As more and more organizations are making business decisions based upon the gathering and analysis of data, it only underscores how valuable data has become. As a consequence, storing and managing that data is more important than ever, and with the advances made in technology, the data management strategies of the past simply can’t keep up. To get the most out of data, many companies have needed to perform data migration, a process which may seem relatively straightforward on the surface but is in fact a complex undertaking with plenty of risks involved. Success in data migration is anything but guaranteed. One study even discovered that more than half (60%) of data migration projects fail, so getting it right depends on knowing how to do it correctly.
There are many reasons an organization might perform data migration. Perhaps they are relocating a data center, or maybe they need to migrate their applications. Servers and storage equipment will need to be replaced over time, or they may simply need further maintenance and upgrades as businesses collect and analyze more data. Or data migration may be part of the disaster recovery process. No matter the reason, the data migration process shouldn’t be taken lightly. Consider the following as a useful guide in how to do data migration.
Always Have a Plan
Most businesses know the importance of having a plan before executing a project. Without a plan, organizations could fumble around blindly with vague goals in mind as costs continue to mount. Going in without a plan is a sure recipe for failure, and luckily there appears to be a fairly defined blueprint for businesses to follow when it comes to data migration. The whole process should be viewed as taking place in three phases: the Preparation Phase, the Migration Phase, and the Post-Migration Phase. Let’s take a look at what each phase involves and how it should be followed.
The Preparation Phase
In many respects, this phase may be the most important. One slip-up here and the rest of the data migration process will suffer. Many of the steps of the Preparation Phase might seem pretty basic, but without them, the chances of further mistakes later on only increase.
One of the first things you need to do is identify exactly what data you’re choosing to migrate. This covers a number of areas, from the format of that data, where it currently resides, and where you intend to store it after migration. All of this is standard information, but it’s information that will help you plan out the rest of the process. For example, as you identify the data you want to move, you may recognize it as data of a sensitive nature. That would lead to greater protective measures being taken during migration.
Another important step as part of preparing for the next phase is to back up all of the data you intend to move. Problems can arise during data migration, some of them seemingly coming out of nowhere. The last thing you want is to permanently lose the valuable data you’re moving. By backing up the data, you’ll have something on hand to restore any data you accidentally lose.
The Preparation Phase also includes a variety of assessments for the equipment, tools, and teams involved in data migration. This is another area where you can identify any potential problems before they become serious. In the case of assessing your staff, determine what skills and experience they already have to see if there might be a lack in data migration expertise. Assess the true scope of the project, including how big the project is and how much time it’s expected to take. Assess the tools you’re using to see if they will be able to handle the data migration project you’re executing. By assessing these factors, you can determine if you need new tools, additional resources, or outside help to ensure everything goes smoothly.
The Migration Phase
The actual migration part of the data migration process is probably what most people think of when referring to data migration. This phase is comprised of a number of steps designed to get the data from its current location to its destination. As long as the established plan is followed, everything should run pretty smoothly.
The first step in data migration is often referred to as data extraction. The data is taken from the source system where it resides into a temporary setup, which allows any needed changes to be made. Data doesn’t always transfer to a new system without problems, and sometimes it needs to be modified in order for it to work well within its new location. The temporary setup provides the environment for that to happen.
Next comes the transformation step, which is where the change in the data occurs. What works best with the target system, that’s what the data will transform into.
Cleaning the data is the next part of the Migration Phase. Those familiar with data cleansing will know what this entails. Essentially, this means any inaccuracies within the data are fixed. This step also eliminates any duplicate information as well as cleaning up corrupted data where it applies. Once this step is completed, the data will be in a good state to move on.
The next step involves validation, where the data is tested before it is finally delivered to its destination. The purpose of the testing is to ensure that the data will work within the new system without any problems. Multiple tests should be conducted for the best results.
Finally, the data will be loaded into the new system. This is the end step of the data migration process. Once done, the Migration Phase is over and the next phase can begin.
The Post-Migration Phase
Just because the data is now where it needs to be doesn’t mean the whole process is complete. There are still steps to follow as part of the Post-Migration Phase. The first begins with testing the new system with the relocated data. While it’s true that a form of testing already took place during the Migration Phase, this testing ensures that everything went well. The test will make sure that there aren’t any connectivity problems and that the data arrived at its proper destination securely and in its correct form. Numerous tests can be done at this point, including volume, web-based application, system, unit, and batch application tests.
Once those tests are done, there’s still no guarantee that you have a problem-free system on your hands. To check for any errors that might have creeped in, you’ll need to perform a full audit of both the system and the data. For any mistakes that are identified, you can replace the data with what you already backed up, which only further emphasizes the importance of backing up all of the data before migration.
Don’t let the process of data migration intimidate you. It can be complex, but it’s still a necessary project, especially in the era of big data. With enough planning and a careful approach, data migration can go off without a hitch, leading organizations to reap the full rewards of using and analyzing all the data they collect.
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