What is Cloud Data Migration? Essential Insights

By Ibby Rahmani

Published on April 19, 2021

Cloud Data Migration: What You Need to Know

This blog was last updated in October 2023.

Modern businesses have their heads in the clouds… not that they’re daydreaming. The pandemic has caused a major shift to work-from-home culture. The cloud supports this new workforce, connecting remote workers to vital data, no matter their location. Today, enterprises are migrating to the cloud at a brisk pace.

But why migrate at all? How do you migrate? And what are the benefits?

What is Cloud data migration?

Cloud data migration involves the process of moving business workloads and applications into a digital process within a hosting environment, known as the cloud.

This can encompass moving data workloads from legacy on-premises systems to cloud-based data warehouses, establishing new cloud data warehouses or data lakes, or implementing hybrid cloud data management solutions that incorporate both approaches.

Why is migration to the Cloud important?

Moving data to the cloud is vital for businesses aiming for agility, scalability, and cost-effectiveness in the current digital environment. It enables organizations to handle their data and applications with remarkable flexibility. Cloud migration empowers businesses to streamline operations, adapt quickly to market shifts, and leverage advanced technologies like AI and analytics, leading to innovation, competitiveness, and sustainable growth.

Benefits of migrating data to the Cloud

Migrating to the cloud is a vital part of digital transformation, offering advantages that include:

Cost Efficiency

Cloud solutions eliminate the need for extensive physical infrastructure and its associated costs, shifting IT spending to a more manageable operational model.


Businesses can effortlessly scale their resources up or down, adapting to changing demands without disruptions or heavy investments.

Global Accessibility

Cloud technology ensures data and applications are accessible from anywhere, promoting remote work and collaborative efficiency.

Security and Compliance

Leading cloud providers invest in robust security measures, enhancing data protection and simplifying compliance adherence.

Innovation Catalyst

Cloud services offer access to advanced technologies, promoting innovation and sustaining a competitive edge in today's business environment.

What are the 7 types of Cloud migration?

There are seven distinct cloud migration strategies, often referred to as the 7 Rs of cloud migration, each tailored to specific goals and circumstances:

1. Rehost (Lift and Shift)

Existing applications are migrated to the cloud infrastructure without significant modifications. This is a quick and cost-effective method but may not fully leverage cloud-native capabilities.

2. Refactor

This strategy involves making code or application-level changes to optimize for the cloud environment, taking advantage of cloud services and scalability.

3. Rearchitect

This goes a step further than refactoring and involves completely redesigning applications to take full advantage of cloud-native features and capabilities.

4. Rebuild

Applications are rebuilt from the ground up using cloud-native services. It offers the greatest level of optimization but requires substantial development effort.

5. Replace

It may be more efficient to replace an existing application with a commercial cloud-based SaaS solution rather than migrating it.

6. Retire

Not all applications or components need to be moved to the cloud. Some may be decommissioned or retired as part of the migration process.

7. Retain

Some legacy applications or components may be too complex or costly to migrate. In such cases, they are retained in the existing environment while new applications are built in the cloud.

Choosing the right migration strategy depends on factors like the complexity of your applications, budget, timeline, and long-term goals. Each approach has its advantages and drawbacks, and a well-planned migration strategy is essential for a successful transition to the cloud.

Data Cloud Migration Challenges and Solutions

Cloud migration is the process of moving enterprise data and infrastructure from on premise to off premise. This includes moving data, workloads, IT resources, and applications to the cloud.

However, cloud data migration can be difficult. If an enterprise doesn’t have visibility into data, then the process can become time-consuming and costly. With a good plan and a modern data catalog, you can minimize the time and cost of cloud migration.

Cloud Transformation is Still a Priority chart

Why are companies moving into the cloud?

Given the volume of data being generated and collected, enterprises are looking for ways to scale data storage. The cloud is a popular solution, as it not only solves data volume problems, but also offers many advantages.

Graphic showcasing why Companies Are Moving Into The Cloud

Cost Effective

The cloud is cost effective. As your company grows, the amount of data, users, and use cases also grows. Knowing this, many companies would invest heavily in infrastructure as part of a long term plan, wasting money on servers and storage that stood empty for years. Now, with a cloud environment, they only pay for what they use; as they grow, they can scale in the cloud – resulting in significant cost savings.

Replaces Capital Expenses with Operational Expenses

The cloud changes the financial game for data enterprises. Before the cloud, businesses made large capital investments in building and installing on-premise servers. With the cloud, businesses avoid the huge upfront capital expense and pay only for the operational expense of cloud subscription. In the long run, the one-time cost of cloud migration is quite small compared to the ongoing cost of on-premise IT infrastructure.

Easier Data Backup

Another peril of on-premise servers is the risk of data loss. To guard against this, IT would set up in-house backup. But much can go wrong, as IT can’t predict the future. Not only are backups tricky to manage, they don’t always work. A failed backup can make it impossible to recover lost data.

With the cloud, most providers provide backup capability to ensure that your data can be restored when needed – allowing you enterprises to work carefree.

Frees Up IT

On-premise solutions require IT personnel to manage hardware and devices. But IT personnel are expensive, and their time is better spent innovating. The cloud frees up your IT staff by eliminating the need to manage service in the cloud. Cloud providers issue regular upgrades, patches, and updates to service.

A checklist for crafting your Cloud migration strategy

While it would be nice to flip a switch and be in the cloud, it’s not that simple! Moving to the cloud requires a strategy. Most companies take months to plan out that strategy. This is because they don’t have visibility into their data. In most cases, they either don’t know where their data is, or if they do know, they don’t know if it is the right data to move.

Your business strategy determines data strategy, which in turn drives cloud strategy. Before planning your cloud migration, be sure to align key stakeholders on your business and data strategies.

1. Data Strategy Drives Cloud Strategy

What data is the most popular? Which assets are the most trusted? Which are deprecated? A data catalog answers these questions with metadata, which labels the most useful (and used) data. Companies typically prioritize this data for cloud migration. In this way, a data catalog provides vital visibility into what to move to the cloud.

Further, a modern data catalog enables a deeper understanding of the effects of cloud migration by providing visibility into the downstream processes. Through lineage, a catalog provides a clear view of data as it moves. Deep impact analysis shows how that movement affects processes and analytical applications. These features make transparent the transformation of data, clarifying the correct procedures and reducing risk.

Of course, there is a risk that comes with cloud migration related to your data security. But if you implement a data catalog ahead of time, you reduce the risk of losing information vital to your business.

2. Plan for Security

A major concern during the cloud migration process is security. On-premise servers and cloud environments don’t differ much in overall security, but security features differ greatly. This matters because features that may have existed on-premises won’t transfer to the cloud.

Make sure that your migration strategy incorporates on-premises security policies and features. Make a plan ahead of time to implement solutions that can provide a similar level of security or compliance.

3. Manage Costs

Depending on the volume of data you need to migrate to the cloud, the cost of this process can vary. Once the migration is complete, you will also need to consider the cost of training employees on the new technology. Sometimes there is a cost associated with moving data to or from the cloud, as well. Be sure to clarify all possible costs with your vendor before signing a contract.

"Things to Think About - Costs" graphic showcasing what you need to think about when going through a cloud migration

A Data-Driven Approach to Cloud Migration

4. Ensure Continuous Service

Besides the direct costs of a cloud provider, as well as paying for the subscription and training, enterprises should also consider the cost of business downtime. While your data is being migrated there will be disruption of service. Plan for ways to minimize disruption during the migration to reduce cloud migration costs.

5. Train Users

Don’t make the mistake of assuming everyone on your team will understand these changes. Not everyone will know how to use the new cloud technology. These are big changes, especially for employees that have been using on-premise servers prior to migration. Being extra transparent and introducing your team to the solutions helps avoid roadblocks down the line. Consider investing in expert training to onboard your team.

Cloud data migration success stories

Two companies that successfully embarked on a transformative journey to accelerate their data migration, reporting, and machine learning capabilities are Spark NZ and Texas Mutual Insurance Company.

Spark NZ: Challenges & Results

  • Challenges: Spark NZ, New Zealand's largest digital services provider, struggled with siloed and scattered data across their operations. Despite having a highly skilled team, analysts and engineers spent significant time searching for data rather than leveraging it for decision-making. Spark NZ aimed to become more data-driven and improve its data governance as it prepared for a cloud migration.

  • Results: With Alation's support, Spark NZ's data experts can quickly find and analyze Snowflake data, leading to faster reporting and strategic decision-making. The company expedited its cloud migration and enhanced data trust, resulting in a 30% reduction in delivery time for Power BI dashboards. Spark NZ's investment in machine learning also paid off, as it increased mobile revenue by 9% in FY23.

You can dive deeper into the details by exploring our Spark NZ Customer Case Study.

Texas Mutual Insurance Company: Challenges & Results

  • Challenges: As the largest workers' compensation insurance company in Texas, Texas Mutual aimed to improve worker safety by leveraging data insights. However, their complex data landscape, siloed data warehouses, and lack of data governance hindered their efforts. The absence of trusted data caused decisions to be based on instinct rather than data, resulting in delays in report creation and data accuracy concerns.

  • Results: Alation empowered Texas Mutual to make data-driven decisions 80% faster, enabling senior executives to deploy capital more efficiently. By adopting Alation Cloud Service, the company reduced administration, maintenance, and resources needed for data governance. The transition to the cloud version of Alation was seamless and significantly improved the company's data management processes.

You can dive deeper into the details by exploring our Texas Mutual Insurance Company Case Study.

These success stories from Spark NZ and Texas Mutual illustrate the transformative power of effective data migration and governance, resulting in faster decision-making, improved data trust, and enhanced business agility. Through their partnership with Alation, both companies are well-positioned to thrive in the data-driven digital era.

Choosing a Cloud Service Provider

Planning your cloud migration strategy is crucial for success. But it’s just as important to find the right cloud provider. When it’s time to move homes, you need a trusted moving company. You don’t just pick at random! You find movers that have a lot of experience, the proper equipment, and good reviews.

A moving truck with the driver and passenger smiling

RODNAE ProductionsPexels

The same is true for your cloud migration process. Choose a provider you trust to handle your data wisely because cloud migration can be risky. The vendor you choose will be entrusted with vital business data. Make sure your chosen cloud provider is experienced, with a plan for any internal data infrastructure issues. They should offer support of various cloud environments, and bring tools that simplify the process.

Vendor Flexibility

Vendor flexibility describes the nature of the contract with your cloud provider. Ideally, you should have flexibility to move to another cloud provider, if needed. Keep in mind that the tools and applications you use are not limited to the provider you choose, and, in fact, you have the ability to use similar tools and applications on a different cloud provider.

When choosing a vendor for cloud migration, be certain that there is no lock-in. Clearly communicate your cloud objectives and make sure your provider can help you achieve them. Keep in mind: some cloud service providers have service-level agreements that may stipulate a process should you seek to discontinue services.

Are you planning your Cloud migration?

Cloud migration is a complicated and time-consuming process, but it can be done well and with an exceptional ROI if you plan accordingly. As you devise your cloud migration strategy, be sure to consider cost, security, training, and vendor flexibility. The Alation data catalog provides visibility and understanding of your data environment, highlighting the best data to migrate and streamlining the process.

Are you planning your cloud migration? Learn how to lead cloud migration with success in the webinar, A Data-Driven Approach to Cloud Migration. You can also explore the full cloud transformation process in more detail, and see real-world examples for how Alation supports cloud data management.

Ready to take control of your data CTA banner

  • What is Cloud data migration?
  • Why is migration to the Cloud important?
  • Benefits of migrating data to the Cloud
  • What are the 7 types of Cloud migration?
  • Data Cloud Migration Challenges and Solutions
  • Why are companies moving into the cloud?
  • A checklist for crafting your Cloud migration strategy
  • Cloud data migration success stories
  • Choosing a Cloud Service Provider
  • Are you planning your Cloud migration?


Tagged with