What is the data migration process?

Data migration, in its simplest form, is moving data from one place to another. There are different types of data migration and the process generally takes place when a system is being updated or upgraded. 

While data migration appears to be quite a straightforward process on the surface, it is a process that comes with a lot of challenges and potential pitfalls. It must be handled carefully and with adequate consideration in order to be successful and avoid these pitfalls. 

In this blog, we are going to explore more about the data migration process and how it can best be handled. 


The six types of data migration

There are six commonly used types of data migration used, these include: 

  1. Storage migration
  2. Database migration
  3. Cloud migration
  4. Application migration
  5. Business process migration
  6. Data centre migration 

All of these types include a basic process of moving data from one place to another for a benefit. How the data migration itself will take place is more dependent on which approach is used for the process. There are two commonly used approaches, which we will discuss in the following section. 

The two approaches to data migration 

The big bang approach 

In the big bang approach to data migration, all data is moved from source to target destinations in the same, short time period. This is usually done at a time when the system is down and will impact customers as little as possible, such as on a holiday day or overnight. While the big bang approach can be efficient in terms of time and cost, it poses a bigger risk in terms of data loss, failure, and system downtime.


The trickle approach 

The trickle approach to data migration is also known as phased or iterative migration. Instead of moving data in one short space of time, the trickle approach takes much longer and includes a dual process of running new and old systems at the same time. This allows both systems to be up and running with no downtime or disruption to customers, as the data is moved over slowly but surely. 

This approach can be complex and things can get tricky with two datasets being in existence at the same time. It can increase the chance of data going missing or getting confused with the new system’s parameters. However, it is most suitable for bigger companies and those who cannot afford any downtime on their systems

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Associated risks in data migration processes

As we stated at the beginning of this blog, there is a risk involved in data migration. Due to this risk, it is imperative that any migration of data is handled by experts who are able to take these risk factors into account and counteract them with appropriate strategies. 

Some of the specific risks associated with the data migration process include: 


Loss of important data

Unfortunately, there is always the risk involved when moving anything from one place to another that something will be lost in transit. Sometimes important data can be lost in the process of migration. As such, it is key that all data is backed up before commencing migration.

Server/system downtime

When data is being migrated, there will always be a necessary amount of server or system downtime while this takes place. The larger the dataset and the more complicated the migration process, the longer this downtime will be. This is something that can impact your business and service as end-users will experience disruption. However, if the migration is handled by a professional software development company that knows how to deal with these issues, the process can go by much more smoothly. 

Changes in semantics

Sometimes when data is ported from one place to another, changes in semantics can cause errors in the new system’s functioning. For example, if an action in your existing data reads as “close account” and in the new database it occurs as “account close”, this won’t work. For this reason, it is essential that the new data in the new system is tested thoroughly before it goes live to end-users.

Data corruption

There can be security and corruption risks when data is moved from one place to another. It is important that cyber security elements are considered in any data migration process, particularly so if the datasets contain sensitive information about your clients or colleagues. 

Breaking budget

Data migration processes frequently go over budget due to how complex the task can be. If you want to keep things within your budget, working with data migration experts is the best way to go. 

Is it worth the risk?

While data migration carries a variety of risks, it is certainly worth it. Often the only way to upgrade to a better system is to migrate your data, and upgrading is always worth it. Whether you are replacing, upgrading, expanding, or consolidating, going about data migration in the right way is the only way to do it and be successful.

When your data is in the right hands, a lot of the risk can be taken away and the chance of success significantly improved. 

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