Best Practices for Lift-and-Shift Migration

The Lift-and-Shift method of data migration is a simple and worthwhile process that has proven to be beneficial for companies that have chosen to utilise it. However, there are a few nuances that you should know about before you begin.


After a decade of technological innovation allowing businesses to thrive in the virtual sphere, 2020 brings even more competition and ideas for innovation. One of the continued problems that businesses face is what to do with their data. Server overloading, maintenance costs, security vulnerabilities and a lack of stable and agile data retrieval all affect a company’s ability to deliver high quality service to clients. An emerging solution that is being employed by big name companies such as Netflix and Expedia are to move and host their data on the cloud. This post will explain the Lift-and-Shift method; an extremely effective and user-friendly approach to migrating all your valuable data to a secure cloud-based storage container.

Reasons for Switching to Cloud-Based Data Storage

With the amount of data exponentially increasing every year, the self-hosting of data in physical centres is becoming more difficult to manage. As the complexity of data increases, many companies are switching to the emerging solution of cloud-based data storage. This switch allows companies to eliminate the problems involved with physical data storage while still maintaining the performance and security that clients and data analysts expect.

Cloud based data centres allow for increased security through hardware accelerated data encryption and reduce the total cost of operations due to a pay-per-use billing system. They also allow clients to access data at any time with a reduced risk of server overloading, and maintain business continuity with a streamlined data backup and recovery system.

Companies will be looking to make this change as efficiently and cost effectively as possible. The easiest way to migrate and rehost already existing data to a cloud solution without having to rebuild, replace or refactor is through the lift-and-shift method.

What is Lift-and-Shift?

Common strategies of physical data to cloud migration involve the modification or complete removal of the current application infrastructure that enables the safe storage of a company’s data; however, in this section we are going to talk about a different strategy that involves rehosting. Rehosting does not require the modification or deletion of existing data structures, it simply involves replicating your data in a different environment without changing the existing architecture. The most effective and popular method for rehosting is known as Lift-and-Shift.

With the Lift-and-Shift method, the current system infrastructure is seamlessly duplicated in the cloud, with minimal changes in functionality. This allows for a less expensive and smoother transition with more flexibility and fewer modifications.

Ease of Implementation

The lift and shift method of cloud migration is extremely appealing to companies, especially ones that may not be as technologically knowledgeable on the subject of big data, due to the ease of transition from on-premise hosting to cloud-based hosting. The Lift-and-Shift migration involves making minimal to no changes to the already existing application infrastructure.

Information is easily lifted from the existing environment and shifted in its entirety to the new cloud-based hosting environment. This strategy allows for greater flexibility and a wider range of services.

Selecting a Cloud Service Provider

Before you begin to migrate your data, it is important to select an appropriate cloud service provider, the provider will be responsible for hosting all your replicated system infrastructure and data.

Amazon Web Services (often shortened to AWS) is a common choice for companies that want to use the Lift-and-Shift method. AWS makes it easy to migrate large amounts of data while maintaining the current application infrastructure and also providing the cloud-based benefits of flexibility, agility, scalability and security..

Things to Consider Before Utilising Lift-and-Shift

Before we begin implementing the Lift-and-Shift method we must analyse the main considerations involved when migrating to a cloud storage solution. The three key considerations in a Lift-and-Shift migration are:

It is important to check that the cloud provider you select is capable of hosting the amount and type of data that you wish to migrate. As lifting and shifting does not require any reformatting of the data, it is easy to test for compatibility with the destination cloud service. Make sure that the cloud hosting service provides enough storage to handle the volume of data that you wish to replicate, has the networking capabilities to ensure that your company can access the data on reasonable speed and latency and finally that the cloud software can handle all types of data you are replicating without errors.

How to Use the Lift-and-Shift Method

Migration to the cloud using the Lift-and-Shift method can be achieved in four simple steps:

  1. Decide which is the best cloud architecture to implement that will be compatible with your current system environment. The primary architecture choice for Lift-and-Shift migrations is called Infrastructure as a Service (often shortened to IaaS). This service will provide all the necessary machine and storage requirements to effectively replicate your data system in the cloud.

  2. Once you have decided on the cloud architecture you can now begin taking data backups of your current system. This will ensure you have secured your data in case the cloud-based storage doesn’t match your previous application structure.

  3. When the destination cloud database is ready, simply restore the backups into the new cloud environment. You will now have an identical copy of your data in the cloud ready to be used.

  4. Finally, monitor and test the efficiency and performance of your new cloud storage environment. After a period of at least two months, if you are satisfied with the results then you may consider retiring the old physical servers and using solely the cloud.

Optimising the Lift-and-Shift Method

The Lift-and-Shift method is very effective and user-friendly but there are a few ways that companies can optimise it to increase the benefits of the data migration.

Firstly, the company should be committed to cloud migration on a long-term scale. Cloud data storage will increase performance and security while reducing costs in the long-term, usually a period of more than twelve months. If implemented for only a short period, the Lift-and-Shift might be costlier than your current physical data environment.

As previously mentioned, one requirement of this method involves checking that your data is compatible with the cloud destination before the hosting platform can begin replicating your current physical data structure in the cloud. To streamline this process and optimise the potential of Lift-and-Shift, it is best that the company’s current physical systems are well documented and not unnecessarily complex.

Finally, it is advantageous to check that the current physical systems are all relatively stable and that any software being used is transferable to a cloud-based environment.

By taking these three factors into consideration companies can optimise and enhance the Lift-and-Shift process.

A Final Word

When considering cloud-based data migration strategies, it is clear that the Lift-and-Shift method is one that has rightfully gained prominence in a technological space that’s crowded with innovative ideas.

As something that is user-friendly, cost-effective, reliable and secure, it has allowed companies to advance their data management efficiency and stay ahead of their competitors while continuing to effectively serve their current clients. If you think this approach fits your needs and would like to know more about building a cloud migration strategy, visit our pillar page.

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