Public cloud is a readily available answer to IT challenges, but there’s a real need to temper the ease of spinning up public cloud solutions with a gut-check on your readiness to execute a successful migration.

Migration readiness often starts with a reluctance to repeat past mistakes. Many cloud 1.0 adopters have war stories they’d rather not rehash with cloud 2.0. That’s because public cloud efficiencies have become an undeniable draw for business managers who rely on technology but don’t want to manage IT.

Unfortunately, too many organizations signed up for the promise of cloud 1.0 without reading the fine print about fully-burdened costs. The reality is that the intricacies of consumption-based pricing (standard storage rates, retrieval rates, and uploads rates) complicate the basic budgeting question “How much do we need to budget for storage?” Cloud can be very expensive if teams don’t do their due diligence to understand migration factors.

For this and other reasons, infrastructure and operations (I&O) teams are leery to ramp up public cloud spend without first ramping down or re-purposing on-premises (on-prem) equivalents.

Of course, organizations migrate to the public cloud for good reasons: financial and operational agility, scale, avoiding distractions from an organization’s core competencies, and more. These reasons can be validated with a robust analysis of the total cost of cloud migration. Teams must trade-off the expected savings from a public cloud migration against the costs of doing the migration itself.

Cloud migration is an incremental process. Fingers—and bridges—get burned when CIOs and IT leadership do not identify and communicate migration strategies to the business, including how (and why) prioritization is key to success. 

Use these 5 steps to help prioritize your cloud migration strategy:

5 priorities for a cloud migration strategy_emerge1. Define your migration roadmap and prioritization around inflection points.

You face forks in the road when it comes to evaluating and renewing on-prem platform and infrastructure investments. When assets reach the end of their life, there is a sweet spot between the completed depreciation schedule (no more hit to OpEx) and no significant performance degradation driving up support costs. It’s not a permanent state, but this opens a window of opportunity to make a change and may be an optimal time to move to public cloud.

A data center lease that comes up for renewal, scheduled tech refreshes, dev/test workloads that need more elastic capacity, and fully depreciated assets reaching end of life are all points of inflection to adopt public cloud.

2. Limit your duplicate capacity footprint.

There may be organizational pushback to execute a cloud migration strategy if you are already committed to on-prem spend. The arguments for public cloud (and those arguments were won years ago) easily get derailed if you are signing up for redundant capacity.

A full cloud migration needs redundancy during a transition (for disaster and recovery alone). But once migration is complete, organizations must make a decision about remaining on-prem infrastructure and platform footprints—be it to switch them off, decommission them, or repurpose and optimize them until they reach their end of life.

3. Prioritize virtualized infrastructure migration.

An existing virtualized solution simplifies the transition to cloud. VMWare vSphere is available with VMWare Cloud on AWS—with extension capabilities to an existing virtualized footprint.

Connectors like these ease the adoption of public cloud by extending direct hybrid support and reducing the challenges of change management challenges. If you have virtualized infrastructure in place, you can execute that part of the cloud migration strategy more efficiently than attempting a total lift-and-shift of applications.

4. Identify on-prem infrastructure and platform spend already committed.

The cost savings from public cloud are undercut if you have already committed to expanding on-prem capacity. In-flight projects on infrastructure or platform capacity need to be evaluated for scope, deliverables, and projected success before you build a business case for your cloud migration strategy.

5. Define excess capacity. 

Industries with seasonal demand (e.g., retail) build on-prem infrastructure and platform capacity to satisfy peak demand—leaving excess capacity dormant for the rest of the year. This scenario is tailor-made for public cloud adoption.

Even if you use on-prem infrastructure and platform resources for normal capacity, surges in usage are better served by the pay-as-you-go option of public cloud. These bursts of usage need to be quantified prior to public cloud adoption. By defining on-prem excess capacity (and the time it’s used), organizations can include peak utilization costs into the TCO of public cloud services.

Today, organizations are using lessons learned from their own cloud 1.0 adoption and the experience of their industry peers to develop a robust cloud migration strategy. Cloud migration has to be incremental and (for the good of everyone) prioritized, allowing IT leadership to build credibility with quick wins and effective change management.

»Read next: An economic framework for cloud migration by Josh Heller

Ready to take the next step? Download the Cloud migration TCO analysis cheat sheet to ensure you're calculating an accurate TCO for cloud.