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ScaleSecFeb 21, 2023 12:00:00 AM9 min read

How to Build an Effective & Safe Cloud Migration Strategy

How to Build an Effective & Safe Cloud Migration Strategy


How to Build an Effective & Safe Cloud Migration Strategy

Cloud Migration 101: Building Your Strategy & Mitigating Risk

In our ever-evolving digital workplace, millions of companies across the globe are making, or have already made, the switch to cloud — but why?

Migrating to cloud can completely transform how a business operates, scales, and succeeds. From simplified IT processes to improved agility and management of increased consumer expectations, cloud is a catalyst for business modernization and growth.

If you’re ready to abandon outdated software solutions and unreliable infrastructures at your company, a cloud migration may be on your radar. Here’s what you need to know before getting started so that you can migrate strategically, seamlessly, and without any security risks.

Table of Contents

What Is Cloud Migration?

Cloud migration is the process of transferring a business’s digital assets, servers, databases, and other applications to the cloud. It could be a complete migration of all your assets or just a partial migration of some of them.

Cloud migration can also mean migrating from one cloud to another; for example, switching from Microsoft Azure to Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Why Migrate to Cloud? Opportunities & Benefits

Cloud migration is a transformative step you can take to help your business scale and stand out amongst competitors. When done securely, it can have a colossal impact on how your business operates, helping you take advantage of the following benefits:

  • Increased agility and versatility
  • Ability to meet everchanging consumer and market demands
  • Reduced total cost of ownership
  • Simplified IT operations
  • Opportunity to shift to everything-as-a-service
  • Improved performance and faster, more purposeful scalability

Defining Your Cloud Migration Strategy: The 7 Rs


A cloud migration strategy is the approach your business uses to migrate to a cloud platform. Your strategy should be carefully designed to ensure a smooth, secure, and successful transition, and should therefore be planned well in advance of your intended migration kickoff.

AWS defines seven different migration strategies for moving digital assets to cloud. These are great references to help you solidify why you’re migrating, what you’re migrating, and how you’ll get the process started.

1. Retire

The retire strategy is for businesses that’d like to archive certain digital assets and/or applications. You may consider this strategy if:

  • There is no value in keeping the asset or migrating it to cloud.
  • You’d like to reduce security risks associated with the asset.
  • You’d like to remove the costs of hosting and maintaining the asset.
  • It’s a zombie application (average CPU and memory usage < 5%) or an idle application (average CPU and memory usage between 5-20% over a 90-day period).

2. Retain

The retain strategy is for businesses that have certain assets they’re not ready to migrate. They want to keep them in their original environment for now but may want to migrate them to cloud in the future. You may consider this strategy if:

  • There is no value in migrating the asset to cloud at this point.
  • You’re worried about maintaining security and compliance during the migration.
  • You’d like to migrate other assets or applications beforehand.
  • It’s specialized hardware that doesn’t yet have a cloud equivalent.
  • It’s a zombie application (average CPU and memory usage < 5%) or an idle application (average CPU and memory usage between 5-20% over a 90-day period), but you’re not ready to retire it.

3. Rehost

The rehost strategy, also known as the “lift and shift” strategy, is for businesses that’d like to move their assets to cloud without making any changes to them. No cloud optimizations are implemented at the time of migration, so your applications can continue to serve users without any downtime.

You can choose to implement cloud optimizations to save your business additional time and money at a later date after rehosting migration is complete.

4. Relocate

The relocate strategy is for businesses that’d like to transfer many servers, with at least one application, from an on-premises platform to a cloud version of that platform. This strategy doesn’t require any new hardware purchases, application rewritings, or operation modifications. It’s known to be the fastest way to migrate and operationalize workloads in cloud because it doesn’t impact your application’s architecture.

5. Repurchase

The repurchase strategy, also known as the “drop and shop” strategy, is for businesses that’d like to replace an application with a different version or product. This should only be done if the new application will provide more business value and reduce maintenance, infrastructure, and licensing costs in the long run. You may consider a repurchase migration strategy if:

  • You’d like to move from a traditional license to SaaS.
  • There are version upgrades or third-party equivalents to your current on-premises application.
  • You’d like to avoid re-architecting a custom application and would rather purchase a vendor-based SaaS or cloud-based application.

6. Replatform

The replatform strategy, also known as the “lift, tinker, and shift” or “lift and reshape” strategy, is for businesses that’d like to move an application to cloud and introduce a limited level of optimization so that the application can operate more efficiently. This is done to reduce costs or take advantage of scalable cloud capabilities.

All optimizations should be in alignment with your business goals and your target platform. If they aren’t planned strategically, they could have the opposite effect — wasting your business’s time and costing it money.

7. Refactor or Re-architect

The refactor, or re-architect, strategy is for businesses who’d like to move an application to cloud and change its architecture. It’s a full-scale migration strategy that takes advantage of cloud-native features to improve performance, versatility, and scalability at maximum capacity.

This strategy is not recommended for large cloud migrations because it’s the most complex of the migration strategies. It can be even more complicated if your business is managing a high number of applications. However, it’s a great strategy for smaller migrations with fewer applications, as it takes an all-in-one approach and is incredibly streamlined for growth.

Understanding the Cloud Migration Process

Depending on the cloud migration strategy (or combination of strategies) your business chooses, your migration process could look worlds different than another’s. However, there are a few all-encompassing steps to the process that all hopeful cloud migrators should be aware of and prepare themselves for. Cloud migration is a challenging task, even for experienced teams, so it’s critical to develop a reliable plan and execute it accordingly.

Here are the three main phases of a large cloud migration process, as outlined by AWS.

Phase 1: Assess Phase 2: Mobilize Phase 3: Migrate & Modernize


Phase 1: Assess

The assess phase is a foundational stage in the cloud migration process, where you effectively prepare and set your business up for change. Three actionable steps you should take during this phase include:

  1. Assessing your business’s readiness for cloud migration. This includes understanding your strengths and weaknesses, as well as building an action plan to accommodate identified gaps.
  2. Analyze your business’s current portfolio. What digital assets would you like to migrate? What resources do you have to help with that process? What additional resources do you need to recruit, gain, or purchase?
  3. Ensure all key stakeholders are aligned. This includes reviewing migration goals, roles, and responsibilities.

Phase 2: Mobilize

After you’ve built the foundation for your cloud migration and identified any challenges or gaps that will prevent you from a smooth and successful process, it’s time to fill in those gaps. Mobilize your organization by finding solutions to expected challenges — whether that’s recruiting specialized talent, organizing digital assets, or speaking with a cloud migration consultant.

During this phase, you’ll also build your cloud landing zone, revisit and conduct a more comprehensive portfolio assessment, build your cloud security strategy, and further prepare your team for the change that is coming — anything that will help your migration process run more smoothly.

Phase 3: Migrate & Modernize

This is when most of the action happens. The first key here is to build standard operating procedures (or automations, if applicable) that will simplify and expedite tasks in a repeatable pattern. This is what AWS refers to as “initializing a large migration.”

From there, you can start the physical steps of cloud migration — moving digital assets from one place to another, or whatever your strategy involves. Use your decided-upon procedures and automations to ensure work gets done effectively, efficiently, and securely. This is what AWS refers to as “implementing a large migration.”

Common Cloud Migration Challenges

There are many challenges that you could face before, during, and after your cloud migration — all of which you should prepare yourself for before they have the potential to cause extreme damage. If you’re aware of them and how they could disrupt your operations, you can better mitigate risk.

Below are some of the most common challenges businesses face throughout the cloud migration process.

  • Cloud security
  • Misunderstood complexity of cloud migration
  • Lack of team knowledge or resources
  • Legacy applications
  • Lack of stakeholder buy-in and engagement

5 Tips for Building a Successful Cloud Migration Strategy

So how can your business identify, understand, and overcome the challenges listed above? Follow the tips below.

  1. Start with strategy. Cloud migration action steps should only happen once you have developed a comprehensive, detailed plan of attack.

  2. Make security a priority — not an afterthought. Migrating to cloud without any consideration of security risks could be extremely damaging to your infrastructure, data, customers, and reputation. Security should be built into your overall strategy.

  3. Research, research, research. Make sure you understand the cloud migration process fully, or that you hire or consult with someone who does. This will help you know how to allocate time and resources for the project.

  4. Have backup plans. Create plans for how you’ll rebuild, repair, or retire legacy applications that don’t migrate easily and cause you trouble. Planning for unfortunate outcomes beforehand can save you time, money, and stress.

  5. Be your team’s cloud migration champion. Inform others of what cloud migration is, what it involves, why you’re doing it, and what the future will look like with cloud.

Interested in Migrating to Cloud? ScaleSec Can Help

If migrating to cloud is on your goal list for this year, it’s critical that you have a robust strategy and security measures in place before getting started. Not sure where to begin? Let’s connect.


The information presented in this article is accurate as of 7/19/23. Follow the ScaleSec blog for new articles and updates.