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A cloud migration strategy is essential for migrating legacy systems to the cloud. We break down the six Rs of migration and discuss some best practices.


Cloud Migration Strategy 101: From the Six Rs to Best Practices

Posted by Angela Davis on October 11, 2023
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No matter how comfortable you may be with legacy systems, a cloud migration strategy can only benefit your business. 

Born in the era of digital modernization, cloud migration is a major innovative process that is used by businesses whose on-premise legacy applications are unable to meet evolving customer and business needs. 

Gartner predicts that spending on cloud-based application software will climb from 57% in 2022 to 65% in 2023. More and more businesses are replacing or integrating their legacy applications to achieve operational prowess, innovative agility, and competitive resilience in the cloud.

Gartner predicts that almost two-thirds of spending on application software will be directed toward cloud-based technologies in 2025.

But, how do you start devising a cloud migration strategy? In this article, we discuss different cloud migration strategies, their benefits and challenges, and best practices for migration. 

Why businesses need cloud migration solutions

Relying on outdated legacy systems to perform business-critical operations can put companies at a significant—even fatal—disadvantage. Not only are these systems difficult to upgrade and maintain, but they lack the flexibility and powerful functionalities that drive operational efficiency and customer-centered innovation. 

The solution? Cloud modernization - specifically, cloud migration.

Cloud modernization aims to maximize the value of business infrastructure, systems, and applications by combining them with the rich capabilities provided by the cloud. 

Cloud migration is an aspect of this. Using a variety of migration methods, you can leverage cutting-edge technologies and functionalities to strengthen your competitive resilience in a dynamic and disruptive commercial landscape. 

With an effective cloud migration strategy, forward-thinking companies can unlock an abundance of benefits.

The benefits of cloud migration

It’s possible for businesses to achieve far-reaching, industry-specific cloud migration benefits. These are some of the most universal advantages that small, medium, and large enterprises can expect.

Cost optimization

Using cloud applications significantly lowers a company’s operational costs. Typically, providers offer subscription billing, which means you only pay for what you use and can optimize your cloud spend. 

Additionally, as cloud providers host, maintain, and upgrade these applications, you significantly reduce infrastructure, labor, and maintenance costs for your business. 


Scaling a legacy system involves anticipating growth and preemptively purchasing and installing expensive infrastructure. Failure to accurately anticipate the scale of your expansion can result in wasted business productivity, money, and resources. 

Cloud applications are inherently scalable, allowing you to easily add or remove resources in alignment with your business’s fluctuating needs. 


Cloud migrations remove IT operations from data centers and unchain office workers from their desks. With everything stored in the cloud, your workforce can access networks and data from any location and any internet-connected device (even their smartphones). 

87% of employees would opt to work flexibly.

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The cloud also facilitates remote communications that enhance work-from-home capabilities. With 80 million Americans now working from their personal properties on a flexible basis—and 87% opting to work from home if it’s offered—facilitating remote working is a modern-day business necessity. Thanks to the cloud and its many flexible capabilities, employees at opposite ends of the world can video call, share files, and collaborate on projects in real-time.

Security and compliance

When cloud migration is implemented with the necessary stringent security and compliance measures in place, it can provide greater protection than traditional data centers. 

Cloud services typically offer in-built, enterprise-grade security features that align with regulatory compliance. This protects your network and data from threats, minimizing the risk of data breaches or data loss as well as the financial and reputational repercussions they can cause.

Common cloud migration challenges

Cloud migration might be essential in 2023, but there are certain challenges that can pose significant risks if you dive in unprepared. 

Insufficient strategizing

No cloud migration strategy can be successful without diligent design and planning. All too often, businesses jump into migration initiatives before they’ve devised a fully developed strategy.

Migrating legacy databases and applications must be considered on a case-by-case basis. Legacy systems can have different requirements, which affect which type of cloud migration approach is the best choice. 

Understanding the intricacies of your current infrastructure, your target cloud environment, and the optimal use cases for each migration method allows you to create a successful end-to-end cloud migration plan. 

Lack of cost optimization

In some cases, the upfront and long-term costs of cloud migration may climb higher than anticipated. This is usually the result of insufficient research into the hidden costs of migration, which can include upskilling, labor, infrastructure transformation, data loss and recovery, and more. 

However, even the overt costs of cloud migration can financially overwhelm businesses that lack infrastructure visibility. This is why it’s important to conduct comprehensive pre-migration research, assessments, and planning.

Migration complexity

Businesses with complex IT architecture will also need to conduct large-scale analyses into their hardware, network, and app dependencies to combat potential interoperability and compatibility issues. 

The vaster and more complex your architecture, the harder this is to do. In fact, as it’s faced by 49% of businesses, understanding app dependencies is the most significant cloud migration challenge.

There are many challenges that businesses can face without a strong cloud migration strategy.

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Companies may also need to execute different migration strategies for different applications. These must be executed in carefully planned phases. Underestimating the complexity of cloud migration can cause data loss, downtime, and other disruptions that impair business operations and customer satisfaction. 

Businesses with more complex legacy systems can enlist the help of cloud migration service providers or integration platforms like OpenLegacy to simplify and automate the cloud migration process.

The six types of cloud migration strategy

There are six types of cloud application migration, all of them with different use cases, pros, and cons. 

Here’s a simple explanation of each strategy to help you understand them better.

1. Rehost

Rehosting is the quickest and simplest way to migrate data to the cloud. Also known as “lift and shift”, it involves lifting data assets from on-premise systems and shifting them to the target cloud environment without making any code-level modifications. 

As rehosting transfers data without adapting it for the cloud environment, it doesn’t support every cloud feature. However, the approach is still popular with enterprises that wish to perform large-scale migrations as well as businesses that just want to dip their toe into cloud modernization.

2. Replatform

The next step up from lifting and shifting is a replatforming strategy, which “lifts, tinkers, and shifts”. 

After extracting the application from the on-premise system, some basic-level configurational changes are made before the app is transferred to the cloud. While the core architecture remains unaltered, these basic changes optimize the application’s performance for a cloud environment. 

Businesses often use this strategy as a stepping stone in modernizing complex core applications.

3. Repurchase

Known as the “drop and shop” strategy, repurchasing involves completely deserting your on-premise application and replacing it with a new, cloud-native version. This method is generally used to replace an on-premise application for standard functions (such as a CRM, accounting system, or CMS) with a software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution.

Repurchasing grants you instant access to cloud application features and functionalities but requires your team to master completely new technology, which can be difficult. Furthermore, if you’re leaving a highly customized legacy solution, you may be disappointed if your SaaS solution lacks customizability. 

4. Retain

For some applications, cloud migration just doesn’t make sense. Maybe they work perfectly in their original environment or are too complex to move without causing major disruption. Migration could also conflict with data compliance responsibilities. 

In these situations, it is best to retain the applications in their existing environment and revisit migration at a later date. 

5. Retire

As you evaluate your organization’s IT portfolio, there’s also a chance you’ll come across applications that are no longer useful. The solution here is simple—just switch them off. 

This can generate impressive cost savings and refocus your productivity in other critical business areas. A word of warning though: remember to look out for any hidden dependencies before you retire an app.

6. Refactor

Refactoring—or rearchitecting—is the most complex and resource-intensive strategy on this list, but it can also unlock the most potential for growth.

Refactoring involves completely rebuilding an application from the ground up, essentially writing cloud-native functionalities into its core. As a result, you can leverage in-demand cloud capabilities such as serverless computing, auto-scaling, and microservices architecture. 

Of all the cloud migration strategies, refactoring yields the greatest agility, resilience, and return on investment (ROI).

Necessary cloud migration plan items

A comprehensive cloud migration plan should help you avoid common challenges and increase the speed, cost, and effectiveness of the process. 

Here are the main things you’ll need to do before you begin.

Select the right cloud migration strategy

Each cloud migration strategy has its unique benefits, limitations, and optimal use cases. They should be considered on an application-by-application basis in alignment with your business’s needs and capabilities. 

Start by identifying your goals and objectives for cloud migration. These might include modernization, accelerated time-to-market, cost-savings, performance improvements, flexibility, or scalability. Your strategy should be influenced by your migration goals. For example, if you want to reduce costs, opt for a cheaper cloud provider.

Another influential aspect is your desired migration model, i.e. whether you want to use an infrastructure as a service (IaaS), software as a service (SaaS), or platform as a service (PaaS) solution. For example, if you wish to relinquish some control of your applications to reduce workload, you might move to a SaaS platform (repurchase). 

The individual needs of each workload as well as the current capabilities and limitations of your organization are other important factors to consider. 

A SWOT analysis to understand the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats that will govern your strategy can be a good starting point.

An example of SWOT analysis.

Identify infrastructure resources

Not only will you need to perform an initial, organization-wide cloud migration assessment to understand which on-prem infrastructures will benefit from migration, but you’ll also have to identify the resources required to deploy cloud migration and operate and maintain cloud services on a long-term basis.

For example, it’s likely you’ll need to upgrade your networking infrastructure. Allocating network resources appropriately is essential for meeting the bandwidth-heavy requirements of cloud-hosted applications and reducing the risk of latency or poor user/customer experiences.

Ensure cloud migration security

Data protection frameworks and security best practices should be intricately detailed before you even enter the testing stage. During planning, identify potential security risks and how these can be mitigated.

Here are some cloud migration security considerations to implement before, during, and after migration:

  • Data compliance. Align security implementations with common data protection laws, such as GDPR and CPRA, as well as industry requirements, for example, HIPPA for healthcare or GLBA for finance.
  • Strict access controls and user permissions. To prevent unauthorized access, strictly define who can access specific data and what can they do with it across cloud environments. 
  • Automation. To successfully adapt and scale security across complex and evolving cloud environments, businesses need to rely on AI and automation. You can infuse this into your cloud environment with specialized cybersecurity tools and APIs created by cloud providers to streamline security at scale.
  • Machine learning. In the same vein as automation, machine learning plays a critical role in securing and maintaining large-scale cloud environments. With the ability to analyze large volumes of raw data, it can uncover potential vulnerabilities and rapidly alert you to suspected security threats.
  • Robust data encryption. Implementing end-to-end data encryption (both in transit and at rest) is a must to prevent cybersecurity threats. The standard encryption protocol for data transmitted over the internet is Transport Layer Security.

Budget your cloud migration costs

Your cloud migration budget will need to include the cost of the initial migration as well as the ongoing costs of maintaining and scaling a cloud environment. 

Start by calculating the current cost of every application you wish to migrate to the cloud. This should include administration, operational, and maintenance overheads. 

Next, evaluate how much it will cost to migrate workloads to the cloud and run applications in your chosen environments. You can use cloud cost calculators to generate reliable estimates. 

The more you work on this now, the fewer financial issues you’ll run into later. When asked what their cloud priorities were, 62% of businesses cited optimizing their existing cloud costs as their most pressing concern. This only further demonstrates the critical importance of rigorous pre-migration budgeting.

A graph showing the cloud priorities of businesses.

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Be warned: a number of factors will influence costs, so be as comprehensive and realistic as possible. Make sure to include things like:

  • Data volumes and storage requirements
  • Optimal performance requirements
  • Computing resources
  • Cloud provider costs
  • Networking requirements
  • Outsourcing
  • Training and labor

Map your migration

The next step is to create a roadmap detailing how your cloud migration process will be executed from beginning to end. Establish which applications will be migrated, when they will be migrated, and the specific strategy you’ll use to migrate them. Determine where the app will be positioned within the cloud environment and confirm any security or compliance requirements.

To reduce the risks of cloud migration, execute a phased or hybrid integration rather than a mass migration approach. Start with high-priority, low-risk applications to test the water before moving on to more complex migrations. 

Perform pre-migration testing

Misconfigurations, poor performance, data loss, and other issues can all arise when cloud migration goes wrong. To prevent this, perform pre-migration testing in a safe environment to verify effective and optimized data transfer, synchronization, security controls, performance, costs, and migration time.

Any inefficiencies or problems you note should be resolved before you move on to the real migration process.

Achieve cloud migration best practices with OpenLegacy

As the cloud environment continues to expand and evolve, so do the complexities of cloud migration. How, then, do you achieve the best practices mentioned above when this process demands you to balance flexibility and agility with rigorous planning and iterative implementation? 

Regardless of whether you’re modernizing in place, shifting an application to a new platform, or carrying out a complete redesign, OpenLegacy can simplify and automate your cloud migration. 

Traditionally, you’d have to test an application in silos and only onboard users once it was fully set up. However, with OpenLegacy’s hybrid integration platform, you can create integration points that allow users to access the legacy system via the new functionality while you’re still working on it. This maximizes agility while enabling you to iteratively adjust your strategy.

There’s more to it than that, of course. OpenLegacy builds bridges between your on-premise systems and target cloud environments. From eliminating middleware to automatically producing digital-ready code, its core-to-cloud approach optimizes the time, cost, and complexity of your migration journey.

Want to learn more? Get in touch to discover how OpenLegacy can streamline your cloud migration strategy.


Cloud migration strategy FAQs

What protocols are used during migration to the cloud?

To ensure the security of your data during cloud migration, you can encrypt it using secure protocols like HTTP and TLS. These provide end-to-end encryption. Remember to always encrypt data when it’s being transferred across locations (in transit) as well as when it’s stored in place (at rest).

What’s the difference between cloud migration and transformation?

Both concepts involve the transfer of data and applications to the cloud, but cloud transformation and migration are two very different things.

Cloud transformation is a large-scale digital modernization initiative that involves all your on-premise infrastructure being migrated to the cloud. Your processes, data, and applications must all be redesigned, rebuilt, or optimized for the new cloud environment.

Cloud migration is a singular (but critical) phase in the process of cloud transformation. It involves moving data and applications from on-premise to cloud-based servers, whether that be through “lifting and shifting”, “dropping and shopping”, or any other cloud migration method. 

You can perform cloud migration without committing to a complete cloud transformation by choosing to only move some of your applications or opting to integrate your legacy systems with cloud solutions. 

Did Netflix move to the cloud?

Yes—Netflix officially became cloud-native in 2016 (after seven years of cloud transformation). 

Their decision to move to the cloud was made in 2008 after a combination of data corruption and unprecedented business growth led them to search for a secure and scalable alternative to their physical data center. 

They migrated to Amazon Web Services cloud (AWS) and never looked back.

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