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What is lift and shift and what are the pros and cons of this migration strategy?

Many organizations still have a lot of legacy software. Legacy is the term for outdated computer systems, applications or software programs that are still in use and often complicate or downright block innovation and digital transformation. Being stuck with a high number of legacy systems often leads to high maintenance costs, security risks, compliance problems, and trouble with the integration of newer technology.

There are several ways to solve the legacy problem. Proven options are:

  • Move and improve: you move applications from an on-premises to a cloud environment, making only minor changes in the code base.
  • Modernize: when you choose this option, you optimize an application or system for cloud compatibility and better performance.
  • Rearchitecting involves the complete remodeling of an application and the underlying business logic to refine its design model, database utilization, and coding techniques.
  • Lift and shift: moving an application from an on-premises environment to the cloud without redesigning the app.

This blog article will focus on lift and shift. What does it entail? What are the pros and cons of lift and shift compared to the other migration or redesignment options? And what are the important things that you have to consider if you opt for lift and shift? Read on to find out!

What is lift and shift?

In the lift-and-shift approach to cloud migration, applications, systems, workloads, and data are moved from on-premises to the cloud with little or no changes. Resources hosted in the data center are copied and directly “lifted” from your on-premises infrastructure and subsequently shifted to a single cloud, hybrid cloud or multicloud. The fact that applications are not or barely changed (redesigning certain legacy applications to become cloud-native is often not possible) sets lift and shift apart from refactoring and replatforming.

The benefits of lift and shift

In the early days of cloud computing, lift and shift was a very common approach, also because there weren’t a lot of alternatives available. Although the latter is no longer the case in today’s IT landscape, the lift-and-shift methodology still offers a number of benefits.

First of all, lift and shift is the most lightweight cloud (data) migration option. The method doesn’t require major application and architectural changes. This allows you to avoid the overhead typically associated with the refactoring of applications. You also don’t have to make major changes in any application business processes.

Lift and shift also allows you to work around the often complex process of setting up virtual machines (VMs) in the cloud, since the method simplifies the process by directly migrating workloads of special hardware to dedicated VMs in the cloud with similar capabilities. Lift and shift also enables you to migrate services in an easy and fast manner, allowing you to meet short migration deadlines and complete the migration process against relatively low costs. The simplicity of the lift-and-shift migration approach also lowers the risk of data migration disruptions and loopholes.

Because lifting and shifting means you don’t have to make changes to the application, it can offer cost savings to your business. Copying and moving an application to the cloud requires less technical involvement (and thus less labor) than other migration methods. The lift-and-shift migration process also provides a simple security and compliance management process. You can directly map the requirements to the controls you want to implement in storage, network and compute resources.

The cons of lift and shift

The aforementioned benefits don’t necessarily mean that lift and shift is the ideal migration strategy for every company. Lift and shift is a double-edged sword that also has a number of potential cons and drawbacks.

For example, lifting and shifting an application typically doesn’t provide all the advantages and functionalities of a true cloud platform. Moving applications to a completely new environment without any change can also lead to performance and latency issues in the cloud version of a legacy application.


Lift and shift also calls for meticulous preparation and proper documentation. If an organization fails to accurately translate the application requirements to the corresponding features on the cloud and doesn’t adequately document the requirements and operational design of the application, lift and shift is destined to fail.

You should also keep in mind that when you lift and shift an application to the cloud as is and don’t examine it for weaknesses beforehand, you also move any unaddressed or unknown faults or vulnerabilities it may have. Once in the cloud, such weaknesses could become significant security risks.


There are a couple of things you should keep in consideration when you’re planning to opt for a lift-and-shift approach.

  • Before lifting and shifting, compliance is an important factor. Does the combination of the new environment and existing application meet all of your compliance requirements?
  • Costs and licenses. An example are certain Oracle licenses that cost twice as much in AWS or Azure than on-premises.
  • Determine the compute, storage and network requirements of the application. They should be mapped from what is currently available in source infrastructure and translated to the matching resources in the cloud environment.
  • Consider the lifespan of the application that you want to lift and shift. Are you planning to phase out the application in the near future or are you set on using the application long term?

Don’t start without a good assessment and migration strategy!

Although lift and shift isn’t as technically challenging as remodeling or refactoring, it’s still a complex operation that requires a good IT assessment and migration strategy. You need a thorough outlook on your present-day IT and application landscape, but also a clear view on future app requirements in the cloud.

Devising a good migration plan can be a challenging task, especially if IT is not your core business. Techspire possesses the knowledge and experience to help you manage this operation. Quickly, smoothly and without compromising business continuity! Would you like to find out more? Give us a call at +31 (0)85 06 07 656, send an email to or fill out the contact form on our website, and we’ll get back to you.