Common challenges and how to overcome them during a lift and shift migration

When it comes to migrating on-premises infrastructure, software, and applications into the cloud, there are many benefits to be had. However, it's not always easy to make the transition, particularly when using a lift and shift approach. In this article, we'll explore some of the most common challenges faced when lifting and shifting and provide you with strategies for overcoming them.

What is lift and shift?

Lift and shift migration involves taking a workload or application exactly as it is, without any changes, and moving it to the cloud. This migration strategy can be an excellent option if you need to move quickly, with as little disruption as possible, and have limited time and resources for reworking applications.

Unfortunately, lift and shift isn't always straightforward, and there are a few potential roadblocks to be aware of. Here are some of the most common challenges you'll face during a lift and shift migration, and what you can do to overcome them.

Challenge: Misunderstanding the scope

One of the most significant problems when it comes to lift and shift migration is misunderstanding the scope of the project. This can happen when a team doesn't spend enough time measuring what is necessary to lift and shift or how long it will take to complete. Underestimating the amount of work required can lead to delays, project scope creep, and cost overruns.

Overcoming the challenge

During your project's planning phase, take the time to conduct a thorough architectural review, identify the scope of the project, and assess whether the lift and shift approach will work with your specific application. Create and follow a detailed migration plan, including timeframes, resource requirements, and potential drawbacks. This will help you avoid any unforeseen issues and keep the project on track.

Challenge: Security and compliance

When migrating to the cloud, security and compliance are essential factors that must be considered. Cloud environments are appealing targets for cybercriminals looking to steal valuable information or cause disruption. Failure to properly secure your cloud environment can lead to compliance violations, data breaches, and reputational damage.

Overcoming the challenge

Ensure that your cloud provider adheres to industry-standard security and compliance frameworks such as ISO 27001, SOC 2, or HIPAA. Use secure and encrypted communication protocols such as HTTPS or SSL to protect data in transit. Additionally, configure security policies within your environment, perform penetration testing, and implement proper access controls.

Challenge: Data protection

Data protection is crucial during a lift and shift migration, and if not handled correctly, it can lead to significant data loss. When migrating to the cloud, you might need to re-platform and reconfigure data storage and backup solutions. Improper data protection can cause data inaccuracies, data loss due to security breaches or backups, or unauthorized access.

Overcoming the challenge

Ensure that your migration plan includes data discovery, cataloging, and categorization. This will help you identify any sensitive data and manage its protection adequately. Implement appropriate backup and recovery procedures to protect data against accidental deletion, corruption or loss. Consider using encryption to protect sensitive data stored within cloud services.

Challenge: Infrastructure dependency

In lift and shift migration, you move your existing application and infrastructure to a cloud environment without making any changes. However, sometimes, dependencies between the application and on-premises infrastructure may exist. When this happens, it can cause significant compatibility issues or, in worst-case scenarios, application failure.

Overcoming the challenge

Before migrating, you should understand the dependencies of your application workload. Check if you have any dependencies on on-premise systems such as Active Directory, Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP), or Domain Name System (DNS). You will also want to make sure that your cloud provider's virtual machines or containers have the same OS versions as those on which your application relies. Additionally, you can move to a more cloud-native architecture that accounts for these dependencies.

Challenge: Unforeseen costs

While there is undoubtedly a return on investment from shifting and lifting to the cloud, you need to be aware of the potential increase in cost associated with the migration. Although the lift and shift approach requires little or no rework, costs such as data transfer, configuration changes, storage, and licensing still exist.

Overcoming the challenge

Conduct thorough planning and analysis to help you understand and calculate anticipated costs. Assess the pricing model used by each individual cloud provider to ensure it meets your needs. Don't forget to factor in any hidden costs such as data transfer fees, load balancing, support, and maintenance fees. Additionally, consider implementing tools that can help you manage costs and optimize your cloud environment.

Challenge: Performance issues

In a lift and shift approach, moving existing application workloads to run on the cloud typically does not consider utilizing the full power of the cloud's underlying infrastructure. This approach can result in less than optimal performance, long wait times, and other performance issues that need to be managed.

Overcoming the challenge

To address possible performance issues, plan and test your cloud environment as part of the lift and shift migration. This helps identify performance bottlenecks or issues that may have an adverse impact on end-users. Consider utilizing cloud-native services from your cloud provider to enhance migration performance. Optimizing your application workload to use the underlying cloud resources can also boost performance.


While lift and shift migration may not be suitable for all types of applications and workloads, it can be an effective way to migrate on-premises applications and infrastructure quickly with limited to no rework. However, you need to be thoughtful about potential project roadblocks, which can hinder the effectiveness of the migration plan. By following the best practices outlined in this article, you can sidestep the most common lift and shift migration challenges and ensure a successful cloud migration of your application workloads.

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