Refactoring vs. Replatforming: The Decision to Refurbish or Build New

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Software never really reaches an end state until it is fully retired. As anyone who has ever been forced to reboot to update Windows understands, updates, patches and new features are constantly being pushed that make tools and programs more secure, more efficient or even operate differently.

Shifts to the cloud have made these even more prevalent, especially with the rise of the digital transformation.

For developers, there are two widely used approaches for cloud migrations: refactoring and replatforming.

Refactoring makes changes to the existing codebase of a software application to improve its design or performance. This improves the codebase while preserving the application's functionality, user interface and behavior.

Replatforming, on the other hand, involves moving an application from one platform to another. This can involve changing the underlying programming language, operating system, database or other components. This modernizes the application's technology stack and takes advantage of new features and capabilities, while also ensuring that the application continues to function as expected.

Both are useful in context of what the developer is trying to accomplish, add business value and are widely used when moving systems to the cloud or taking on modernization projects.

Factors Leading to a Cloud Migration

Every organization has its own reasons for moving, some of them related to cost, some to operations. For public-facing systems, however, the cloud is now considered the preferred option, leading to a steady stream of migrations.

Providers such as Amazon or Microsoft are industry leaders in cloud infrastructure and cloud services, working with companies around the world.

Another significant advantage of the cloud is the option to use Software as a Service (SaaS) providers where necessary.

More secure.

Many cloud providers offer robust security and compliance features, including encryption, data backup, and access controls, which can help organizations meet security and compliance needs.

Greater flexibility.

Innovation and scalability happen in the cloud. It provides the ability to quickly and easily scale computing resources up or down as needed, which can be particularly important for organizations with variable workloads or seasonal demand.

Improved collaboration.

Keeping all systems in one location (versus multiple on-premise options that may or may not be connected) can reduce complexity and improve communication.

Increased speed.

Older systems may not be able to keep up with modern technology. Shifting to the cloud keeps legacy systems moving at today’s speed.

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Migration Methodologies for Your Move to the Cloud

Migration approaches typically fall into one of three types:

  • On-premises (think data centers) to cloud (like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure or Google Cloud).

  • Cloud to cloud.

  • Cloud to on-premises.

What goes where is dependent on the purpose of each system. An increasingly popular option for application migrations is the hybrid cloud, in which assets live in the cloud as well as on-premises.

There are five possible ways of migrating: rehost, refactor, replatform, rebuild and replace. Here, we’re going to focus on refactoring and replatforming.


Refactoring optimizes and improves the design of an application before migrating to the cloud. This ensures the application can fully leverage the benefits of cloud computing, such as scalability, reliability and cost-effectiveness.

During refactoring, developers analyze the application's codebase and architecture, identify areas that can be improved and implement changes that make the application more cloud-friendly.

For example, they may break down monolithic applications into smaller, more modular components that can be deployed independently and scale more easily. These types of code changes are more limited and refactor migrations are typically less complex.


Replatforming moves an application from its existing infrastructure to a new cloud-based platform. In other words, replatforming involves moving an application to a new platform that is optimized for cloud computing while making minimal changes to the application's codebase. This is a resource-intensive process.

Replatforming is often a good option for organizations that want to take advantage of the benefits of cloud computing without completely redesigning or rearchitecting their applications.

During the replatforming process, the application's code is typically optimized for the new cloud platform, but major changes to the application's architecture or functionality are avoided.

Other methodologies.

Lift and Shift

"Lift and shift" migrates an application to the cloud by transferring it from an on-premises infrastructure to a cloud environment without modifying the application or its architecture.

The process involves lifting the existing application and its associated data and shifting it to a cloud environment.

This approach is also known as "rehosting," and it is often used when an organization wants to move its application to the cloud quickly, without making significant changes to the application or its architecture.


"Rebuild" cloud migration is a method of migrating an application or system to the cloud by rebuilding it from scratch using cloud-native technologies and services.

This approach involves redesigning the application architecture and using cloud-native tools and services to create a new cloud-based version of the application.


"Replace" migrates an application or system to the cloud by replacing it entirely with a new cloud-based application.

This involves implementing a new application from a cloud provider or developing a new custom application optimized for the cloud.

How Refactoring Can Help Enterprise Businesses

The cloud is where most companies grow, so refactoring is often the preferred option. By developing applications designed specifically for the cloud, they can best leverage what the cloud has to offer.

The case for refactoring.

Refactoring can provide several benefits for enterprise businesses looking to modernize their applications and optimize their cloud migration strategy. It’s less of a full build and more of a tinker.

Increased Resilience

Enterprise businesses cannot experience downtime. It is imperative that they be “always on” or they will likely miss out on profits. Cloud-optimized systems are less likely to experience application-breaking errors.

Long-Term Financial Savings

Refactoring can help reduce the costs of cloud migration by optimizing resource utilization, eliminating technical debt and minimizing maintenance and support costs. By streamlining the application's codebase and architecture, businesses can also reduce maintenance costs.

Adapts to Changing Requirements

Agility is key. The cloud allows developers to respond quickly to changing business needs and market conditions. By optimizing the application's architecture and design, businesses reduce technical debt and make the application more flexible and scalable.

Concerns with refactoring.

While refactoring can offer many benefits, there are also some potential concerns that enterprise businesses should be aware of.

Vendor Lock-In

Vendor lock-in makes a business dependent on a specific cloud provider's technology, making it difficult or expensive to switch to another provider. Reduced options can impact innovation and restrict growth.

Requires Advanced Coding, Automation and Devops skills.

Refactoring requires specialized skills and expertise in software engineering and cloud computing. Enterprise businesses may need to invest in hiring or training staff.

Can be Time Intensive.

This can be a time-consuming process, requiring significant resources and expertise to redesign or rebuild an application. It can also involve potential downtime or disruption to business operations, which can be costly.

When Replatforming Makes Sense for Online Stores

Replatforming can be a time-consuming and costly process that should not be undertaken without significant research. However, there are situations where the return on investment is worth the short-term pain.

The case for replatforming.

Replatforming can make sense for online stores when there are issues with outdated technology or poor user experience. A deep cost-benefit analysis should be done to determine how valuable the process could be to sales.

Adds Cloud-Native Features

By incorporating cloud native features into the replatformed online store, businesses can take advantage of the scalability, flexibility and cost savings. Features like auto-scaling can pay for themselves.

Lowers Cost

If you're currently paying for expensive hosting or maintenance fees on your current platform, a cloud migration could save you money by reducing your infrastructure costs.

Acceptable Compromise

Though there are drawbacks, replatforming is often considered the best choice because of the balance of added functionality with a less complex migration process.

Reduces Operational Risk

Older platforms can be prone to technical issues. By replatforming, businesses address these issues and reduce the risk of platform failures, which can ultimately improve overall reliability and stability.

Keeps Staff from Being Overwhelmed

Modern systems are typically streamlined and easier to manage. This reduced technical burden reduces the time spent on maintenance and increases the time that can be spent on more impactful work.

Concerns with replatforming.

Replatforming is a complex process with a lot of moving parts. Businesses should be aware of the difficulties of the process before migration.

Cloud and Automation Skills Needed

Developers and software engineers are in high demand because the knowledge needed to manage cloud-based migrations is difficult to find.

Scope Creep Can Happen

You may want a limited migration, but by the end of the project, the number of systems migrated has significantly increased, as has the budget. Migrations need good project management to avoid ballooning requirements and costs.

Limits the Change that Can Occur

Not everything can be done at once. Decision makers must be able to prioritize what’s most important and what should come first.

Compatibility Issues Can Arise

When working with separate, disconnected systems, unintended consequences can happen. Systems won’t always work well with each other. Fixes or workarounds are common with cloud migrations.

How BigCommerce Helps with Replatforming

From establishing your timeline and identifying key goals, to ranking requirements and selecting your ecommerce platform, all the way to implementation, BigCommerce and our team will work with you every step of the way. With a trusted team of ecommerce experts, including our Data Migration and Solutions Architecting teams, BigCommerce is here to assist in giving you the safest, fastest and most efficient transition possible.

The process of replatforming can be daunting, to say the least. However, we believe the benefits of moderniszing your tech stack will far outweigh the challenges. With BigCommerce as your platform, you’ll have a trusted partner that will enable you to deliver cutting-edge commerce experiences now — and into the future.

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The Final Word

No matter which migration process is selected, ecommerce developers should have a full understanding of the pluses and minuses of each. Depending on the state of the existing ecommerce platform, either may be the better choice to meet business goals.

How businesses arrive at that choice, however, will be unique to them.

FAQs About Refactoring vs. Replatforming

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