In simple terms, data migration is the process of moving data from one system or environment to another. But there is much more to large companies than that.
It is an essential part of many business activities such as system upgrades, data center consolidation, and cloud migration. Sometimes a data migration can occur during a simple system upgrade, but due to the volume of data involved, problems can be encountered.
Effective data migration requires careful planning, execution, and management to ensure data integrity, security, and accessibility. With the rapid growth of data and the increasing complexity of technology environments, it has become a critical activity for companies of all sizes and across all industries.
In this guide, we explain how this process works from end to end. Follow along!
What is data migration?
Data migration is the process of moving data from one storage solution to another. Although the premise is simple, the process is quite complex.
The need for data migration often arises when moving data from storage solutions that are no longer supported by the organization or moving to a more modern database to support newer use cases. It may also involve projects such as moving from an on-premises solution to one hosted in the cloud or new website hosting.
Another use case in modern enterprises that are embracing the big data movement is migration to improve data availability for other applications that may need access.
In the data migration process, it is very important to ensure data security and integrity. Therefore, you must carefully analyze and choose the right solution and have a robust data migration plan.
How important is data migration for a company?
Data migration is often part of a larger project, such as replacing legacy software, expanding storage systems, or transitioning to a centralized database to eliminate data silos.
The main objective is typically to increase performance and competitiveness while reducing operating expenses. However, it is crucial to get it right; otherwise, a failed migration can lead to inaccurate data riddled with redundancies and uncertainties, hampering business operations.
A comprehensive data migration strategy can prevent migration failures that can cause missed deadlines, budget overruns, and more significant issues for businesses. By taking the necessary steps and planning accordingly, companies can ensure a (mostly) headache-free migration, leading to better operations, greater efficiency, and reduced costs.
What are the main advantages of migrating data?
Some of the main benefits achieved through an effective and well-planned data migration strategy are:
- cost reduction: when well planned, it can help reduce infrastructure and data storage costs, eliminating unnecessary data and optimizing the use of resources;
- taking advantage of new technologies: effective data migration can allow companies to take advantage of new technologies, such as cloud computing or big data, to improve their processes and expand their business;
- Greater security: A well-planned data migration strategy can include measures to ensure data security during the process, preventing data breaches or loss of confidential information;
- Greater accuracy: A carefully articulated data migration can ensure greater accuracy in data transfer, avoiding errors and inconsistencies that can result in data loss or integrity issues.
What are the steps in a migration process?
A structured data migration plan should have step-by-step procedures followed by all parties involved in the process. You must also decide the most appropriate approach based on your business needs and technical constraints.
But how do you create a comprehensive plan? Here are some steps!
Identify data format, location, and sensitivity
This first step in the data migration plan is about you accessing your data. In this step, you will explore:
- What data should be migrated?
- Where is the data stored?
- What is the current data format?
- Is it compatible with the new location or will it need to be reformatted?
- Where should the data be sent?
By doing this, you can discover data with many fields that may not be needed in the target system. You may also discover missing data fields in the source data that may need to be filled in from another source and other areas for improvement.
Plan the size and scope of the project
This step involves allocating the resources that would be required to migrate your data to the new target system. This will be largely determined by the size and scope of the project. Knowing the size and scope, you can draw up an effective budget and flexible timeline for the migration.
When deciding what data to migrate, consider whether it would interfere with business operations, contribute to downtime, or have any other direct impact on users and customers. This is done by performing high-level analysis in consultation with data users and key stakeholders, explaining the project need and expected scope. The objective is to minimize the impact that migration can have on them.
Make sure all your data is backed up
It is very important to ensure that all your data is backed up before starting any data migration. At a minimum, you must back up the data and files you want to migrate. This would ensure that if any unforeseen circumstances occur while migrating the data that leads to corrupt, incomplete, or missing data or files, you can restore them to their original state using the backup file.
Evaluate migration team and tools
Assessing your capabilities to see if you can perform the data migration is the next step in your data migration plan. It’s important to make an honest assessment of your team’s ability to handle future tasks. If necessary, having an expert or experienced professional on board will help the entire process run smoothly and give you confidence in your ability to deal with any issues that arise.
Execute the data migration plan
After deciding on the conditions stated above, it’s time to execute your data migration plan. The data migration plan you created will guide you on how to complete each step. The plan will dictate what permissions to apply, how to extract the data from the source and migrate it to the target system, ensure the cleansing and transformation of the data to suit the target system, and how to transfer it to the new location.
Final system testing
After the entire migration process is complete, it is time to test the final system to evaluate the results within the migrated data. The first thing to do is to check the integrity of the data transfer to the target system. This is done by checking for corrupt, missing, or incorrect data or files. It is recommended that this be done through automated testing to identify any issues.
What are the types of data migration?
There are six main types of data migration, and an individual plan can include several at the same time. Take a look at how each of them operates.
Data center migration
Data center migration refers to moving data center infrastructure to a new physical or cloud-based location. A data center houses an organization’s network routers, storage devices, server systems, and other critical infrastructure equipment.
Application migration is when data related to certain applications needs to be transferred to a new computing environment. This may involve migrating the entire application server from an on-premises environment to cloud storage — a dedicated server, for example — or between two different cloud environments, or moving just the underlying data in the event of a software upgrade at the end. from the provider.
Cloud migration is about relocating data, business applications, and services from one cloud environment to another, or from an on-premises data center to a cloud-based one. This is one of the most popular types of data migration and allows companies to scale more efficiently, access resources faster, and reduce overhead expenses related to physically managing on-premises infrastructure.
Database migration becomes necessary when organizations need to switch to a different database vendor, upgrade database management software, or migrate the database to a cloud provider environment
Business process migration
Business process migration refers to moving data, processes, and websites — for example, migrating from WordPress to another server — and business applications to a new environment. This may include the transfer of databases and programs related to business operations, products, and customer experiences. The determining factors for this type of migration are business reorganizations, acquisitions, and mergers to realign objectives or reach new markets.
Storage migration is the process of migrating data from one storage medium to another. A common use case for this migration is when companies need to eliminate traditional storage equipment, such as hard disk drives, and move data to more durable and faster storage devices, such as solid-state drives.
The main challenges to successfully execute data migration
A migration implies a change from one thing to another. These differences lead to challenges that are often difficult to predict without having gone through the exact experience once or twice before. With that in mind, here are some common complications you can expect during a migration.
Security and compliance issues
Migrations have the potential to expose your data to vulnerabilities and environments that could pose a security or compliance risk. Depending on the types of data you are dealing with and any regulations you need to adhere to, you will need to plan certain measures to keep your data safe in transit.
This may include additional encryptions and extra monitoring to prevent a breach or exposure that threatens your organization, your people, and your customers, whether from a cost or reputation perspective.
There are often parts of a migration process that cannot move forward without a partial or full shutdown. Outages can range from inconvenient to outright chaos. At best, downtime is planned and communicated in advance, but unpredictable disruptions to a service can be costly, with a lasting impact on your brand and bottom line.
A common problem when adding any new technology is that it can be difficult to know if your old systems are compatible with it. When data moves between different operating systems or file formats, things can change and break, causing major confusion or even data loss.
Data loss during the data migration process is possible. While it may not be a big problem if repetitive data fails to pass through or access changes, a complete loss of data can cause serious problems. This is why being detailed is so important, and also why you should ensure your data migration plan includes a backup strategy.
What are the most common errors in the data migration process
Data migration is full of risks. There is always the potential for data loss or corruption, which can lead to all kinds of problems in the future. That’s why it’s important to take steps to prevent migration issues before they happen. Here are some of the most common data migration mistakes.
Trying to migrate data without a plan
Some companies get so excited about migrating their data that they try to proceed without a migration plan in place. Perhaps they underestimate the future challenges of data center migration, or perhaps they think they will find solutions as problems arise. Both mindsets are recipes for disaster during a complex process like data migration.
It takes more time to develop a well-thought-out plan, but having a solid foundation before starting your data migration is one of the smartest ways to avoid pitfalls.
Scheduling a migration at the wrong time
Even if a data migration goes better than expected, it will likely cause business disruptions and downtime. Some people ignore this fact and panic when they realize it is taking longer than expected and affecting the customer experience.
Figuring out the best time to migrate means paying attention to relevant business activity patterns. Do most customer interactions occur at certain times or on certain days? Does your business have a particularly busy season?
Failing to set aside time and resources for testing
It can be tempting to delay testing or do nothing during data migration, especially because testing can be tedious. However, forgoing the testing stage makes the project more likely to fail or be slowed by unexpected and adverse outcomes.
Why migrate your data to the cloud?
Cloud data migration allows you to modernize your infrastructure, enabling your organization to accelerate time to value, improve operational efficiency, and reduce migration costs, time, and risk.
By moving to the cloud, you can:
- consume practically any type of data (structured, unstructured, semi-structured) and efficiently process large amounts of data in less time;
- scale elastically and quickly meet changing business needs and unpredictable demands;
- reduce IT maintenance costs by retiring your on-premises data centers;
- simplify data analysis with cloud processing power and optimize costs with a unified data infrastructure;
- Future-proof your data infrastructure with a flexible, sustainable, and agile database that is future-ready for data use cases at your own pace;
- democratize data for any data user.
How to perform data migration in practice
There is more than one way to create a data migration strategy for the cloud. An organization’s specific business needs and requirements will help establish what is most appropriate. However, most strategies follow a few basic steps.
One of the first steps to consider before migrating data to the cloud is determining the use case that the public cloud will serve. Will it be used for disaster recovery? DevOps? Hosting enterprise workloads moving completely to the cloud? Or will a hybrid approach work better for your deployment? At this stage, it is important to assess your environment and determine the factors that will govern the migration, such as critical application data, legacy data, and application interoperability.
2. Business case
After determining your business requirements, understand the relevant services offered by cloud providers and other partners and their costs. Determine the expected benefits of migrating to the cloud across three dimensions: operational benefits, cost savings, and architectural improvements. Create a business case for each application you plan to move to the cloud, showing an expected cloud total cost of ownership (TCO) compared to the current TCO.
Once your environment has been assessed and a plan drawn up, you need to execute your migration. The main challenge here is to carry out your migration with minimal disruption to normal operations, at the lowest cost and in the shortest period. If your data becomes inaccessible to users during a migration, you risk impacting your business operations.
4. Ongoing maintenance
Once data has been migrated to the cloud, it is important to ensure that it is optimized, secure, and easily recoverable in the future. It also helps monitor real-time changes to critical infrastructure and predict workload contentions.
Validating the migration
Validating data migration to the cloud is a critical process to ensure that all data is transferred successfully and without losing important information. Some steps that can help in this process are:
- Verify that all data has been migrated: Before starting validation, it is important to verify that all data has been migrated to the cloud. This can be done by comparing the amount of data before and after migration;
- perform functionality tests: to ensure that all applications and systems that depend on the data are working correctly. This may include integration testing, unit testing, and user acceptance testing;
- Perform performance testing: Test system performance to ensure it is operating at expected capacity. This may include load testing, stress testing, and network performance testing;
- check data integrity: check that all data was transferred successfully and without losing important information. This may include checking for transfer errors, inconsistencies, and integrity failures;
- Perform disaster recovery testing: Test the ability to recover data in the event of system failures or natural disasters. This may include performing backup and restore tests.
- Document the migration process: Document all steps taken during the migration process, including any issues encountered and resolved.
How to choose the ideal partner to carry out the migration process
Choosing the right data migration solution can save you countless time and resources. To choose the ideal partner, it is important to consider the following angles.
Determine how complex systems are mapped and how the data migration tool ensures data quality. You should also make sure the tool allows you to plan and control workflows and that automated scripting tools are available for deeper customization.
Data sources and destinations
To find out whether the migration system is suitable for your migration project or not, you must confirm whether your technology stack is supported by the solution. You’ll need to confirm the types of systems it’s designed for, what data formats it supports, and what types of data storage it allows you to work with.
Performance and scalability
This criterion determines the volume of data the platform can handle, how many processes it can run simultaneously, and the speed at which data moves between systems. This also involves confirming that the system is efficient for moving legacy systems and data to the cloud if necessary.
Ease of use
This indicator allows you to understand what type of knowledge employees who will use the migration system must have, and how highly qualified they must be. Depending on the skill set of the implementation team, this can also be a big factor in the budget and spending of the migration project.
If you are new to the platform or system, you will want to ensure that the documentation is easy to follow and extensive. You should also ensure that access to the support team is easy and widely accessible if you need help with implementation or have a major issue.
While each data migration project is unique and presents its challenges, some common rules of thumb can help companies safely transition their valuable data assets while avoiding critical delays. Therefore, considering it an important innovation project worthy of special attention is essential for every company.