upgrade is the complete overhaul of an IT infrastructure.
Forklift upgrades often involve ripping out and replacing outdated technologies. The term has its roots in the early days of computing when mainframe computers and public branch exchange (PBX) telecommunication switchboards were so big and heavy that it literally took a forklift to move them when they needed to be replaced. (A forklift is a small vehicle that's used in a warehouse to raise, lower and carry heavy loads.)
The term forklift upgrade often has a negative connotation; projects that involve incremental improvements are usually less disruptive and less expensive than rip-and-replace projects, so most administrators try to avoid forklift upgrades whenever possible. Sometimes, however, an administrator may have no alternative and a forklift upgrade may be the only reasonable course of action, especially when a vendor goes out of business or stops offering support for a legacy product.
If it becomes evident that an in-place upgrade will not be not cost-effective and a forklift upgrade is required, administrators may use the term "IT transformation" in formal proposals. Transformation has a more positive connotation, implying careful thought and strategic planning.
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