Several questions arise while you plan to migrate to the cloud. Are you planning to migrate everything to the cloud or only a part? Do you plan to migrate the applications as is or plan to re-architect them before migration? Are you planning to use IaaS or PaaS? Are you planning to migrate to a single cloud or multi-cloud? It is crucial to have a clear migration strategy that suits your organization. This article covers some of the common migration approaches/strategies in the industry.


It is vital to make high-level decisions and plans about the migration strategy as early as possible. All other planning and decisions will follow these key decisions and are critical to any cloud migration success. Find below some of the most common migration options.


Lift and shift is a relatively quick and straightforward task. It lifts your applications and data from the current environment and shifts it to the cloud provider’s environment. In this manner, an exact copy of the current environment is created in the cloud. In this scenario, the cloud is used as IaaS. It will not make any changes to the architecture, processes, or data; it simply lifts the current workloads as is and shifts it to a cloud provider. 

Lift and shift provide cost benefits in terms of CapEx and OpEx in the short term, but long-term benefits are elusive. To get more significant advantages of the cloud, one needs to think and move applications in a more cloud-centric way.


Compared to Lift-and-Shift, the cloud-optimized approach is one step ahead of the cloud-centric paradigm. In this option, while the application architecture is not changed, few functionalities are replaced with cloud-based managed services, where possible.  For example, instead of using relational database instances like Postgresql or MySQL, it may be replaced by managed database services (like RDS) available with the cloud providers. File storage can be replaced with services like Amazon S3 or other similar cloud storage options, reducing the management/operational efforts and costs.  


Another option is to move some critical applications to the cloud and keep the rest in the local data center. This setup is often called a Hybrid-Cloud. When data privacy, security, and compliance are critical for an organization, it may choose to keep the critical data and transaction systems in a private data center while moving other components to a cloud to take advantage of the advanced cloud computing capabilities. Sometimes, it is the dynamic scaling requirements of an application that decides whether to move it to the cloud. 

Cloud-Native (Refactor)

In the Cloud-Native option, an application is evolving from a server-based paradigm to a cloud-based paradigm. This means the functionality of an application is refactored or re-coded to suit a cloud-based functionality. For example, web services and API functionality in the current application may be rewritten using serverless services in the cloud. This is one of the most challenging and complex migrations but will offer long-term benefits in terms of performance, maintenance, and cost savings.  

Availability of a great team with skilled people, cohesive management and experienced partners are the key factors for the success of Cloud-Native migrations.  Upfront costs are high in such migrations; the benefits too are significant. 

Software as a Service (SaaS)

In this case, rather than migrating the current application, you may replace an existing application with a SaaS-based one. Some of the off-the-shelf applications may be better than your present custom application, yet providing necessary customization options to suit your business. Moving non-key applications to SaaS-based applications gets you more time to focus on core business functions. 


Some of the services/applications that are no longer in use or are of no business value are turned off and are not migrated to the cloud. This can save some effort and costs, which can get added up to the migration budget.


Choosing and adopting the right cloud migration strategy is not very easy. Each one has its own merits and demerits. Selection of the strategies will also depend on your goals like cost reduction or next-generation cloud-native application.

Lift and Shift Cloud-optimized Cloud-Native SaaS
Architecture Change Nil Low High NA
Complexity Low Medium High Medium
Operational Efforts High Medium Medium Low
Cost Reduction Low Medium  High Varies
Productivity Low Medium  High Medium


Rather than choosing one strategy or migrating everything at once, sometimes it may be a much better option to migrate in phases (incremental approach) by choosing multiple strategies. 

For example, one may choose the Lift-and-Shift strategy first and move all applications to the cloud. This process is less complex as there are no architectural changes. But it is also less beneficial compared to other strategies. Once the applications are in the cloud, the next phase (objective) could be optimizing the applications to use cloud computing power better and reduce the costs. 

Another incremental approach is to migrate applications in stages to the cloud rather than migrating everything at once. This reduces complexity and risk but takes more time for migration. 


Whether you choose a phased approach or multiple migration strategies, cloud migration is always challenging. There is no single formula that fits all. There can be a few unknowns and surprises always.  An organization must choose the right strategies based on their own goals, business functions, supporting applications, security, and compliance.

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About The Author

Cloud Migration Strategy

Dr. Anil Kumar

VP Engineering, Cloud Control
Founder | Vice President | CTO | Architect | Consultant | Mentor | Advisor | Faculty

A Solution Architect and IT Consultant with more than 25 years of IT Experience. Served various roles with both national and international institutions. Expertise in working with both legacy and advanced technology stacks and business domains.