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Benefits & Limitations of Lift-and-Shift Cloud Migration

published Mar 11, 2024

Benefits & Limitations of Lift-and-Shift Cloud Migration

Migrating your existing workload to the cloud might seem like an intense and troublesome process, but it doesn't have to be. If you choose the right approach, such as lift and shift cloud migration, you can transfer all the data — with no struggles and no need to redesign your app.

Cloud migration slowly becomes not an option but an essential task. In 2023, 94% of the enterprises use cloud services. What's more, the global cloud migration services market size was valued at $10.91 billion last year and is expected to reach $12.54 billion in 2024. 

The Serverless team recently supported GoDaddy in migrating from Google Cloud Platform to Amazon Web Services successfully and with minimum disruptions. We know from experience how to transfer your workload to the cloud. 

In this article, we'll help you figure out what is lift and shift cloud migration, whether you need to utilize this approach in your particular situation, and how to use it as efficiently as possible. 

What Is Lift and Shift In Cloud Computing?

Before we start exploring the benefits and nuances of this approach, let's ensure we are on the same page about what does lift and shift mean. 

Among many existing types of cloud migration, lift and shift approach seems one of the smoothest. It allows the transfer of an app or an operation from one environment to another without redesigning their workflow. Besides, it lets you save time and resources.


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What Are the Benefits of Lift and Shift Cloud Migration Strategy?

Like other approaches, lift and shift migration has pros and cons and might not be the best fit for every developer. To help you make the right decision, we'll focus on both positive and negative aspects of this process, starting with highlighting its perks. 

The main benefits of the lift and shift cloud migration strategy are the following. 

No Significant Changes

One of the key benefits of the lift and shift migration approach is its simplicity. With its help, companies can migrate their applications without modifying them extensively. This makes the migration process much easier and minimizes the risk of potential errors.

Ready-to-use Scalability

This approach allows organizations to leverage the scalability features of cloud platforms immediately. Apps moved to the cloud can take advantage of on-demand resources, auto-scaling, and other cloud-native capabilities. This allows them to scale seamlessly based on workload requirements.

Eliminated Disruptions

Lift and shift migration focuses on replicating existing app environments as closely as possible. Due to that, the disruptions to ongoing business operations become minimal — your users might not even notice it. 

Cost Efficiency

The lift and shift strategy can be cost-effective, especially from a short-term perspective. As companies don't need to redesign apps to migrate them to the cloud, they can save funds on that and also focus on optimizing costs over time once the migration is complete.

Risk Mitigation

This approach also reduces the risk associated with migrating critical applications. As it maintains the existing architecture of the apps, there are fewer chances of bugs or issues appearing during the migration process. 

Limitations of the Lift and Shift Strategy

Despite the obvious benefits, lift and shift cloud migration also has certain limitations. The most common of them are the following. 

Unexpected Performance Issues

When you migrate apps without optimization for cloud-native features, this can lead to unexpected performance challenges. This is especially true for those apps that already experience performance issues or run slowly even without a cloud environment. In this case, their performance will unlikely improve or even worsen after the migration.

Risks of Security and Compliance

Cloud migration using a lift and shift approach can lead to security and compliance risks if the migrated application has loose access rights. These risks, however, can be minimized or amended if you decide to use AWS cloud migration services that boost the security of your apps in the cloud environment. 

High Costs in the Long Run

Lift and shift can be cost-effective initially. However, over the long term, companies might miss out on potential cost savings that can be achieved through cloud-native optimizations. This, in particular, regards the apps that were partially optimized — such solutions might not be able to fully benefit from the cloud migration. 

Limited Scalability Benefits

Although the lift and shift approach generally allows you to scale your apps, you might need to implement certain architectural adjustments to unlock the full benefits of cloud scalability. Without such adjustments, apps might lack certain scaling capabilities. The adjustments, in turn, can be costly.

Complex Legacy Application Challenges

Legacy apps with complex and monolithic architectures may not be easy to seamlessly transition to the cloud using lift and shift. Generally, they might require additional refactoring or modernization to function efficiently in the cloud environment.

When Should You Use Lift And Shift Cloud Migration?

Knowing the lift and shift meaning, its benefits and limitations can be enough to decide if this approach is right for your business. However, if you still have doubts, these scenarios can help you make the final choice. 

Generally, list and shift cloud migration can be beneficial in the following cases. 

Quick Migration With Complete Infrastructure

This approach can be a great choice if you need to quickly move your app to the cloud and don't need to transform its architecture significantly. For instance, if you need the app to continue functioning to ensure business continuity.

When You Need a Highly Cost-Effective Method

A lift and shift approach can also be beneficial in situations where your main goal is to quickly move to the cloud while keeping costs low. It allows you to minimize investments in redevelopment or rearchitecting or avoid them completely.

When Your Team is Unfamiliar With Cloud-Native Solutions

Choosing between lift and shift vs cloud-native migration strategies makes sense if your IT team is experienced in both these technologies. However, if they lack knowledge of cloud-native technologies, it might take a lot of time for them to learn how to migrate an app to the cloud with minimal modifications. Companies do not always have that time and might want to avoid risks potentially caused by the team's lack of experience. In this case, list and shift could be a better, quicker, and generally safer option. 

For a Short-Term Project or as a Temporary Solution

Sometimes, you just need to switch to a cloud infrastructure quickly — for instance, for a short-term project or until you will be able to focus on long-term cloud-native development. In such a situation, you can also use a lift and shift cloud migration approach before you are ready to switch to a more complex solution. 

To Test The Cloud Environment

Despite the growing popularity of the cloud environment, some companies are still hesitant to switch to it completely. In this case, they might be more open to trying out the cloud environment's performance before they decide to invest significant resources into it. The lift and shift approach can be a great solution for such an experiment. 

The Checklist for a Lift and Shift Migration

If the lift and shift migration approach feels like the right choice for you, it's time to start planning and preparing it. You can use our cloud migration guide to discover in-depth nuances of this process or start exploring this step-by-step migration roadmap. 

Here's how to move your app to the cloud using the lift and shift approach. 

Establish Specific Goals

Clearly define the goals and objectives of your migration. At this stage, ask yourself what you want to achieve the most with its help to figure out where your primary focus lies. This could be cost reduction, faster time to market, or other specific business needs.

Evaluate Current Infrastructure

At this step, analyze the existing apps and their infrastructure. Evaluate dependencies, configurations, analytics, and performance metrics to better understand all the components that you'll be moving to the cloud. 

Allocate Resources

Assign resources and choose the team that will support the migration process. The team members need to have the necessary skills and expertise in both the existing infrastructure and cloud technologies.

Develop a Migration Plan

Your plan should outline the sequence and schedule for migrating applications. Select the data, its format, and the way it will be sent to the cloud. Come up with a timeline that will allow you to migrate with minimal disruptions to your business operations.

Choose The Right Cloud Service Provider

The best provider for you should align with your company's requirements. When choosing them, focus on a list of services they offer, their pricing models, and security features. 

Implement Security Policies

To ensure that the lift and shift migration approach will be successful and secure, you'll have to establish governance policies. Define access controls, encryption standards, and monitoring practices.

Set Up Cloud Infrastructure

This step is about ensuring that your chosen cloud infrastructure can support the lift and shift migration. To achieve this, configure networking, storage, and compute resources based on the requirements of the apps that you're going to move to the cloud.

Data Migration Strategy

At this stage, your data will migrate from on-premises storage to cloud storage. To execute this strategy successfully, plan ahead, taking things like the volume of data, data transfer methods, and potential migration downtime into account.

Test Migration in Staging Environment

Doing that will allow you to spot and address any potential issues before you move to migrating production workloads. Conduct thorough testing at this step to validate the performance and functionality of apps.

Execute the Migration

To ensure a smooth migration, execute it by moving only one app or component at a time. Closely monitor the migration process and address any issues immediately after they appear.

Validate and Optimize

Now, it's time to validate the functionality of apps in the cloud environment. You can do this by optimizing their configurations, scaling parameters, and utilizing resources to improve performance.

Monitor And Fine-tune

A successful deployment of migration can still lead to performance issues later. That's why you need to monitor the apps and continue to fine-tune their configurations based on real-time data and user feedback. This will help you either minimize potential performance issues or prevent them completely. 

Document And Train Teams  

Document the new cloud architecture, configurations, and processes. Then, use this documentation to aid IT teams in mastering your cloud-based apps and supporting them if necessary. 

Lift and Shift Migration Examples

Using lift and shift in cloud computing might not be the best strategy for everyone, but there are plenty of well-known companies that went for this approach and benefited from it. Some of the most prominent use cases are the following. 


Netflix used a lift and shift migration approach to quickly move its video streaming platform to the cloud. The company chose Amazon Web Services (AWS) as a new storage for its massive content library and supporting infrastructure. This strategy allowed Netflix to meet the growing demand for its streaming services without changing its existing app significantly. Check out this article to discover more examples and best practices for SaaS migration to AWS


Pinterest also chose a lift and shift strategy to migrate its infrastructure to the Google Cloud Platform (GCP). This allowed them to focus on optimizing their apps for the cloud environment and transit swiftly without experiencing notable disruptions.

Dow Jones

Dow Jones is one of the biggest news companies in the world. In 2014, they had to relocate from a local data center within only two months. That's why they decided to choose the light and shift strategy. This allowed them to migrate within the given timeline and save 25% of their costs compared to leasing a data center. 

GE Oil and Gas

Despite GE Oil and Gas already having planned a partial cloud migration, in the end, they had to do it much quicker and transfer all terabytes of their data instead of only part of it. The lift and shift migration was successful and also allowed the company to save some of its budget. 

Comparison of Lift And Shift to Other Cloud Migration Methods

The lift and shift migration approach is also called an IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) migration model. This means that the apps move to another infrastructure without any modifications. However, this isn't the only strategy available. 

There are two other popular migration options to consider: SaaS and PaaS. Just like lift and shift, they have their pros and cons and fit certain scenarios better. Let's learn more about these options to figure out which can be the best for your particular needs. 

PaaS vs. Lift And Shift

PaaS stands for Platform as a Service. This is a cloud platform that allows you to host, run, and manage various apps. Such apps can also be optimized for better use on this platform. You can change them remotely using modern architecture, such as containerization or microservices. 

The PaaS approach is slower, more complex, and costly than the SaaS one, both in the short term and in the long run. However, this platform is more secure and grants more flexibility in app automation. 

SaaS vs. Lift And Shift

SaaS, or Software as a Service, is another efficient cloud migration strategy. It allows you to replace your existing on-premise apps with the premade apps created by third-party cloud vendors. Such apps have similar functionalities and, therefore, can perform efficiently within the cloud.  

The SaaS approach is similar to the lift and shift one — it is faster and less expensive than PaaS, and it also offers apps that can seize all the benefits of cloud infrastructure. However, you also have less control over the apps and less flexibility for their future modifications compared to the lift and shift strategy. 

The Company Experience

We at Team Serverless have been helping software products to switch to the cloud for over ten years already. With little code and lots of passion, we can help your business embrace future technologies without a headache. We can support you in any case, be it switching from on-premise apps to cloud solutions, migrating from Azure to AWS, or moving the data from another existing cloud platform. Check out how we helped GoDaddy with the latter, efficiently transferring their business from Google Cloud Platform to Amazon Web Services.

If you're looking for a skilled partner with lots of experience regarding cloud infrastructure, Serverless can be a great option for you. Turn out to us for a free consultation! 


Now you know what is lift and shift data center migration, which pros and cons it has, and how it can (or cannot) benefit your specific business. Although lift and shift is not the only innovative strategy existing on the market, this solution is one of the most affordable, simplest, and quicker to consider. If you believe that it would be a good fit for your business, consider entrusting your migration process to us. With extensive knowledge of various industries that might require moving to cloud, the Serverless Team can become your reliable migration partner.


Which cloud service type is most suited to a lift and shift migration?

It is Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). It provides the necessary cloud infrastructure and, at the same time, allows businesses to retain control over the operating systems, apps, and configurations.

What is an example of lift and shift migration?

An example of such a migration is moving a company's existing apps from an on-premises data center to a cloud infrastructure. The apps aren't modified or optimized for cloud-native features in this case.

What Is the difference between lift and shift and replatforming?

The key difference lies in the level of app modification in the migration process. If you choose a lift and shift strategy, you need to change the apps minimally. Replatforming, on the other hand, might require extensive app adjustments for the target cloud environment, even though they still aren't completely redesigned. 

What are the benefits of lift and shift migration?

This migration strategy is one of the quickest and most affordable ones. It also allows you to use cloud resources without modifying or redesigning your apps extensively.

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Kyrylo Kozak
Kyrylo Kozak
founder, CEO