, and 39% are already working toward a cloud-first strategy.
But what do companies actually mean when they talk about cloud migration? Simply put, cloud migration is when a company moves its data and applications into a cloud-based platform. This means the data and applications can be accessed from anywhere rather than being hosted by an on-site server connected to on-site computers.
But if you look deeper, the definition becomes slightly more complicated. There are several different types of cloud migration to choose from, and each one carries its own advantages and best practices. Read further to understand each type and choose the right strategy for your organization.

What Is Cloud Migration?

Cloud migration, an example of a digital transformation initiative, is when a company takes all or part of its data, applications, and workloads and moves them to a cloud-based platform like Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services. Cloud migration can involve moving data from one cloud platform to another or moving it from on-premise servers to cloud-based servers.

Cloud migration definition


There are a number of benefits associated with cloud migration. For one, it’s much easier and faster to scale up with cloud-based applications. Scaling within the cloud doesn’t require purchasing new physical servers or equipment, and you can quickly purchase more storage and software capacity to meet rising demand.
On-demand scaling also makes cloud migration more cost-effective. You can keep a minimal set of nodes up during low-traffic times and scale when needed, so you don’t run at peak capacity unless you have high traffic. Over the course of five years, on-premise storage will cost around $32 per TB per month. By comparison, even some of the more expensive cloud storage only costs around $23 per TB per month, and the per-TB cost can even decrease as you purchase more storage.
If you have a fairly steady workload you can save even more with Reserved Instances. With Reserved Instances you are locked into a specific amount of computing power for a set period of time, but you can save up to 70%, depending on the contract length and whether you pay in advance.
Another advantage of cloud migration is that it tends to be more secure because of its distributed nature. Different applications and types of data are stored in different sections of the platform, so there’s no single point of failure.
Finally, migrating to the cloud makes it easier to manage and coordinate with customers and employees in different geographic locations since applications can be accessed from anywhere without having to transfer files or data.
Cloud migration benefits

Potential challenges

As you start to plan your cloud migration, there are a few potential challenges you should be aware of. One of the most significant is that your employees and customers will need to be trained on the new platform, and this can slow down the technology adoption process. Slow adoption is a significant issue — you’ll only see the benefits of cloud migration if your company and customers actually use the new platform. You can address this challenge by using a digital adoption platform to make training simpler and speed up the adoption process.
Though the wide variety of software and upgrade options are an advantage of cloud migration, they can also make it easy to go over budget. To stay on track, implement spend management controls based on your current data needs. Reevaluate your needs at regular, scheduled intervals to see if your budget or spend management practices need to be adjusted.
One other challenge is in the data portion of your cloud migration. Some applications are dependent on other applications or pieces of software, and they won’t work properly unless you move these applications to the cloud in groups. But you can avoid this issue altogether through application dependency mapping. Map which applications are dependent on one another before moving any data, and then transfer groups of applications together.
Cloud migration has many benefits, and by planning ahead for potential challenges, you can maximize those benefits and make the cloud migration process as smooth as possible.

Types of Cloud Migration

There are several different types of cloud migration, and they vary depending on where the data is moving from and how it is being moved.


Before you actually move your data, you should take inventory of your infrastructure and applications and turn off sections that are completely outdated or no longer necessary.
Retiring is especially useful for well-established companies that have extremely old and/or obsolete versions of applications still stored on their servers. By retiring these servers and applications, you have less data to move, which speeds up your cloud migration. It’s also more cost-effective because you aren’t paying to transfer or store applications you don’t need.


Also known as the lift-and-shift method, rehosting is when you simply copy data and applications into the cloud platform with no changes. Lift-and-shift is one of the fastest methods of cloud migration because you are simply transferring data, and you don’t have to allow time for any modifications before beginning the cloud migration. The exact time frame for rehosting will depend on the amount of data and applications you’re moving, but rehosting multiple servers can be done in under two months.
The major downside of rehosting is you can’t use many cloud-native features, like CI/CD automation, automatic data recovery, and monitoring systems. However, rehosting is still a great option for large companies that want to scale quickly and need to move large amounts of data and applications in a short time frame.


Replatforming is similar to rehosting except that you make some changes to the operating system and applications to optimize them for the cloud migration before actually moving them. For example, instead of simply transferring your entire database to the cloud, you might move the data from your existing database into a relational database that your cloud provider manages.
Replatforming takes a little longer than rehosting because you need extra time to modify the applications before moving, but since the modifications are minor, it is still a quick method of cloud migration. The exact time frame varies depending on the application and what modifications you are making, but relatively speaking, it is not significantly more time-intensive than rehosting.
The core app functionality remains the same throughout this type of cloud migration, but the minor modifications allow you to take advantage of cloud-native features. Some modifications can require changing the base code of the application, so be sure you test it thoroughly for functionality after migrating the application to the cloud.


Repurchasing involves moving your data from one product to another. This can either be switching from one cloud-based platform to another or from an on-premise legacy system to a cloud-based platform.
Companies often use this method to switch to a software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform. For example, if a company switched from their on-premise CRM to a cloud-based CRM like Salesforce, it would be an example of repurchasing.


Refactoring is the most change-intensive type of cloud migration. It often involves moving basic data and building cloud-native versions of applications from scratch in the new platform. The biggest advantage of this type of cloud migration is it gives you full, complete use of any available cloud-native features. Cloud-native applications are typically developed and released faster because of the ability to automate CI/CD and other development and deployment features.
Refactoring is far more complex than either rehosting or replatforming. It involves changing the components, the data storage setup, and the underlying code of an application to make it completely cloud-native. The depth of the changes means you need input from IT professionals and developers to ensure the final cloud-based application has all the requested features and functionality.
You are basically re-creating each application as a cloud-native application, and the amount of coding involved makes refactoring the most expensive and time-consuming cloud migration option. Three to six months is not uncommon for refactoring.
This cloud migration option is best for companies that want to rework or re-engineer their product and add cloud-specific features, or for companies that want to scale dramatically and need to adjust their product in order to do so. For example, Tabulate used this type of cloud migration to move to a microservices structure. The move required a complete rework of their product, but they can now roll out new features much faster.


Also known as the hybrid model, this type of cloud migration is when a company moves some applications to the cloud but keeps some on-premise. For example, if you have data with strict security and compliance requirements, you don’t want to move it to the cloud unnecessarily and risk a data breach during transfer.
Retaining can also be a cost-effective option if you have legacy applications you aren’t using but plan to upgrade in the future. You already paid for the on-premise server you’re currently using for storage, and cloud-based storage is paid for per GB or TB, so there’s no reason to pay extra for unnecessary cloud storage now. You can always move the applications at a later date if you decide to upgrade them.
A hybrid model is also useful for handling short-term traffic surges. You can scale up your cloud services during the surge, and then scale back down to mainly use the on-premise servers when traffic is low.
Before choosing what type of cloud migration is best for you, evaluate what data and applications your company plans to move and what level of cloud functionality you want your applications to have. Each type has its own pros and cons, but all of them provide cloud computing’s increased speed and ease of access.

Make Your Cloud Migration Easier with Digital Adoption Tools

Cloud migration has a lot of advantages, like lower costs and improved scalability. You can tailor your cloud migration to fit your company, moving as much or as little of your existing infrastructure and applications as you need.
One thing that every type of cloud migration has in common is that it involves adopting new technology. This applies to every digital transformation initiative.  You will need to train your employees and customers to use the cloud-based platform. An excellent method for increasing end-user adoption is to use a digital adoption platform (DAP) like Whatfix. DAPs walk users through the learning process so that your cloud migration is successful and productive as quickly as possible. Schedule a demo with Whatfix’s product experts to learn more.

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