Cloud Lift and Shift: Definition, Benefits & Planning

The lift and shift approach is increasingly popular among organizations of all sizes. It’s an efficient way to migrate applications from on-premise servers to the cloud with minimal effort and cost.

Cloud lift and shift migration strategy involves lifting an application from its current environment and shifting it to a new cloud-based environment. 

This approach allows you to move applications to the cloud quickly without making significant changes or rewriting the code. 

Let’s explore the lift and shift method, what it involves, and its benefits to help you make an informed decision about whether this migration strategy fits your needs. 


What is Lift and Shift?

Cloud lift and shift is a method of migrating existing applications to the cloud with minimal or no changes. It involves lifting an application from its current environment, such as an on-premises server, and shifting it to a new domain in the cloud. 

A lift and shift cloud migration can be quick, making it ideal if you need to move applications to the cloud but don’t have time for major code refactoring or rewrites. To complete a lift and shift migration, you’ll need to evaluate your application architecture and dependencies before deciding how best to migrate it. 

Once you complete these steps, you can begin transferring data into the new environment using automation tools designed for this purpose. If you leverage the elasticity within your cloud environment, such as autoscaling groups or load balancers, you can save money during the migration process. You’ll also retain the ability to respond automatically when necessary resource demand increases occur.

It’s also easy to scale up computation power accordingly and drop it down again once peak usage reduces without manual intervention. It also becomes easier to automatically scale up computation power accordingly only during times of peak usage, then reduce back to normal levels when no longer needed.


Advantages of Lift and Shift Cloud Migration

Cloud Lift and Shift migrations offer many advantages over the more traditional, on-premise migration approach.  Firstly, the streamlined process of lift and shift can significantly reduce the time required to complete a full migration—resulting in reduced downtime for your business. 

Cloud lift and shift also reduces staffing costs associated with managing complex IT projects, as it requires fewer resources to complete the transition quickly. This makes lift and shift cost-effective due to its minimal disruption of existing applications or infrastructure. It also lets you keep your current systems running while transferring data onto the cloud platform.

Lift and shift also allow you to expand your capacity without investing in additional hardware or on-site support teams. This flexibility saves money by eliminating unnecessary capital expenditures while providing a practical solution that meets your organization’s needs. 

For businesses looking toward a hybrid cloud environment in the future, lift and shift migration can be a great first step toward that goal. It provides an opportunity to gain experience migrating applications into the cloud before taking more significant steps, such as rearchitecting larger parts of the application stack

You can avoid paying too much for unneeded computing resources by responding automatically to an increase in demand. You’ll continue providing reliable service levels during regular operating hours.

Finally, you avoid paying for unneeded computing resources by responding automatically to increases in demand—ensuring that your services continue to operate smoothly nearly 100% of the time.


When to Use the Lift and Shift Approach

For most people, the primary benefit of lift and shift is the speed with which they can complete the process. 

By avoiding costly code refactoring projects or other large-scale rewrites, you can migrate your applications more quickly than with a more traditional approach. Since this type of migration does not require significant IT resources to complete—such as hardware upgrades or additional staff—it is often less expensive than other options when migrating data between systems.

The lift and shift approach also offer advantages in terms of scalability. You can utilize elasticity within cloud environments to save even more through pay-as-you-go pricing models most major public cloud providers offer today.

Moreover, since no changes are necessary within the code base, expanding capacity when future needs arise is easy without investing additional capital upfront.


Cloud Lift and Shift vs. Other Migration Approaches

We should mention that there are other viable migration approaches as well. Let’s briefly describe the following:

  • Lift and shift
  • Refactoring
  • Replatforming



The refactoring approach or modernization involves changing the existing application’s code so that it can function optimally on the cloud. The developers write the new code purposefully to ensure the app functions on the new cloud-based servers. 

When refactoring applications, assessing which applications will benefit most from a cloud-based infrastructure and which have high usage is crucial. 

During this process, the legacy systems remain functional, so the migration rarely affects productivity. Although effective, refactoring is the most time-consuming and expensive approach. 



The re-platforming approach or lift-tinker-and-shift takes place after the refactor and lift-and-shift methods when the application achieves optimum performance. 

It involves modifying the code, like in refactoring, to ensure the application is compatible with the new cloud infrastructure.

Re-platforming ensures scalability and mobility but requires the most planning and upfront costs. 

The lift and shift approach or rehosting remains popular, thanks to its simplicity. It involves lifting or drag-and-dropping your application and migrating it to the cloud without changing the base code.

This approach is cost-effective since you’ll have everything up and running within a short time.


Preparing for Lift and Shift Migration

Once you’ve evaluated your application architecture and dependencies, you can develop a comprehensive migration plan. 

This plan should include an inventory of all applications and data that require moving and a timeline for the process. It also identifies any potential risks associated with the move and creates strategies to mitigate them before beginning the transition. 

Consider any available automation tools to streamline the lift and shift migration as well. These tools will help reduce manual labor costs while ensuring consistency throughout the process.

Also, decide how you want to handle individual components during this move. For instance, do the parts need reallocation fully, or can some remain on-premises? If some aspects of an application must stay local, you may need additional solutions such as hybrid cloud architectures or identity management systems. It’s the best way to ensure proper synchronization between environments. 

You may also have to decide whether to use API calls to transfer data between locations instead of bulk transfers. Doing so speeds up the overall process if done correctly.

Back up information from source servers (as needed) for fast restoration once the migration successfully moves everything into the new environment. 

Similarly, you should check your target platform’s settings to confirm compatibility with your current setup. 

Once you’re ready, you can move data using automation tools designed specifically for this purpose, such as ETL processes. Such tools allow for quick, efficient migrations without requiring manual input each time a task needs completion.

Finally, monitoring progress throughout the lift shift cloud migration is vital to ensure everything goes according to plan within the expected timeline. 

You can utilize monitoring services to track usage patterns and detect problems early. It prevents costly delays down the line due to misconfiguration errors within the code base.

Take time to review logs and investigate an issue when you come across something unexpected for a successful migration. 

The migration process is often complex and requires a particular skill set to complete. If you have a limited in-house team, it’s best to seek professional assistance to avoid costly mistakes affecting your business. 

Is Lift and Shift the Best Strategy for Your Business?

Overall, lift and shift offer many benefits if you want to transition existing applications into a cloud environment with minimal disruption, effort, and cost. And, if you want to get started on this process today, we’re here to help.

Sphere Partners has more than 15 years of experience offering comprehensive cloud migration solutions and services. We start by conducting a comprehensive cloud readiness assessment by reviewing your existing software infrastructure and checking your architecture. 

Our app modernization services also ensure that your application is ready and compatible with the new environment to avoid issues after migration. 

We can also help you build containerized, microservices-based, and cloud-native applications to simplify maintenance and enhance scalability and portability.

Schedule a free consultation today to ensure seamless cloud lift and shift migration.

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