How to pick a project for your first public cloud migration

It's like learning a new sport: Start simple to reduce the risks of failure

When I deal with enterprises these days, the prevailing question is no longer if they'll use public clouds but what to move first.

The answer depends on many aspects of your own enterprise, including systemic problems you may have with data, processes, or complete applications. Moreover, the value you place on specific systems is a major factor. Finally, there are security, governance, and compliance issues enterprises must handle.

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To be clear, I'm talking about moving data, processes, or a complete system, not standing up a new system in the cloud. Migrating from existing on-premise platforms to a cloud-based platform is much more difficult and risky, but it can provide the most value. It's important to wisely pick your first project for migration. Here are my guidelines for doing so:

  • Pick a system and/or collection of data that has very low visibility in the enterprise. You should pick a system that won't sink the business if it's taken out of service for small periods of time. An example might be factory maintenance data management. Keep in mind that you'll commit at least six mistakes in your first cloud migration, so you should make sure they're low-impact errors.
  • Pick a system and/or collection of data that has very low security requirements. The data should come with few or no compliance issues, and the security models should be simplistic. This does not mean that cloud computing is unsecure, but when you start with a low-security project, you have fewer details to keep in check.
  • Pick a system and/or collection of data that is less complex and small. Cloud migrations usually fail not due to issues with cloud computing but with the system being migrated -- often, it's too big and complex. Keep in mind that changes have to be made when localizing the system on the public cloud; the greater the system's complexity, the more such changes are needed, thus increasing the potential for mistakes and ultimately failure. By starting small, you reduce the opportunity for those mistakes during that learning period and, as a result, increase the likelihood of success.

Perhaps it's best to consider cloud computing as a sport you're trying for the first time. For example, in the world of skiing, the smartest athletes start on the bunny slopes. There might be more fame and glory on the double-black diamond trails, but the odds of crossing the finish line intact are minimal your first time on those trails. Start out slow, and prepare for a very long journey.

This article, "How to pick a project for your first public cloud migration," originally appeared at Read more of David Linthicum's Cloud Computing blog and track the latest developments in cloud computing at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.