Man holding tablet with cloud icon showing benefits, disadvantages and use cases of lift and shift cloud migration
Lift and Shift Cloud Migration: Benefits, Disadvantages and Use Cases by Gilad David Maayan, Technology Writer at Agile SEO

Lift and Shift Cloud Migration: Benefits, Disadvantages and Use Cases

The migration of enterprise applications to a public cloud enables organizations to eliminate the overhead associated with on-premises infrastructure. This includes expensive data centers with ancient equipment and different levels of support. Additionally, cloud migration helps organizations improve their security, get visibility into application traffic, and to plan a solid disaster recovery strategy.

While there are plenty of ways to migrate your workloads to cloud, the cheapest and easiest method would be the lift-and-shift migration. Lift and shift is a strategy of migrating on-premises applications directly to the cloud without redesigning. The objective is to migrate the application “as is” with little or no changes.

Lift and shift migration provides greater flexibility compared to other migration approaches and a wide range of features and services. Lift and shift is useful when you are moving applications with expensive hardware requirements or security issues. Another use case is migration of virtual machines into a pre-deployed public cloud account.

Lift and Shift Compared to Other Migration Approaches

The reasons for choosing a cloud migration method can be anything, from application compatibility, to risk management, performance, high availability requirements, and costs. To determine which approach suits your project best, you first need to consider all the different application components and how they interact with each other.

Here are a few considerations when choosing a migration strategy:

  • Lift and shift vs refactoring—refactoring migration involves complete rebuilding and refactoring of the application to fit the new cloud provider. Architecture changes are required to replace old components or develop new ones. On the other hand, lift and shift cloud migration strategy is simple and straightforward. All you have to do is to analyze your resources and cloud infrastructure.
  • Lift and shift vs SaaS migration—transitioning to a Software as a Service model means replacing components or functionalities of your existing application with a third party SaaS service. Moving to a SaaS model is challenging. Aspects like data management, access control, and security must be adapted to the constraints of the SaaS service. On the other hand, a lift and shift approach provides the same security and authentication structure that was used on-premises.

Factors to Consider Before Choosing Lift and Shift

Before choosing the lift and shift migration method, organizations should consider whether it is suitable for their business needs. Commercial applications with easily defined components are the obvious choice for lift and shift migration. Whereas resource-intensive apps that are based on big data analysis or image recognition are better suited for refactoring migration. These kind of applications can introduce major performance issues if they are directly moved to the cloud.

Furthermore, in some cases, on premisses apps may not be able to leverage the full potential of cloud-based services features like ephemeral compute and autoscaling. Only cloud-native applications can fully take advantage of cloud computing. For instance, legacy navigation apps can not utilize these features to their full extent. As a result, redesigning the app or leaving it on premise is a better choice.

5 Advantages of Lift and Shift Migration

1. No application changes

In the lift and shift approach, the application is completely rehosted to the cloud and does not require any major application changes. As a result, organizations can avoid the overhead typically associated with re-architecturing apps.

2. No architecture changes

The architecture constructs of an application remain the same after lift and shift migration. You don’t need to do major changes in any application business processes. In addition, management and monitoring interfaces remains the same.

3. Simple migration of hardware workloads

Setting up Virtual Machines (VMs) in the cloud is a complex process. Lift and shift migration simplifies it by directly migrating workloads of special hardware to dedicated VMs in the cloud with similar capabilities.

4. Migrate services easily

Organizations can leverage the lift and shift approach to move on-premises identity services components like Active Directory to the cloud as well as the application.

5. Simple security and compliance management

The lift and shift migration provides a simple security and compliance management process. You can directly map the requirements to controls they want to implement in storage, network and compute resources.

4 Disadvantages of Lift and Shift Migration

1. Does not provide the full advantages of a cloud platform

Lift and shift demands minimal effort to move on premise applications to the cloud. However it typically does not provide all the advantages of a true cloud platform.

2. Latency and performance issues

The lift and shift approach moves applications to a totally different environment without any change. As a result, on-premises and legacy projects might have latency or performance issues after migration.

3. Migration failures

The migration process is doomed to fail if organization do not accurately translate the application requirements to the corresponding features on the cloud.

4. Increased risks after migration

Proper documentation of the requirements and a good operational design are also critical. Migrating an application with any known problems may result in increased risks after migration.

Lift and Shift Case Studies

Lift-and-shift enables applications to enjoy the full benefits of the cloud, such as enhanced speed and lower cost of operation. For example, GE Oil and Gas used the Lift-and-Shift model to kick off the migration of over 500 applications to AWS in two years. As a result, they reduced costs by 30% without optimizations.

Another example is The Cordant Group, which is a leading security and facilities management company. They used the lift and shift approach to move their entire IT operations to AWS cloud. Multiple websites, client desktop services, and several SQL databases for business-critical data were successfully migrated. The migration enabled significant cost savings, provided robust backups and enterprise grade features.


Choosing the right migration approach is critical to businesses aiming to migrate their application workloads to the cloud. The lift and shift migration is the easiest, fastest and least expensive migration method among all other available methods. However, you must be careful when taking the easy road. You have to first consider if this is indeed the best approach for your business and application.

In addition, make sure you use the appropriate migration tools. All major public cloud providers offer migration tools, like Azure Database Migration Service or AWS Database Migration. Thorough deliberation and research is the best way to figure out the right cloud migration strategy, and tools. Take your time, and choose widely.