A cloud migration strategy can help move digital assets to a new environment with minimal compatibility issues, data loss, and rework. However, a properly developed cloud migration plan requires clarity about your goals, technical capabilities, in-house expertise, and available resources.

This guide will save you time, effort, and money as you plan and execute data and application migration to the cloud. You’ll learn about broad approaches to migrating to the cloud and understand which approaches are most appropriate in which situations. Finally, we provide a convenient checklist to help you prepare for migration.

What is a Cloud Migration Strategy?

Video explaining what is cloud migration

Cloud migration means moving services, applications, databases, IT resources, and other tools from an on-premises infrastructure to a cloud environment. Companies can move their digital resources wholly or partially based on their goals.

A cloud migration strategy serves as a high-level blueprint that guides you in transitioning your apps, data, and workflows. Simply put, it helps you decide what, where, when, and how  to migrate with minimal disruptions.

There is a group of smaller-scale on-premises to cloud migration strategies (or techniques) commonly referred to as the 7 Rs: retaining, retiring, rehosting, relocating, replatforming, repurchasing, and refactoring. Your business goals, technology readiness, and other requirements dictate which approaches you’ll use.

Understanding why  you should migrate is just as important as what  you migrate and how  you migrate it. Let’s start by exploring the reasons companies migrate to the cloud.

Why Should Companies Consider Migration to the Cloud?

Application and infrastructure migration to the cloud is often a time-sensitive decision. The transition may be inevitable if your legacy apps can’t handle your current demand or your service provider is leaving the business. In many such cases, postponing can lead to lost opportunities.

So, why should you move from on-premises to a public or private cloud? Some indicators that you might benefit from moving to the cloud include:

  • Growing technical debt. Companies gather technical debt when they use shortcuts (short-term solutions and temporary fixes). According to McKinsey’s 2023 research, the costs of technical debt can account for up to 40% of IT balance sheets. However, cloud platforms with scalable modern technologies and tools that enhance software development can reduce the accumulation of technical debt.
  • Limited operating capacity. The efficiency of legacy software degrades over time. Replacing legacy software with modern cloud apps can dramatically improve productivity and reduce costs.
  • Increasing maintenance expenses. Cloud platforms with flexible payment models allow businesses to pay only for the computing power, storage, and bandwidth they use. In addition, providers like AWS can automate maintenance and scaling to minimize operational costs and make expenses more predictable.
  • Rising costs of enterprise apps. Legacy software often includes redundant apps with overlapping functions and expensive licenses that drain your resources. Retiring old software and moving to cloud-based alternatives can reduce overhead and leave more room for strategic investments.
  • Need to preserve sensitive data. Aging software nearing end-of-life (EOL) introduces security risks and often lacks technical support from the vendor. You may need to migrate to preserve and protect sensitive business and customer information if security updates are no longer available for your software.
  • Falling behind competitors. Outdated technologies require more maintenance and have compatibility issues. In contrast, cloud platform access to the latest tools and best practices keeps a business agile and competitive. For example, platforms like AWS, Google Cloud, or Microsoft Azure can help you integrate e-commerce platforms, ERP systems, and other advanced tools.

This list is not exhaustive. You can read more about the benefits of cloud migration and deployment if you’re interested in why companies move to the cloud.

Migration to cloud computing environments is a pivotal strategic decision. Companies should always conduct a discovery stage to align their strategy with their goals, available resources, and capabilities.

Creating Your Cloud Migration Strategy Document

Your cloud migration strategy is a plan that details all the processes and steps required to take while migrating to the cloud. It is critical to have this strategy documented. As a rule, a cloud migration strategy document includes the following:

  • Key goals
  • Timelines
  • Cost estimates
  • Resources
  • Risk assessment

This cloud migration strategy document encompasses planning, analysis, and documentation to address the unique needs of the business while minimizing risks.

Here’s how you can structure your cloud migration document:

Goals and objectives

  • Definition: Clearly articulate the strategic objectives and goals of the cloud migration. This could include enhancing business agility, reducing operational costs, improving disaster recovery capabilities, or accelerating digital transformation.
  • Alignment: Ensure these goals align with the broader business objectives and strategies.


  • Project schedule: Develop a detailed timeline for the migration, including key milestones and deadlines. This schedule should be realistic and allow for flexibility where necessary.
  • Phases: Break down the migration into manageable phases (e.g., planning, migration, and post-migration) with specific timelines for each.

Cost estimates

  • Budgeting: Provide detailed cost estimates for the migration, including direct costs (e.g., cloud services, tools) and indirect costs (e.g., training, downtime).
  • Comparison: Offer a cost-benefit analysis comparing the current infrastructure costs with the projected cloud costs to justify the migration.

Necessary resources

  • Human resources: Identify the team members involved in the migration and their roles and responsibilities. Include both internal staff and any external consultants or partners.
  • Technical resources: List the technology and tools required for the migration, including any software, cloud services, and migration tools.

Project adoption framework

  • Methodology: Adopt a structured framework or methodology for the migration, such as the AWS Cloud Adoption Framework or the Microsoft Cloud Adoption Framework, to guide the process.
  • Best practices: Incorporate industry best practices and lessons learned from similar migrations to enhance efficiency and reduce risks.

Risk assessment and management procedures

  • Identification: Systematically identify potential risks associated with the migration, including technical, financial, operational, and compliance risks.
  • Mitigation strategies: Develop strategies for mitigating these risks, including contingency planning, risk transfer (e.g., insurance), and risk avoidance measures.

Implementation details

  • Migration strategy: Outline the specific migration strategy (e.g., rehost, refactor, rearchitect) for each application or service.
  • Technical architecture: Describe the target cloud architecture, including computing, storage, networking, and security considerations.
  • Data migration: Detail the approach for migrating data to ensure data integrity, security, and minimal downtime.


  • Training plan: Develop a training plan so staff can familiarize themselves with the new cloud technologies and processes.
  • Change management: Implement a change management process to address the organizational changes that accompany cloud migration.

Post-migration review

  • Evaluation: Conduct a thorough post-migration review to assess the performance, cost, and operational impacts of the migration.
  • Lessons learned: Document lessons learned and best practices for future reference and continuous improvement.

A cloud migration plan serves as a comprehensive guide for organizations transitioning to the cloud. By following this plan, businesses can ensure a structured, efficient, and risk-mitigated migration that aligns with their strategic objectives and operational needs.

While partnering with Techstack, all the steps will be covered and detailed in the plan prior to setting up your migration process. With 10+ years of experience with the cloud, we know how to minimize the risks and ensure your smooth transition.

Discovery Stage: Planning Cloud Migration

Planning cloud migration & discovery

Any cloud data migration strategy requires a roadmap. That’s why the discovery cloud migration phase is crucial for the whole process. It involves an in-depth assessment of your organization and its apps, data, infrastructure, and workflows. With this knowledge, companies can better understand their migration needs and define expectations.

Video detailing planning cloud migration

These steps form the backbone of the discovery phase for cloud migration.

1.Set clear goals for the migration

Evaluate your business’s functions and workflows and identify what aspects will gain the most value from cloud migration. Clear goals will help define clear expectations and success criteria and allow you to match your objectives with application migration to the cloud.

2. Assess your IT infrastructure

Companies should analyze their digital assets, network resources, dependencies, and technical limitations. Doing so informs you about your readiness for migration to cloud computing. It can help you identify roadblocks and which cloud services are most appropriate for your needs.

3. Identify risks

You should be aware of the risk involved in migration to the cloud, including data corruption, performance issues, and loss of IT control. Assess potential threats and migration challenges that could hinder your goals. This includes verifying that the new environment covers your industry’s data security and privacy regulations.

4. Conduct a cost analysis

Calculate the financial cost of cloud infrastructure migration. Immediate expenses may include cloud migration planning and execution, hiring and training staff, and acquiring tools. You should also check pricing models and factor in ongoing and recurring costs of maintaining the cloud environment, including backup costs and compliance checks.

5. Prioritize apps and data for migration

Technical debt is not distributed evenly. According to the 2023 McKinsey report we mentioned earlier, a mere 10-15% of digital assets accumulate the majority of technical debt. So, for migration, it’s best to prioritize apps and resources that will yield the highest cost savings and ROI from transitioning to the cloud.

6. Define roles and responsibilities

Plan to have a structured migration team with clearly defined roles and responsibilities for each member and a communication plan to help coordinate the team's activities and deal with issues that arise during migration. You should also establish a governance structure that defines policies, procedures, and standards for the transition.

7. Document the cloud migration process

The cloud migration plan must include details about the scope, timeline, and tech stack you’ll use for migration. Create a document with these details and use it as a guiding tool for your current team and for onboarding new members or companies you may outsource to. You should also log everything concerning migration to cloud: steps the team took, outcomes of each task, and encountered issues.

8. Back up and test data

Make sure to create snapshots of business-critical data before migration to protect yourself from data loss or corruption due to transition failures or service outages. Teams should test the integrity and compatibility of the data before and after the transfer to ensure the data transfer is complete and uncompromised.

9. Choose a deployment type

Based on your assessment, decide on an optimal cloud platform and deployment type. Whether you prefer a single-cloud, multi-cloud, or hybrid approach, your decision should match your goals and capabilities. You should consider using virtual machines or containers to improve the resource allocation and portability of your cloud-based apps.

With the discovery stage done, you can choose the apps, data, and resources for migration. The 7 Rs are the most effective way to organize your cloud transition strategy.

7 Rs of Cloud Migration Strategy

Cloud migration strategy 7 R's

The Rs are strategies that help you decide what to do with apps during a migration depending on the goals, complexity, and cost of migration. Let’s dive deeper into these cloud migration approaches to understand when they’re most appropriate.


Retaining means keeping specific apps and data in their current form on your on-premises server rather than moving them to the cloud. As we mentioned, not every workload reduces your technical debt or improves performance in a significant way. In addition, it makes business sense to run certain services on physical servers for security reasons and to avoid complicating your workflow.

When to retain apps or data:

  • Retaining may make more sense than migrating if the software or data must adhere to stringent legal guidelines or security requirements (for example, healthcare vendors and government agencies).
  • If an app fulfills its purpose efficiently on-premises, retaining the app can prevent unnecessary disruptions, and migrating the app won’t produce a substantial advantage.
  • Retaining an app is a sensible option if the app won’t benefit from the scalability or availability of the cloud environment (like specialized apps used by a few internal employees).
  • Organizations might retain apps if they’re not prepared to modify their governance, culture, or workflow to move them into the cloud.
  • Companies might retain apps if they’ve recently invested or upgraded their on-premises software.

Downsides of the approach:

  • Partial migration requires you to manage on-premises and cloud environments, which can lead to increased management overhead.
  • Your overall maintenance may increase initially, as you must pay for both cloud services and the on-premises infrastructure as well as deal with the increased complexity of IT operations.
  • On-premises infrastructure requires dedicated IT staff—human resources that could be directed elsewhere.
  • Continued reliance on legacy on-premises solutions might contribute to accumulating technical debt (especially if the technology becomes outdated).

2. Retire

Retiring means decommissioning apps and archiving data that no longer serves a purpose. It’s primarily used when software or data becomes obsolete or redundant, or otherwise no longer meets a business’s needs.

When to retire apps or data:

  • Retire redundant apps and unnecessary data when you need to streamline your IT portfolio and align your tech environment with business objectives.
  • Companies often eliminate software when it no longer adds value to reduce hosting and maintenance expenses.
  • Poorly performing software and idle apps (with low average memory and CPU usage) are sometimes retired when companies need to make room for more productive tools.
  • Companies remove apps to consolidate their vendors and save money on licensing for enterprise-level software.

Downsides of the approach:

  • Decommissioning may result in inadvertently losing valuable historical data, legacy information, or organizational knowledge.
  • Data may require meticulous cleaning, validation, and analysis to be able to use it for future analysis or reference.
  • Retiring certain information might bring about compliance challenges; be careful to follow all relevant regulations and contractual obligations.
  • Users, employees, and other stakeholders may be unhappy if they lose access to a familiar app.

3. Rehost

Rehosting (the "lift and shift'' strategy) means moving data and apps directly to the cloud without modifications. Instead of changing the apps or data, the migration team recreates an on-premises environment in a cloud-based infrastructure.

For instance, if you have a server that runs a web app, rehosting allows you to create a virtual machine in the cloud with the same operating system and configuration and seamlessly transfer the app there.

When to rehost apps or data:

  • An organization that wants to transition rapidly to the cloud without investing in major reconfiguration or redevelopment might choose rehosting as a strategy.
  • Rehosting is also an option if you need to move a large number of digital resources or need to complete migration in a short amount of time.
  • Companies sometimes rehost apps to minimize disruptions and downtime (for example, if the apps are responsible for critical processes or serve a broad user base).
  • Rehosting is also appropriate when organizations want to minimize up-front investment and the risk of migration errors leading to expensive re-migrations.
  • Rehosting can be part of a phased migration strategy: moving digital assets quickly and optimizing them later.

Downsides of the approach:

  • Rehosting may create path dependencies, resulting in extra investment in the future to optimize dependencies.
  • Since rehosting involves mirroring your on-premises configurations, some level of operational overhead and maintenance complexity may persist in the cloud.
  • Rehosting apps as-is limits your cost savings from cloud-native features (like autoscaling, managed services, and scalable pricing).
  • Copying an existing setup can carry over existing security vulnerabilities and compliance misalignments.

4. Relocate

Relocating means you transfer multiple servers to a virtual copy of your data center in the cloud. Like rehosting, this cloud migration technique lets you move apps and data without code or architectural modifications. The main difference is that relocating is designed for companies that want to run VMware workloads on cloud-based VMware.

When to relocate apps or data:

  • Companies use relocating when they run virtual machines and want to relocate to the AWS VMware environment without expensive reconfiguration or development.
  • Organizations that use commercial off-the-shelf software with virtual machines may relocate when they want to preserve their tools in the new environment.
  • Companies sometimes want the ability to transfer servers without major changes so they can keep mission-critical systems running during the migration.

Downsides of the approach:

  • Dependency on AWS VMware workloads can lead to vendor lock-in and limit your ability to adopt new technologies.
  • Organizations may need to upgrade their infrastructure to embrace native cloud-based services (such as EC2, Lambda, or Fargate), which requires additional investment.
  • Relocating can cause integration issues with other AWS services or third-party products.
  • Reliance on dedicated VMware hosts may hinder the ability to scale applications.

5. Repurchase

Repurchasing (“drop and shop”) means replacing your on-premises software with other, third-party, off-the-shelf cloud-based software. Buying pre-built solutions is one of the simplest, fastest, and most risk-free approaches to migration into the cloud.

When to repurchase apps or data:

  • Organizations buy modern cloud-based solutions when they need to quickly replace outdated-self-managed systems.
  • A company may repurchase when they need the robust security and authorization features offered by many third-party solutions that adhere to strict regulatory requirements.
  • Companies purchase systems operated by the cloud provider when they want to reduce spending on internal teams.
  • Repurchasing benefits organizations that want ongoing support and regular updates from a cloud vendor without continuously investing in internal development.

Downsides of the approach:

  • Despite the upfront cost savings, prebuilt apps may include hidden expenses, like licensing, support, integrations, and training costs.
  • New software requires training employees, changing processes, adopting new data management practices, and reformatting existing datasets.
  • Utilizing third-party cloud-based solutions can raise uncertainties regarding where data is stored and how it is handled, potentially conflicting with regulatory requirements.
  • Off-the-shelf solutions limit your control over features, service-level agreements, and upgrades, which can result in a mismatch between your needs and capabilities.

6. Replatform

Replatforming (“lift-and-shape”) involves slightly tweaking existing apps and data for the cloud environment. These adjustments may include changes in the code or configuration without changing the core architecture.

Unlike rehosting, a replatforming strategy requires a certain optimization level to shape the software for cloud-native capabilities. However, it doesn’t involve a thorough reengineering like refactoring (see the seventh R).

When to replatform apps or data:

  • Replatforming is an option when you can make incremental changes to software during the cloud migration journey to make it cloud-compatible without completely overhauling the business logic.
  • Companies replatform when they want to enhance their apps by replacing on-premises components with cloud services.
  • Moving to cloud-native services helps you delegate most IT maintenance and scaling to the cloud provider.
  • If you want your legacy apps to run on modern platforms without performance, security, or compliance sacrifices, replatforming is a good option (for example, an End-of-Support Migration Program helps migrate old Windows apps to AWS servers without major code changes).

Downsides of the approach:

  • Code modifications and optimization introduce the risk of data loss, dependency issues, and other inconsistencies. Organizations must develop cloud migration plans and back up all critical data beforehand.
  • Companies need to consider portability and interoperability to avoid becoming dependent on specific cloud providers or services.
  • If your team lacks the skills to adapt your software for the cloud, it can prolong the transfer process and result in reworks, ultimately increasing costs.
  • Companies need expertise with cloud migration approaches and tools to prevent misconfigurations or dependency issues.
  • The replatforming project can balloon into a large-scale refactoring initiative (see below) without careful planning and following the steps for cloud migration.

7. Refactor

Unlike other ways of migrating to the cloud, a refactoring (rearchitecting) strategy involves completely reimagining your workload to optimize it for the target cloud platform. It’s best suited for organizations with specific cloud-native capabilities or scalability and performance requirements.

Given the complexity of refactoring, many companies stick to an incremental infrastructure migration to the cloud. It’s easier to start with a rehosting or replatforming strategy and then, after testing, gradually rewrite portions of code.

When to refactor apps or data:

  • Refactoring can help when your mainframe apps limit your company’s growth and ability to address user demand.
  • Organizations rearchitect monolithic apps when they need to break them into more manageable and scalable components.
  • Cloud workload migration is a good choice when you want to outsource your infrastructure management to a cloud provider and reduce the burden on your organization.
  • When your apps have become too difficult to maintain due to poor technical documentation or the unavailability of the source code, it’s a good time to refactor.
  • Refactoring is used when you want to separate databases you want to migrate from those you want to keep on-premises during data center to cloud migration (for example, healthcare companies store patient information on physical servers for compliance purposes.
  • Apps are refactored for cloud-based platforms when a company wants to match resource consumption to demand, eliminating technical debt and waste.
  • Companies often choose refactoring when they want to leverage the full capabilities of cloud-native architecture to support innovation with a full spectrum of advanced technologies.

Downsides of the approach:

  • Refactoring involves a complete overhaul of an existing system, which increases the risks of encountering migration errors and data loss.
  • Successfully implementing a refactoring strategy requires expertise in app development, automation, and the target cloud platform.
  • The more cloud-native an app becomes, the more it's tied to a specific cloud provider's services.
  • Companies must follow planned migration to cloud steps to avoid overly complicated development or stay within their budget.
  • Ensuring business continuity during the migration process poses a significant challenge.
  • You may need to wait many months or even years to realize the value of a refactoring initiative.

When planning a cloud migration strategy, choosing the right migration approach for every dataset, app, and workflow requires a lot of legwork. To help, we created a checklist to guide you.

Cloud Computing Migration Strategy Checklist

IT infrastructure assessment

  • What are your existing digital assets, resources, dependencies, and technical limitations?
  • Can you outline each component of your application portfolio?
  • Is your existing infrastructure ready for migration to the cloud?
  • Which apps, datasets, and components would benefit from remaining on your on-premises infrastructure?

Business goals and requirements

  • What business functions, workflows, and processes would benefit most from cloud migration?
  • Do your migration goals align with your business strategy, revenue model, and user demand?
  • What are your success criteria (your goals and specific key performance indicators)?
  • Which digital assets are responsible for most of your technical debt?

Risk assessment

  • Have you considered the risks of data corruption, performance issues, or loss of control?
  • Do you have a plan to mitigate these risks?
  • Do you need to follow specific privacy and security laws or policies?
  • How will you ensure the integrity and compatibility of data before and after migration?

Cost analysis

  • What are the immediate and ongoing costs associated with cloud migration, including planning, execution, staffing, and tools?
  • How will you handle recurring costs such as maintenance, compliance checks, and backups?
  • What is the estimated long-term return on investment (ROI) and total cost of ownership (TCO)?
  • How will you prioritize apps and resources for migration to maximize savings and ROI?
  • Have you considered the cost of rerolls and rework due to migration errors?

Preparation for migration

  • What is your migration team's structure (each member's roles and responsibilities)?
  • How will you establish governance to handle issues during migration?
  • Do you have a communication plan to coordinate your team?
  • Have you outlined the migration’s scope, tasks, timeline, and technical stack?
  • Does your team have systems to log and document each migration step?
  • What testing methodologies will you use to verify the success of your cloud migration?

Choosing the migration strategy

  • What is the optimal cloud platform and deployment type (single-cloud, multi-cloud, public, private, or hybrid) for your apps, workflows, and data?
  • Have you considered using virtual machines or containers in the cloud to improve resource allocation and portability?
  • Are there any legacy systems or processes that should be retained, retired, or replaced?
  • Have you assessed the potential downsides of partial migration and increased management overhead?
  • What apps or data can be retired to streamline the IT portfolio?
  • Have you planned for potential challenges related to data cleaning, compliance, and stakeholder resistance?
  • Is a rapid transition to the cloud needed without major reconfiguration or redevelopment?
  • How will you handle potential path dependencies and carry-over of existing security vulnerabilities?
  • Have you considered potential vendor lock-in and future scalability issues?
  • Are there opportunities to replace outdated systems with third-party off-the-shelf software?
  • Have you evaluated potential hidden expenses and alignment with regulatory requirements?
  • Is there a need for incremental changes to shape software for cloud-native capabilities?

Migrate Confidently with a Trusted Partner

Clarity helps you select an appropriate cloud migration strategy. By assessing each app, identifying objectives, and planning, you can ensure a smooth transition to a cloud-based environment.

Your analysis should be fair. You can outsource migration to a reputable company if you recognize that you lack expertise or an appropriate tech stack.

We at Techstack offer personalized cloud migration services and can safely move your entire infrastructure to a scalable cloud environment. Whether you need us to augment your team’s skill set or you seek a seasoned guide for your cloud migration journey, our team is ready to discuss your needs.