Migrating data, systems, IT infrastructure and applications is no sinecure. But many companies under pressure to modernize and meet the current market demand of the digital transformation era may feel the urge to rush their migration process to keep up with their peers.
TO SEE: Checklist: PC and Mac Migrations (Tech Republic Premium)
Major problems can arise for organizations that do not have a clear step-by-step plan and overarching strategy before starting a data migration. This best practice guide will help you shape your own processes and procedures for successful data migration.
Important components of the data migration strategy
Data migration is not just about finding the right vendor and deploying automated tools that integrate and migrate your systems. Each company is also responsible for developing its own migration strategy; the best migration service providers are most effective when that strategy is well defined.
There are several components that go into creating a data migration strategy, but the most important ones stem from which of the two main data migration strategies you choose to shape your plan.
TO SEE: How to identify and avoid common data migration errors (TechRepublic)
In a big bang migration strategy, migrations are performed in full, moving all data, applications, and other pre-identified assets at once, even if such a large move results in system downtime. The big bang approach is usually the fastest way to complete a migration since everything moves at the same time.
However, this approach is also more complex, costly and risky. Companies that can’t afford long downtime or that need to carefully sift through data security and compliance throughout the process are unlikely to benefit from this approach.
On the other hand, the trickle migration approach tackles the migration in stages. This allows for a more controlled and less intensive migration, which puts less stress on IT teams and operations and can be cheaper. It goes without saying that this process is more time-consuming and may not be suitable for companies with a tight migration schedule.
And while organizations can keep their legacy IT infrastructure running during trickle migration, risks cannot be completely avoided. Special care should be taken in designing and planning migration phases according to company-specific requirements.
In both approaches to data migration, certain components and processes must be in place to ensure a successful migration. Among which:
- Data Migration Assessments
- Migration strategy
- Schedule data backups
- Testing and monitoring
These critical components and others are described in the best practices section below.
Data Migration Best Practices
While there is no universal consensus on data migration best practices, most top technology companies agree on several top priorities. These practices are not just advice and tips, but can serve as a guideline and blueprint for companies before, during and after the migration.
Do not skip the data migration assessment
Assessments form the basis for every migration. A thoughtful migration assessment helps organizations develop a clear vision of the entire process of moving data between locations, formats and systems. Data migration assessments should identify the risks and benefits, where the data or system is stored, and where it will be migrated.
The evaluation should also determine whether a big bang or trickle approach will be used and how much budget and time should be allocated to the project. A detailed timeline should be established at this stage of the process.
Backup, monitoring, targets, security, and support are critical components that should be evaluated during a data migration assessment. In addition, organizations must look at the quality of the data they move and assess potential downtime and other issues that may impact regular business operations.
Communicate with stakeholders outside of the IT department
When companies start planning and designing their migration, all employees should be made aware of the possible impact of the migration on their work. They should also be given the opportunity to provide feedback.
More often than not, employees outside of the IT department become key stakeholders in the migration process. They can help the team better understand how data assets and systems are currently being used in their role and what they hope to see post-migration.
Back up your data before the migration begins
The original source data or system should never be altered or changed during the migration process, even if you notice major problems with the data during that time. Businesses should make extensive backups to ensure nothing gets corrupted, altered or corrupted and that reliable data copies are available when needed.
TO SEE: Best backup software (TechRepublic)
The biggest risk of data migration is the loss of critical business assets in the process or the mishandling of highly sensitive data. Backing up data on separate and well-secured systems helps companies in case of errors or data loss during the migration.
Isolate production systems to continue regular operations
Migration doesn’t mean closing shop until the process is complete. An important best practice is to isolate your most critical production systems during migration. Those systems that keep a business running should not be transitioned until the migration has been fully tested on less critical assets and systems.
Understand your data, systems and migration tools
Successful migration requires a deep understanding of your data and your systems. No matter how advanced your new cloud, hybrid or on-premises environment is, it won’t perform well if your code, applications and data are of poor quality.
TO SEE: Top data quality tools (TechRepublic)
Before migrating, make sure all data is clean and ready to use, systems are optimized, and teams responsible for the migration process have a firm grasp of the migration tools they will be using. Although this step is already implied in the assessment phase, it deserves extra attention here to avoid some of the most common migration mistakes. It is counterproductive to migrate systems that are not working correctly.
Run upgrades and new projects before migrating
It is also not a good idea to upgrade your systems during the migration because of compatibility or other source code errors that can occur and jeopardize success. Ideally, companies should upgrade their original systems and all critical assets before migrating.
The same can be said for application developers and their projects. Developers must either work on new projects in the new system or complete their applications before migrating.
Regularly measure and test your migration in phases
Plan your migration in stages, even if you use the big bang approach. The average time to migrate to the cloud ranges from one to two months, and larger companies can take even longer to move larger volumes and complex assets. Completing your migration in stages allows you to break down the process into micro-goals, making it easier to track progress and potential obstacles along the way.
TO SEE: Cloud Data Storage Policy (Tech Republic Premium)
It is recommended to run live tests during each of these phases. Trials allow you to review your assessment, plan against the live process, and test how well migrated systems perform. Testing can also help companies adjust their migration strategy and control the process.
Continue checking and testing after migration
You should continue to test and monitor your migration and new systems even after you flip the switch. Going live in a new environment will undoubtedly bring new challenges, especially as new data is generated. By regularly testing and ensuring that the system is working, you can adapt and improve your current procedures and any future migration plans.
Ready for your data migration
The complexity of data and system migrations can be alleviated with a strategic assessment and clearly defined responsibilities for your migration team. Speaking of which, organizations should consider setting up a dedicated migration team with data experts who can manage the process and technologies while communicating with the right stakeholders.
If the migration is handled with a strong strategic plan and follow-up, companies can benefit significantly from the process. After the migration, they can access the latest technology, modernize their workflows and improve many other aspects of their business.
Read more: Top tools for cloud and application migration (TechRepublic)