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What is application migration?

Application migration is the process of moving software applications from one computing environment to another. This can include migrating applications from one data center to another, such as from a public to a private cloud, or from a company’s on-premises server to a cloud provider’s environment.

Organizations migrate applications to the cloud to take advantage of an improved cost structure, responsive scalability, and the ability to quickly update apps to meet changing demands.

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3 steps to simplify application migration to the cloud

The migration process can be complex, especially for businesses without experience moving applications to the cloud. However, with proper planning and execution, it is possible to achieve a smooth migration. Here are three steps that can help:

  1. Assemble the right team. Recruit key representatives from each business unit involved in the migration project. These individuals will help to inform and support the project as it moves forward. It’s also important to put together a team of internal technical experts to assist with the migration at each phase, even if your organization is working with a third-party partner.
  2. Win over your stakeholders. Present the business case for the migration—whether it be cost savings, streamlining operations, a competitive market edge, or all of the above. In getting approval from leadership, you’ll want to agree on the project goals, budget, and timeline. Be sure to keep your stakeholders informed as the project moves forward and through each phase.
  3. Audit your applications. As you audit your application landscape, evaluate and group applications according to the following criteria:
  • Is this a business app or technical app?
  • Is the app modern or legacy?
  • Will refactoring or rewriting be required?
  • What is the downtime sensitivity around this app?
  • Was the app developed in-house or by a third party?

When assessing each application, it is also critical to identify dependencies, integrations, and technical requirements. You’ll want to understand the application’s architecture, security policies, and the tools and software used to manage access, performance, and troubleshooting. Prioritize migrations based on these criteria, as well as on the business needs and your budget. Then decide which cloud to migrate to on an application-by-application basis. With your applications grouped logically and an understanding of where each app is going, you can complete your application migration plan.

Application migration best practices

Here are a few best practices for planning and implementing an application migration:


  • Keep the business goals and end-state objectives clear to everyone involved. Establishing and reaffirming the purpose, benefits, and end results of the migration will help everyone stay motivated and focused.
  • Start small and minimize risk. Starting with just one application (or a small group of non-critical applications) allows team members to gain confidence, identify potential issues, and show results. Another way to minimize risk is to practice migrations on test apps within test environments.
  • Bring in outside experts and third-party tools to supplement in-house capabilities. Migrating apps is a complicated process, and when not executed properly, it has the potential for costly errors and data loss. It’s smart to make the investment in additional tools and expertise to make sure you’re adequately prepared.

Common application migration strategies

There are a variety of strategies for effectively migrating applications to the cloud. The right choice will depend on business needs, budget constraints, and other factors. Here are some of the most common options:

  • Move without conversions. Moving a primary asset, such as a website, from an on-premises environment to the public cloud—without changing anything about the asset—can result in significant savings. Using a public cloud also allows for additional support through built-in cloud optimization functionality like disaster recovery and on-demand capacity extension.
  • Choose a SaaS replacement. Finding an existing marketplace Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offering that can already do what you need can reduce the burden of the migration process as well as free up on-premises resources for other workloads.
  • Choose a PaaS replacement. Adopting an existing Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) without adjusting any architecture can replace expensive on-premises server needs with a subscription-based service. A PaaS replacement often leads to increased agility during periods of high demand.
  • Re-architect. Modernizing an application or service through cloud migration can add new and improved functionality, add tangible product value, and give new life to an older but still valuable product.
  • Retire. If a given workload doesn’t provide any business value, and it isn’t intrinsic to another workload, retire it.

What is the application migration process?

A standard application migration includes the following steps:

  1. Plan: Review and assess your applications, business goals, and teams to create a plan for the migration. Also consider additional tools. There are a variety of options for third-party application migration software and services. These tools can help with managing and moving data between platforms, as well as providing in-depth data analysis and monitoring.
  2. Test: Before performing any actual migrations, use a mock migration to perfect the process. And then, after each real migration phase, test whatever has been migrated into the new environment and document the outcomes. Regular testing and sandboxing allow the team to catch problems early and regroup or change direction before data is lost and progress is wasted.
  3. Migrate in waves: It’s best to group applications and then perform the migration in phases. Document each phase using a project management tool to keep everyone, including stakeholders, informed and to gather supporting documentation.
  4. Follow up: Once the migration is complete, perform follow-up tests to determine whether cloud migration was correctly executed. This includes analyzing application performance, looking for potential disruptions, and reviewing database security.

What does a successful application migration to cloud look like?

An enterprise that successfully migrates its applications to the cloud can achieve the following benefits:

  • Improved and modernized solutions for business goals
  • Reduced time allocated for training new employees
  • Wider access to distributed applications
  • Decreased complexity and costs
  • Application consolidation
  • Better security and management
  • Increased productivity
  • Extended value of IT investments

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