Due to rapid advancements in cloud technology, enterprises can now innovate and modernize dramatically faster in the cloud than they can on premises. The big question is no longer if an organization should move to the cloud, but how they should do it.

As this guide will demonstrate, the correct answer to that question will only come with diligent and thorough preparation and planning. As Benjamin Franklin would wittily advise, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” This guide aims to help you avoid that mistake by providing the information you need to build your cloud migration plan with a rock-solid foundation. 

Cloud Migration Overview

Cloud migration is a complex process that requires many careful decisions. This guide walks you through the most critical considerations and common pitfalls that should be incorporated into your plan.

You’ll learn what a cloud migration strategy is and all of its key elements. We’ll introduce you to Amazon’s 6 R’s of migration strategy, which lay out the most common methods of migrating data, applications, and architecture from on premises to the cloud. We’ll explain both the key benefits and the toughest challenges of the cloud. We’ll share a step-by-step process for your migration along with best practices. And we’ll also share cloud migration success stories and additional resources to help you explore further on your own.

What Is a Cloud Migration Strategy?

A cloud migration strategy is a plan for moving an organization’s IT systems, applications, data, and workloads from an on-premises environment to a cloud computing environment. The goal of the cloud migration strategy is to ensure a smooth and successful transition to the cloud while minimizing disruption to the business and avoiding data loss or security breaches.

Cloud migration strategies often include a combination of both hybrid cloud and multicloud strategies:

Hybrid cloud combines both public and private clouds into a single integrated infrastructure. This setup is typically used to keep sensitive data and workloads in a private cloud for security and compliance, while the public cloud is used for nonsensitive workloads and for applications that need to be scaled up quickly. The private and public clouds are connected, allowing data and application portability between the two environments.

Multicloud is when an organization uses multiple cloud services from different cloud providers to run their workloads and applications. The top three cloud providers are Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP), who together dominate two-thirds of the cloud market. The goal of a multicloud strategy is to avoid vendor lock-in and to take advantage of the different strengths of each cloud provider.

A cloud migration strategy typically includes the following elements:

Assessment: An evaluation of the current IT infrastructure, applications, and data to determine which systems and workloads are suitable for migration to the cloud.

Planning: A plan for the migration, including the timeline, budget, and resources required.

Preparation: Preparing the systems, applications, and data for migration, including data backup and recovery, security measures, and performance tuning.

Migration: The actual process of moving systems, applications, and data to the cloud, including testing and validation.

Integration: Integrating the cloud environment with existing systems and applications, including security measures and data management.

Optimization: Fine-tuning the cloud environment for performance, scalability, and cost-effectiveness.

Maintenance: Ongoing management and maintenance of the cloud environment, including monitoring and updating systems and applications as needed.

A well-designed cloud migration strategy is critical to the success of a cloud migration project because it paves the way for a smooth transition and ensures that the benefits of cloud computing are realized quickly and efficiently.

6 R’s of Migration Strategy vs. 5 R’s of Migration Strategy (Amazon vs. Gartner)

Transitioning to the cloud can be a complex process with numerous decisions that determine the level of success and how quickly it’s achieved. To help IT teams choose the right path for their organizations, Amazon introduced its popular 6 R’s of cloud migration (rehost, replatform, repurchase, refactor, retire, retain), which have become the gold standard for organizing a cloud migration framework.

Amazon built its 6 R’s off of Gartner’s 5 R’s of migration (rehost, refactor, revise, rebuild, replace), which were published in 2010. Amazon’s 6 R’s, first shared six years later, were intended as a timely update for a cloud ecosystem that had seen rapid and continuous change. Over those six years, the cloud computing and hosting market more than tripled in size while cloud technologies and related technologies significantly evolved and expanded. As the world’s largest cloud service provider during that time, Amazon had gained a wealth of unmatched cloud migration knowledge based on its customers’ experiences.

6 R’s of Cloud Migration

These 6 R’s of migration provide a framework for organizations to consider as they move their applications and infrastructure to the cloud. The right migration strategy depends on the specific needs and requirements of the organization as well as the nature of the applications they’re migrating. Each application must be assessed individually. In most cases, an organization will need to combine two or more of the following strategies to get the best results for each application and for the overall success of their migration.


Rehost (also known as “lift-and-shift”) is the simplest and quickest migration option. Existing applications are moved to the cloud as they are, without making any changes. Amazon found that applications are easier to optimize and re-architect once they’re already in the cloud. They also found that rehosting often allows an organization to cut costs even without cloud optimization.


Replatform (also known as “lift-tinker-and-shift”) is when you take advantage of cloud-native services by optimizing an application without changing its core architecture. Replatforming also includes migrating applications to a Database-as-a-Service (DBaaS) or a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS).


Repurchase is when you replace an existing business software with a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). Online software has become the norm, with companies reporting that 70% or more of the business apps they use are SaaS based.


Refactor is a more involved migration option where an application is redesigned to take full advantage of cloud services. Refactoring may be a necessary choice if an application’s existing environment doesn’t reasonably support critical features, scale, or performance that can be more easily supported in the cloud.


Retire is the process of eliminating old, unused applications and infrastructure. In the context of migration to the cloud, it means decommissioning on-premises servers and other hardware that is no longer needed.


Retain means to keep an application on premises. This isn’t a permanent decision, but instead should be revisited over time. Reasons to keep an application on premises include that it works well as is, that its data must be kept on premises to meet compliance requirements, or that its legacy systems are incompatible with the cloud.

You can explore Amazon’s 6 R’s in more depth here. It’s also worth noting that Amazon has an expanded version with 7 R’s to include migration to virtual private clouds (VPC). 

What Are the Benefits of Migrating to the Cloud?

If your cloud migration is well planned and well executed, you can expect numerous improvements compared to hosting your hardware and software on premises. The most common benefits of cloud migration include:

Scalability: Cloud computing provides the ability to easily scale up or down based on demand without significant capital expenditures.

Cost savings: Moving to the cloud can reduce the costs associated with purchasing, maintaining, and upgrading hardware and software. Many cloud providers offer a pay-as-you-go pricing model, so you only pay for what you use.

Flexibility: Cloud computing provides a flexible and agile computing environment that can easily adapt to changing business needs.

Improved security: Many cloud providers offer robust security measures, including firewalls, encryption, and access controls, that can help protect your data and systems.

Disaster recovery: Cloud computing provides built-in disaster recovery capabilities to quickly recover from outages or other disruptions without the need for expensive disaster recovery hardware and software.

Availability: Cloud computing provides access to your data and systems from anywhere with an internet connection, making your applications more available globally when they’re running in the cloud.

Innovation: Cloud providers continually invest in their platforms to provide the latest features and capabilities, so moving to the cloud allows you to take advantage of the latest technologies and innovations immediately.

The benefits and costs of migrating can vary significantly based on your organization’s specific needs, requirements, and existing technologies, as well as the migration strategy you choose to follow. As with any major technology transition, you must anticipate and plan ahead for challenges along the way.

Challenges of Cloud Migration

To avoid or overcome the most common challenges of cloud migration, you need to understand both why delays or failures happen and how those delays or failures manifest themselves. Think of the why as your institutional and process challenges and the how as your technology challenges.

First, the institutional and process challenges:

Insufficient planning: One of the biggest reasons for cloud migration failure is insufficient planning. A recent survey found that 59% of the delays in AWS cloud migrations were due to poor planning ahead of time. It’s crucial to develop a comprehensive plan that outlines your migration process, the resources required, and the potential risks. Be certain your plan includes adequate budget, adequate time, and adequate testing.

Lack of expertise: Migrating to the cloud requires specific skills and expertise. If your organization doesn’t have the necessary skills in-house, you should engage the services of a cloud migration expert or consulting firm early in your planning process. Unforeseen technical challenges, such as compatibility issues between your existing systems and the cloud environment, can lead to crippling setbacks.

Poor communication or resistance to change: Communication and consensus are essential during the migration process. Poor communication between teams can result in mistakes, misunderstandings, and inconsistencies that create major delays and roadblocks.

Technology-related issues occur most commonly in these areas:

Security: One of the main concerns for many organizations when moving to the cloud is security. Companies must ensure that their data and applications are secure in the cloud and that their data is protected from cyberattacks.

Cost: Moving to the cloud can be expensive, especially if you have a large volume of data and many applications to migrate. The costs associated with cloud migration can include the cost of cloud infrastructure, migration services, and ongoing cloud services.

Complexity: Cloud migration can be a complex process that takes a lot of time to properly plan and execute. The complexity of the migration can also make it difficult to predict the outcome and timeline.

Integration: Integrating cloud services with existing systems and applications can be a challenge. This can include ensuring compatibility between different systems and ensuring that data is properly synced between the cloud and on-premises systems.

Performance: Applications and systems may perform differently in the cloud compared to on premises, which can impact the user experience. Organizations need to be aware of the potential performance impacts and plan accordingly.

Loss of control: Moving to the cloud can mean that organizations have less control over their infrastructure and data, which may be a concern in some instances.

Compliance: Organizations need to ensure that they are compliant with regulations such as GDPR and HIPAA when using cloud services.

Cloud Migration Process

You can avoid the most common, most debilitating, and costliest pitfalls of cloud migration by using the following step-by-step list to prepare and execute your plan. At each step, refer back to the institutional, process, and technical challenges listed above to make sure you’ve fully addressed them at every stage of your migration.

Assessment: Evaluate your current IT infrastructure, applications, and data to determine which systems and workloads are suitable for migration to the cloud. Identify any dependencies, security requirements, and compliance considerations.

Planning: Develop a detailed migration plan, including the timeline, budget, and resources required. Consider the most appropriate migration method (the 6 R’s) for each system and workload.

Preparation: Back up all data and systems to ensure that the migration can be easily rolled back in case of issues. Review and update security measures to ensure that data is protected throughout the migration process.

Migration: Following your plan, begin the migration of systems and workloads to the cloud. Test the systems and applications in the cloud environment to ensure they’re functioning as expected.

Integration: Integrate the cloud environment with existing systems and applications, including security measures and data management. Ensure that data is flowing smoothly between systems and that any dependencies are resolved.

Optimization: Optimize the cloud environment for performance, scalability, and cost-effectiveness. Monitor the systems and applications in the cloud to ensure they’re running smoothly.

Maintenance: Establish ongoing management and maintenance processes for the cloud environment, including monitoring and updating systems and applications as needed. Ensure that security measures are up to date and that data is being backed up regularly.

Migrating Data to the Cloud with Couchbase Capella

Couchbase is a distributed NoSQL cloud database that delivers unmatched versatility, performance, scalability, and financial value for all cloud, mobile, edge, and on-premises computing applications. Our flexible cloud database platform Couchbase Capella™ DBaaS enables organizations to quickly and affordably build always-on apps that deliver premium experiences to their customers. Capella is supported on AWS, Azure, and GCP, making it an ideal fit for hybrid and multicloud strategies.

Because Couchbase is cloud native, highly scalable, and highly flexible, it’s the perfect fit for cloud migration, especially in the case of a replatform or refactor cloud migration.

Traditional relational databases are typically not ideal for a cloud migration or cloud environment for two key reasons. First, they’re notoriously difficult to scale. Second, they’re often too rigid for modern applications because their data model is fixed and defined by a static schema. Capella, on the other hand, is a distributed NoSQL database that stores data as JSON documents. As a result, Capella is much more scalable because it takes full advantage of cloud elasticity and can grow horizontally with the needs of your workloads. It’s also much more flexible, allowing you to quickly evolve your data structures to meet the demands of your applications.

Capella also supports SQL and relational constructs such as ACID transactions, schemas, and tables, which makes it easier to migrate from a relational database to Capella in the cloud. Once your data is in the cloud, Capella makes it simple to take advantage of a NoSQL database’s superior performance and flexibility.

Cloud Migration Success Stories

More than 30% of the Fortune 100 trust Couchbase to power their modern applications. Here are a few examples of how customers have migrated to Couchbase in the cloud to modernize their apps and improve scalability, performance, reliability, and development flexibility:

PepsiCo began their modernization journey by moving their solutions to the cloud where they use Couchbase to achieve faster development times. In this video discussion and this blog post, one of PepsiCo’s principal architects shares his thoughts about modern technology trends and the role of cloud architecture.

Cinesite is the award-winning visual effects and animation studio behind hundreds of blockbuster movies and series like Wakanda Forever and The Witcher. This press release explains how Couchbase was the only cloud platform that met Cinesite’s full demands for replication, scalability, performance, and reliability in the cloud.

MOLO17 provides customers with real-time data access for their enterprise applications, and Netropolix helps clients optimize their technology and infrastructure. Watch this lively roundtable discussion to learn how these two companies are using Capella to build state-of-the-art apps for their customers.

Cloud Migration Next Steps and Resources 

By following proven best practices, you can ensure a successful migration to the cloud. And by continuously evaluating and refining your cloud strategy over time, you’ll ensure that it remains aligned with your changing business needs. Follow these eight steps to stay on track throughout your cloud migration journey:

    1. Plan ahead: Carefully plan your migration to the cloud, including defining your goals, budget, and timeline, and identifying any potential risks or challenges.
    2. Engage experts: Consider engaging the services of a cloud expert or consulting firm to assist with planning, migrating, and managing your cloud environment.
    3. Evaluate your workloads: Evaluate your workloads to determine which are suitable for migration to the cloud, and which should remain on premises.
    4. Choose the right cloud provider: Choose a cloud provider that meets your specific needs and requirements, and has a proven track record of reliability and security.
    5. Use a phased approach: Consider using a phased approach to migrating to the cloud, starting with noncritical workloads and gradually moving to more critical workloads.
    6. Test, test, test: Thoroughly test your applications and systems in the cloud environment to ensure that they’re functioning as expected, and to identify any potential issues.
    7. Secure your data: Ensure that your data is secure in the cloud by implementing appropriate security measures such as encryption, access controls, and backup and disaster recovery processes.
    8. Monitor and optimize: Monitor your cloud environment to ensure that it’s running efficiently and optimally, and make any necessary adjustments to improve performance and reduce costs.

Cloud Migration Resources

What Is Cloud Migration? What It Is and How the Process Works

Why migrate to the cloud? What are the key benefits of cloud migration? What types of cloud migration are there? What are the challenges you face when migrating to the cloud? What are the key database considerations for cloud migration? Dig deeper into the whys and hows of cloud migration and explore additional resources.

Learn more: What Is Cloud Migration?

How to Migrate From Couchbase Server to Couchbase Capella

If you’re running a self-managed Couchbase Server implementation, your team is probably responsible for handling database maintenance tasks that take time away from developing your applications. You can get that time back by migrating to the fully managed Couchbase Capella DBaaS. Here are the steps for migrating data and indexes to Capella from Couchbase Server clusters running on premises or in the cloud.

Read the blog: How to Migrate From Couchbase Server to Couchbase Capella

Your Guide to the Cloud: Migrating from Couchbase Server to Couchbase Capella on AWS

If you’re running a Couchbase Server deployment, you can easily migrate to Couchbase Capella on AWS and instantly gain the scale and efficiency of a managed cloud service model while offloading the work of installations, upgrades, and general database infrastructure maintenance.

Read the blog: Migrating From Couchbase Server to Couchbase Capella on AWS

Couchbase Migration Services

Data is one of your key operational assets, but you can’t realize its full value if it’s trapped in an outdated system. If you’re ready to move your data but need additional skills or resources, Couchbase Professional Services can advise and support you through your migration process.

Read the datasheet: Couchbase Migration Services

How Scopes & Collections Simplify Multi-Tenant App Deployments on Couchbase

Scopes and collections are features of Couchbase Server that allow you to organize data within Couchbase logically. (Think of them as more flexible versions of schemas and tables.) You should take advantage of scopes and collections if you want to map your legacy RDBMS to a document database or if you’re trying to consolidate hundreds of microservices and/or tenants into a single Couchbase cluster for a much lower TCO.

Read the blog: How Scopes & Collections Simplify Multi-Tenant App Deployments on Couchbase

Migrate or Offload Legacy Systems With Application Modernization

Legacy databases provide a powerful query structure, but they can’t deliver the flexibility, speed, reliability, availability, and scale of a NoSQL database. With Couchbase, you get the best of both worlds together in a single database. Follow our three-step process to migrate your legacy database solution to Couchbase.

Learn more: Migrate or Offload Legacy Systems With Application Modernization 

Couchbase Capella DBaaS

Capella is Couchbase’s fully managed cloud database platform for modern applications, including mobile and IoT application services. It’s the easiest and fastest way to begin with Couchbase and to eliminate ongoing database management efforts.

Try it for free: Couchbase Capella DBaaS 

Nexon: Achieving Faster Time to Market With Couchbase Capella

Nexon, a global leader in virtual world games and massively multiplayer online role-playing games, uses Capella DBaaS for greater developer agility and high scalability. Capella’s high availability and distributed memory-first architecture delivers a consistent performance experience for players as game adoption grows.

Read the Nexon customer story: Achieving Faster Time to Market With Couchbase Capella

Facet Digital: Building Blazing-Fast Apps That Maximize Return on Spend

Facet Digital is a full-service agency that designs, develops, launches, and scales business-critical web, mobile, and desktop applications. Facet Digital’s clients are focused on cost, performance, and security, and Capella was the only DBaaS that checked all three boxes.

Read the Facet Digital customer story: Building Blazing-Fast Apps That Maximize Return on Spend


Posted by Couchbase Product Marketing

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