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Commit to the cloud: A practical guide


Josie Adams


May 6, 2024


Cloud Basics

read time

5 mins

A smart-looking older man with glasses stares proudly, surrounded by logos for cloud service providers: GCP, AWS, IBM and Alibaba.

So you want to know how to migrate to the cloud: how long does it take? How much does it cost? Who can help? Our latest cloud explainer has the answers.

 How to migrate

  • 1. Face your cloud fears

  • 2. Choose a cloud migration strategy

  • 3. Realize how long a cloud migration takes

  • 4. Choose a cloud service provider

  • 5. Commit

  • 1. Face your cloud fears
  • 2. Choose a cloud migration strategy
  • 3. Realize how long a cloud migration takes
  • 4. Choose a cloud service provider
  • 5. Commit

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You know about the cloud. You’ve dipped your toe in with Google Workspace or OneDrive. Maybe you’re using a couple of cloud-based tools, like Slack or Asana.

But you haven’t committed. You’re still keeping some processes on-site: maybe you’re storing all your archives and backups in local servers or – horror of horrors – an ancient file storage unit. You might be using an in-house email server, or chaining your staff to desktop computers.

You know about the cloud. But you don’t know how much trouble the ground is causing you.

With one foot on the ground and one in the cloud, you’re spread wide-legged across a patchwork of local tools and cloud-based apps. Even though you have documents in cyberspace, primed for real-time collaboration, you’re downloading them and attaching to email.

You know what to do, you just don’t know how. We can help. Navigate our practical guide to cloud migration using the menu below.

Face your cloud fears


Moving your precious data into someone else’s house is hard to do. How can you trust what happens to it?

You can trust them more than you can trust yourself. Big cloud providers like Google and Amazon invest heavily in world-leading security measures.


If your business is in someone else’s hands, how will they use it? Well, they won’t. They’re basically a landlord; they can raise rent, but you have full control over the furniture you use, the food you cook and the people you have over. 

And heck, if they do raise rent you can move. There are several fantastic cloud providers out there, all excited to give you home.


You might be in a tightly-regulated industry, like finance or government. You need to know the ins-and-outs of your IT processes so you can be sure they comply with requirements.

Thankfully, most cloud providers put their compliances on the tin. It’s easy to check they live up to your standards; and many will have specifically-designed solutions for your industry. 


Moving to the cloud can be expensive. But in the long run, how much is staying on the ground going to cost you?

Choose a cloud migration strategy

Cloud migration is confusing. Do you build from scratch? Reorganize your tech stack? Give up and start printing again?

The answer is different for everyone. The best place to start is to figure out what type of migration you’re after:

Rehost migration

This type of cloud migration is also called “lift and shit”. It’s the simplest type of migration in that it’s effectively lifting and shifting your local stuff into the cloud. No changes to the code; just picking up your existing apps and data and putting them down somewhere else.

It works best for newer or smaller companies without much to move, or many processes to get jumbled in the shift. This is the major drawback; if you haven’t built for the cloud, some of your processes may not translate well. You could be fixing bugs for a while post-shift.

Refactor migration

This is changing – refactoring – your apps to take advantage of the cloud. It’s the opposite of lift and shift. You’re rewriting the core architecture of your applications to take advantage of the cloud.

Refactoring is the most time-intensive migration type, but it could be worth it in the long run as you can be sure your cloud system will run smoothly. One word of warning: when you rewrite for a specific cloud provider, you could lock yourself into it. 

Rearchitect migration

This migration style goes further than refactoring; it’s a total ground-up rebuild of your company. If your processes are out of date anyway, or you’re thinking of pivoting, this is a good option. 

Replatform migration

This is a compromise between refactoring and rehosting. It means lifting your data and apps and making a few little tweaks before putting them down in your new cloud platform.

It’s a good option for companies not quite ready for massive scaling; you’re in the cloud, but you haven’t overhauled your entire system. If you’re afraid of commitment, this could be your best option.

Realize how long a cloud migration takes

OK, bad news first: it could take up to five years. 

Good news: it could take just one month!

Time estimates will vary based on:

  • your company’s resources. For example, if you have 10 employees working on the migration vs 100, or if you're using a migration service; basically, how how much money you're able to throw at the problem.
  • the cloud migration type you choose. Rehosting, for example, will have a quick roadmap compared to rearchitecture.
  • how much you’re moving. If you’re just shifting your data storage and leaving your applications on the ground, you could save some time. Small-scale migration projects can take just a few weeks. On the other hand, large enterprises may need to dedicate years to navigating all the steps on their journey.

Choose a cloud service provider

There are plenty of cloud providers out there, but what differentiates them? Here are our top four picks:

Amazon Web Services is the most popular cloud provider in the world, and for good reason: its key focuses are security and scalability. You want to grow in the safest environment possible? AWS could be a good call.

AWS charges on a pay-as-you-go model that prices itself based on your company’s current resources. Use its cost estimate calculator to get a rough idea of what you’ll pay.

Google Cloud Platform is another major player, known for combining its fantastic cloud storage services with innovative data analytics and machine learning services. It’s the tech guy’s tech of choice. It’s also familiar and intuitive to set up if you’re already familiar with Google’s other products.

It’s relatively cheap compared to AWS, and provides new users with $300 in credit. It uses a pay-as-you-use model, so you don’t pay for more than you need. Use GCP’s pricing calculator to get a rough estimate of what you’re looking at.

Alibaba Cloud is the leading cloud service provider in China, and it’s rapidly expanding outwards. This provider offers a wide range of services encompassing most of what AWS and GCP offer, but it is considered less user-friendly. 

Use Alibaba Cloud’s pricing calculator to check what it will cost you.

IBM is a tech ancient. It’s been around since 1911 and has created business machines since day one. But age hasn’t slowed it down – IBM Cloud is a leading provider because it’s seen every industry under the sun. In particular, it’s a leading provider for hybrid solutions; if you want to keep some data private, IBM can do it.


When you choose a cloud migration strategy, stick to it. You can always come back down to the ground. But right now, having a foot in each camp is slowing you down. Stop unlinking OneDrive and start committing to the cloud.

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