One might assume moving information from one source to another to be a simple copy and paste task. The same may be true when moving smaller files, but things get complicated when transferring millions of data units to a new system that involves different data formats and applications. Many organizations consider even a mass data migration process as a low-level task that can be achieved in just two clicks. Misfortunate are such firms as they spend a lot of time and money and even surpass their budgets to complete the process of data migration.

How then can organizations avoid falling into a trap? To learn about it, one must focus on the right and budgeted ways of data migration. The following blog will give you in-depth knowledge about the data migration process, from the trigger to the final phase.

Let us learn about the concept of data migration in simple words…

Data migration in simple words

In general, data migration is all about transferring existing historical data to a new system, storage, or even file formats. Wait a minute. As easy as this may sound, it’s pretty complicated in reality. The process usually happens when a new system or process is about to enter an organization and includes preparation and post-migration activities, including creating backups, planning, quality testing, and validation of results.

Cases that induce data migration scenario include –

  • Website consolidation
  • Legacy software upgrade and replacement
  • Infrastructure maintenance
  • Consolidation of information systems
  • Replace, upgrade, and expansion of storage systems and equipment
  • Data center relocation

The migration process is considered to be closed only when the old system or database gets shut down.

There are several types of data migration that have arisen in the industry.

Types of data migration

Any type of migration will not necessarily stick to just one category. It can belong to one more. For example, a particular case of data transfer can belong to both database and cloud migration or may even involve application and database migration at the same time.

  • Storage migration

This happens when an organization wants to change the technology to discard out-of-date equipment. This involves the transportation of data from one physical medium to another or a virtual environment. For example, paper to digital documents, from mainframe computers to cloud storage.

  • Data center migration

A data center is a kind of physical infrastructure that is used by organizations to store critical applications and data. You can imagine a data center as a room full of networks, wires, switches, and other IT equipment. So, data center migration is not just about storing data; it can be about different things. It can be about relocating existing computers and wires to other premises. And it is moving all digital assets to new servers and storage.

  • Database migration

A database is not just a place to store data but provides a structure to organize information in one specific way through a database management system (DBMS). Database migration often may mean switching to a new DBMS from a different provider – moving from MySQL to PostgreSQL or from Oracle to MSSQL. The former is tougher than the latter, particularly if target and source databases support different data structures. This makes it challenging to move data from legacy databases — like Adabas, IMS, or IDMS. It can also mean an upgrade to the latest version of DBMS.

  • Business process migration

This kind of migration is about mergers and acquisitions, business optimization, or reorganization to address competitive challenges. It may involve the transfer of business applications, databases, and products to the new environment.

  • Application migration

When a company changes its enterprise software vendor, it often requires moving data from one computing environment to another. This can be challenging since the old, and new systems may have unique data models and require different hardware configurations.

  • Cloud migration

Cloud migration is the most common term that includes all the above-mentioned cases if they involve transferring data from on-premises to the cloud or between different cloud environments. According to Gartner, by 2024, the cloud will account for over 45% of all IT spending and dominate ever-growing numbers of IT decisions.

Due to the varying dimensions of the project and the cost of the downtime, it can take a long time – 30 minutes, months and even years –  to migrate successfully. The complexity of the project and the cost of downtime will define how to unwrap the complete process.

All these types do come under the umbrella of data migration but are distinct.

Step-by-step data migration plan

Before starting with any of the above migrations, organizations must thoughtfully lay down the migration steps and stick with them. It should be planned well, seamless, and efficient to ensure it does not go over budget or result in a protracted process. Commitment to developing a strategy also involves formalizing it and communicating it. A step-by-step process of data migration has been mentioned below for reference:

  • Plan data migration carefully

A strategy or plan must be broad and notional. It should be specific and detailed. Solidify it in writing as well as socializing it accounts for best practices. It serves as a template for how data is to be migrated. The plan can also incorporate agile methods and project management tools to help guide you through the various phases of the migration process.

  • Set the timeline for data migration

According to NextPathway, a cloud migration firm, a phased approach is ideal for data migration. It should not be done in haste but should be carefully considered and executed over a reasonable time frame. It’s also essential to plan for the long-term success of the migration. Successful cloud migration should consider time, which may be months or years to complete. Almost half of all IT decision-makers surveyed said they plan to migrate at least 11 to 25 legacy warehouses within the next 12 months, 27% will migrate to 26 to 100, 10% will migrate more than 100, and 16% will migrate less than 10.

  • Understand the data

It is essential to know all the characteristics of your data sets and various other factors like its nature, fragility, and what you are migrating. Additionally, the quality of data is an important factor that makes migration smooth. According to Experian’s research, an excellent data quality strategy can lead to a successful outcome for around 87% of projects. However, only 55% of these projects were considered successful; those with poor and non-existent data quality witnessed a drop in outright success. Many consider and harness this opportunity to clean the house, eliminating unneeded data to keep the cloud costs down.

  • Have a backup plan in place

Having a backup plan is also essential if you are faced with scenarios where migrations run astray. A periodic backup plan is a sine qua non to migrate to a new environment. The benefits are many, but it’s also essential to have the proper tools and skills to protect all your data if anything goes wrong. Taking backup is also crucial if your data gets corrupted or if portions of it go missing. Having a map out where it’s going helps other team members identify where the data is going, where it is coming from, and how and when it is migrating.

Things to remember

So, you are a step ahead of where you started. You know a little more about data migration than ever. However, there are a few more things that you can list down while implementing a data migration strategy in your organization or when talking about it with someone.

Always take it as an excellent opportunity to fix any data-related issues. You can also hire a data specialist or assign a data migration team to do the project. Give more time to the design phase as it significantly impacts project success. And most importantly, do not shut the old platform because when the first attempt fails, it demands rollback and another try.

It cannot be skipped as it must be performed at some point or the other. Due to changing technology and preferences, data migration cannot be eliminated from any organization. Make sure to be careful while doing it or the best is to assign it to a data professional. After all, data security and storage are all that matters in the end.

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