Lift-and-shift cloud migration: Pros and cons

Cloud migration is catching on like wildfire. What was once considered to be the strategy of some of the largest companies in the world is now being adopted by small and medium enterprises as well, thanks in part to the lowered costs of migration and the increased benefits that come with this move. According to market research, the cloud migration services market was valued at $119.13 billion in 2020 and this is expected to hit $448.34 billion by 2026, at an average annual growth rate of 28.89 percent. These numbers clearly show that companies are moving to the cloud to leverage their benefits, but at the same time, not all of them follow the same migration strategy. Some of them prefer to outsource this migration to specialist companies, while others use their in-house resources. This article will talk about a cloud migration strategy called lift-and-shift, its pros and cons, and who it is for.

What is the lift-and-shift cloud migration?

Lift-and-shift cloud migration is a strategy where all the applications hosted on the company’s on-prem infrastructure are moved to the cloud without making any major changes to the applications or architecture. It’s as if you “lift” all the applications and “shift” them to the cloud.

Also known as rehosting, this is a well-used strategy because companies don’t have to spend time and resources to modify the application or its configuration.

Benefits of the lift-and-shift cloud migration strategy

The lift-and-shift cloud migration strategy offers a ton of benefits for the companies that wish to leverage the benefits of the cloud without spending too much time and resources in the migration process.


Here’s a look at some of its key advantages.

Minimal time

Since this migration strategy doesn’t require any major tweaks to existing applications, the entire migration process is quick. This translates to little to no downtime for applications, so end-user accessibility and workers’ productivity remain unaffected.


You don’t have to hire experts to make changes to your system, so the cost of migration is minimal. As a result, you can truly leverage the cost savings offered by the cloud.

Also, you get to move the data with the application, so there’s a higher degree of cost optimization, as the workload is less and you don’t have to move back and forth.

Minimal planning

A typical migration strategy requires weeks of planning, backups, and sending an email to all employees and customers. But with the lift-and-shift cloud migration strategy, you don’t have to do any of this. Simply move your applications from your on-premises infrastructure to the cloud, and you’re done!

That said, it’s a good idea to have a roadmap and a migration plan for granular control during the process.

Lowered risk

The chances for applications to break or malfunction are relatively less because you’re not changing any of the application’s configurations. There will be no change from a usability standpoint as well.

Many cloud providers today support this lift-and-shift migration, so your standard applications should face no problems at all.

Simple and flexible

The lift-and-shift cloud migration strategy gives a ton of flexibility, especially when you’re struggling with an ever-increasing workload. Instead of expanding the resources of your on-prem infrastructure, you can move the applications to the cloud, so there’s a chance for optimization later.

Further, you don’t have to set up virtual machines in the cloud, which is a relatively complex process.

Security and compliance

When you migrate to the cloud, you no longer have to worry about security and compliance, as these aspects are handled by the service provider. You can also map your security and compliance requirements with what’s offered by the service provider.

Thus, these are some reasons to use the lift-and-shift cloud migration strategy for moving your applications. Cost, effort, and time savings are the biggest advantages.

Drawbacks to the lift-and-shift cloud migration strategy

As with any strategy or tool, the lift-and-shift cloud migration strategy also has its downsides. Understanding these drawbacks can help you make an informed decision.

cloud migration

Less-than-optimized performance

Your applications are not built for the cloud in the first place, so when you move them using this lift-and-shift cloud migration strategy, it may not work optimally. While this doesn’t mean there will be glitches in the application, you still can’t expect the same level of performance and resource utilization as applications built natively for the cloud.

Custom applications

It’s hard to migrate legacy and custom applications built for handling specific company operations, so they may have to be hosted on-prem. The other option is to modify these applications to make them ideal for the cloud.

Regardless of which of these two options you choose, you can’t leverage the benefits of the lift-and-shift cloud migration strategy.

Refactoring can help

While the lift-and-shift cloud migration strategy doesn’t need code refactoring, sometimes, they are necessary to enhance an application’s efficiency. Migration is often seen as the perfect opportunity to refactor and clean up unwanted code to boost its efficiency, and this is missed out here.

Understanding the applications

Before embarking on the lift-and-shift cloud migration strategy, you must understand the applications and their architecture thoroughly, so you can anticipate the possible problems that can come with this migration, and provision for the same.

Depending on the application and the level of expertise available within the organization, third-party resources can be used to understand and document the applications and their migration. This can be a gamechanger if there are many troubleshooting challenges after cloud migration.

Thus, these are some of the drawbacks you must watch out for.

Should you use the lift-and-shift cloud migration strategy?

Now comes the big question, should you use the lift-and-shift cloud migration strategy?

It depends on the nature of applications, the potential cost-saving, and the availability of resources.

Limited cloud specialists

When you don’t have many cloud specialists in your organization and don’t want to hire new ones, the lift-and-shift cloud migration strategy is your best bet as the migration won’t need in-depth cloud knowledge, code refactors, and configuration changes.

Avoiding expenses and technical debt

Provisioning and maintaining on-prem infrastructure is expensive and time-consuming and requires frequent updates to the hardware. If it’s time to upgrade the on-prem hardware, and if you’re considering the cost-benefit of this investment, the lift-and-shift cloud migration strategy can come in handy to help keep down expenses and technical debt.

Also, consider moving to the cloud using this strategy when optimization is costly or impossible on-prem.

Resistance to change

If you believe there will be a high resistance to change within your organization, it makes sense to use the lift-and-shift cloud migration strategy, as there will be no change at all to the look and feel of applications.

While these are examples of situations where this strategy works well, it’s still a good idea to evaluate what it means for your organization and whether it is conducive to your operations and infrastructure. Regardless of which strategy you use, planning is critical, so have a plan in place before you embark on cloud migration.

In all, use the lift-and-shift cloud migration strategy in the above situations as it can bring about many benefits for you. In all other situations, evaluate the cost-benefit against performance and optimization before deciding if you should use this lift-and-shift cloud migration strategy.

Have you done this cloud migration? Please share your experience in the comments section for everyone’s benefit.

Featured image: Freelance Stock

1 thought on “Lift-and-shift cloud migration: Pros and cons”

  1. Thanks, Lavanya, for sharing such insightful information! Lift-and-shift is a really beneficial way of re-hosting your app to the cloud in the easiest way. We migrated one of our enterprise applications to the cloud with lift-and-shift in one week taking into consideration all operations.

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