3 Common Data Migration Mistakes in Big Businesses

For almost any company, data plays a very important role in how the company is operated – in fact, you could say it is a commodity. But whatever data you are pulling, tracking, analyzing, etc. is worthless unless you know how to work with it effectively. That is especially true when it comes to data migration.

Data migration is the process of moving data from one location to another, one format to another, or one application to another. This process is usually the result of introducing a new system or location for the data, such as an application migration or consolidation in which legacy systems are replaced or augmented by new applications that will share the same dataset.

Data is what drives most modern businesses. That means data migration needs to be a well-established, seamless processes. Without a competent data migration plan, businesses can run over budget, end up with overwhelming data processes, or find that their data operations are functioning below expectations.

Efficiently Migrating Data

Today, data migrations are occurring as companies move their data from on-premises infrastructure and applications to cloud-based storage and applications. The benefits of moving data to these updated formats include:

  • Higher security. Safeguards against data corruption and loss during tape-to-tape copying.
  • Cost savings. Companies can forgo expensive upfront investments on servers, PCs and other data storage devices by migrating data to the cloud.
  • High storage capacity. Businesses can safely store enormous data without investing in IT infrastructure.
  • Flexible and scalable. Data shared on the cloud can be easily accessed by allocated employees who can work simultaneously on shared documents. Cloud computing enables team members to log in and work from anywhere to access data anytime, from anywhere, which is valuable especially in case of emergencies.

For those in the trenches, doing a proper data migration can be a complicated task, and one that definitely can have issues if not done correctly. To put it matter-of-factly - you have to do it right. Less successful migrations can result in inaccurate data that contains redundant information and unknowns. This can happen even when source data is fully usable and adequate. Further, any issues that did exist in the source data can be amplified when it’s brought into a new, more sophisticated system.

Code Authority is no stranger to working with databases and the data migration process. We’ve dealt with many, including migrating and updating our own platforms. In our work, we’ve seen 3 data migration mistakes that keep popping up time and time again. Let’s take a closer look at what they are and how you can avoid them.

Data Migration Mistake #1: Migrating All Data at Once

Sometimes it seems like we are all in a hurry. Rushing to get projects completed on time. Trying to meet one deadline or another. Anticipating what’s around the corner and when it will need to be started and when we can finish it. And with all that rushing around, we don’t always take the time to stop, look at what we are doing, and plan it out.

That definitely can be the case with data migration. As mentioned, data migration can be a complicated task, and done incorrectly, can be even more time-consuming if you have to do it over and over, and even worse, important data can be lost. You need to plan out the process and ask some important questions that may help you avoid wasted time and lost data, such as:

  1. How many years of historical data needs to be migrated?
  2. Can this be avoided by keeping legacy systems and providing read-only access to business?
  3. What is the quality of data and can it be fixed in source or during the transformation process?
  4. How many test cycles should be planned for migration and reconciliation?
  5. What is the failover plan in case migration is only partially completed?

You can think of data migration in the same manner as you would a physical move from one facility to another. You need to list out what you are moving, think if it’s important and still has valid use, and be sure you aren’t leaving anything behind. Again, take the time to plan the migration and go through shared drives and all workflows that involve the content you want to migrate. This allows you to discover exactly where and how any data—structured or not—is used.

Breaking the process down into smaller steps makes it more manageable, and less prone to errors or omissions. Taking this route will allow you to simplify the overall execution, gain strategic value from your content, and transform your unconsolidated documents into data that your organization can actually use.

Data Migration Mistake #2: Migrating Data Without Looking at it and Testing it

It is very easy to overlook seemingly innocuous changes between source and target systems. Fields with the same name may mean different things. A different field name may be used for the same purpose across systems or multiple values may have the same underlying meaning. Date and time formatting and field length differences can also easily be overlooked, with disastrous impact. That’s why it is critical to look at the data and be sure it is in the correct format and layout before migrating it.

The data in the legacy system is the one that is being migrated. If the data in the legacy system that is being migrated is of poor quality, then even the best data migrator might not help in the end. Data that has inconsistencies in the legacy system, will lead to inevitable problems with the data migration work.

Enter in the importance of testing here. This isn’t just a step for the end. It’s important that you are validating and testing the migration throughout the entire process. Bypassing or delaying testing can allow corrupted data to sneak into the new system, causing disastrous results. Testing throughout the migration allows you to ensure there are no connectivity problems with source and target systems, and that all data migrated is correct, secure, and in the proper location.

Set up parameters and have ready answers to questions like how are you going to test the data, who will do the testing/evaluation, what is the plan if there are errors/issues?

Data Migration Mistake #3: Not Having a Back-up Plan

Accidents happen. Losing your data can be very costly. Hence, the importance of having a back-up plan should the unthinkable happen. Prior to the migration of your data, it’s imperative to make sure that all of your data is backed up, especially the files that you’ll be migrating. If you encounter any problems during migration, such as corrupt, incomplete, or missing files, you’ll have the ability to correct the error by restoring the data in its original state

That being said, it’s a good idea to do a re-check on how you conduct back-ups. You don’t want to realize your back-up procedure didn’t work after it’s too late. Some helpful questions to ask here include:

  • When was the last time you fully tested your backup system?
  • When was the last time you did a test deployment of your back-up in exactly the same manner as you would have to do it, should you actually lose some data?

Be sure you make a copy of your data before migrating it. You want to be able to see everything as it was originally, on its original system, so that you can spot any corruption or anything that looks out of place.

Make sure that you change as little as possible between the “back-up” phase, and the actual migration phase. That way you don’t lose any changes that you might make before the final migration.

Data migration is a complex task, yet thorough planning helps to make it more predictable and allows you to be ready with a back-up plan in case something goes wrong. If you’re thinking of upgrading your business database or just need an overall digital transformation, Code Authority can help. With a 100% in-house team of cloud developers and AWS certified architects, Code Authority can design, build, test, and deploy your cloud-based project, making your processes faster, more scalable, and safer. Contact us today to learn more about what we can offer your business with a free estimate.