Data Migration: Strategies, Tools, and Risks

October 25, 2022 / Katarina Rudela

Reading Time: 10 minutes

Migrating your organization's data to a cloud-based system is something that offers a lot of benefits. The data migration process, however, is often one that is fraught with complexities and risks. In order to help you migrate your organization's data to the cloud in the most efficient and secure way possible, we'll take a look at the data migration strategies and tools that you will want to employ as well as the data migration risks that need to be mitigated.

What is Data Migration?

Before we can cover the best data migration tools and strategies, it's first important to define what data migration entails. Data migration is the process of transferring data from one system to another. Most often, data migration entails migrating data from on-premise storage to the cloud. However, data migration may also be required if you are upgrading your database or switching from one database to another.

Types of Data Migration

Types of Data MigrationFigure 1: Types of Data Migration

While there are a wide range of processes that can be used to move data from one location to another, there are four main types of data migration that an organization might need to undergo, including:

1. Storage Migration

If you've ever transferred files from disk storage to cloud-based storage then you've already engaged in storage migration. The most common type of data migration, storage migration simply entails moving data from one storage medium to another (i.e. on-premise servers to cloud-based storage).

2. Database Migration

Whereas storage migration entails moving sets of stored data from one storage medium to another, database migration entails migrating entire databases of data at one time. Database migration is often required when businesses upgrade their software, switch database vendors, or decide to move their database to the cloud.

3. Application Migration

Application migration involves moving an application program from one environment to another. Like database migration, application migration is most often required when organizations switch to a new vendor or platform for their application. Instances where application migration might be necessary include instances such as switching to a new CRM solution or switching to a new HR solution.

4. Business Process Migration

Business process migrations are broad-ranging, business-wide migrations that can include storage migrations, database migrations, and application migrations. Business process migrations are often required during mergers and acquisitions but can also be necessary during business-wide optimizations and reorganizations.

Risks of Data Migration

There are a number of different risks associated with migrating data to a new system that you will certainly want to be prepared for, including risks such as:

Data Loss

Anytime you are migrating data from one system to another, there is the potential for some data to not transfer successfully and be lost along the way. The best way to mitigate this risk is to perform data migration testing ahead of time to ensure that all of your data can be migrated without any data being lost.

Data Corruption

In addition to losing data during the migration process, it is also possible for data to become corrupted if it is not migrated correctly. Data corruption often occurs when organizations incorrectly apply new rules and validations to the target system. Data corruption can also occur when unwanted data is accidentally migrated to the new system.

Extended Downtime

During the process of migrating data from one system to another, the source system will not be operable. This means that some degree of downtime is unavoidable when migrating data. When the data migration process takes longer than expected, though, the length of your organization's downtime increases and becomes all the more costly. This makes it essential to ensure that you have all the right tools and processes in place for a smooth and efficient migration in order to limit your downtime as much as possible.

Application Instability

If you are migrating your data to a reputable third-party system, application instability shouldn't be too much of a concern. If you are designing the system yourself or don't put enough research into the third-party system that you choose, though, there is the risk that the new system will end up being incompatible with your organization's needs. Incorrect development/coding of the new application or incorrect coding of business requirements into the new system can both lead to a system that is not able to fulfill its intended requirements.

Target Application Parametrization

If you don't put the right restrictions in place, the parameters of your target system could become incompatible with data migration programs. As with many data migration risks, the risk of target application parametrization can be mitigated with thorough data migration testing.

As you can see from the chart below, the risk of data loss is by far the most prominent risk associated with the data migration process. However, risks such as application instability and target application parametrization are certainly common as well. Before you begin the process of migrating your organization's data to a new system, it is vital to consider all potential risks and take every possible step to reduce the likelihood of those risks becoming reality.

Defect PercentageFigure 2: Defect Percentage

Data Migration Tips and Strategies

Given all of the various risks associated with the data migration process, it is critical that organizations take a well-thought-out approach to their data migration process. If you are planning to embark on a data migration journey in order to migrate your organization's data to a system that will better fit its needs, here are five data migration tips and strategies that are sure to save you a lot of hassle and expense.

1. Set Aside Plenty of Time for the Migration Process

Successfully transferring data from one system to another is something that often takes a lot more time than many might imagine. Challenges are bound to arise along the way, and if you don't set aside enough time to deal with these inevitable obstacles then you are almost certain to miss whatever deadlines you set. Even worse, you could end up rushing the process in an effort to meet your deadlines, creating the potential for costly mistakes. The longer you have been using your previous ERP system, the more complex the migration process is likely to be. With that in mind, you will want to be sure and determine ahead of time just how long you are likely to need for a successful migration before building in plenty of extra cushion regarding your deadline for the project.

2. Create a Migration Plan

Before you transfer even a single file, it is essential to develop a thorough plan that will guide your entire migration process. This plan should start by outlining the exact data that needs to be moved, where it is going, and how you plan to get it there. From there, you will want to define rules regarding who has access to what data during the migration process in order to limit any security concerns. Lastly, be sure to plan out every step of the migration process, including who will be involved and the specific responsibilities that they will fulfill.

3. Clean Your Inventory Ahead of Time

In the same way that moving into a new home is a great time to clean up and organize all of your belongings, data migration is a great opportunity to ensure that all of your data is clean as well. Before you start moving data to a new location, be sure to eliminate any duplicate data, erroneous data, or otherwise unneeded data. Any problems caused by corrupted or duplicated data are likely to be magnified once you transfer that data to a new, more complex system, so be sure to clean up your data before starting the migration process.

4. Test and Validate Your Migrated Data

Once you have successfully migrated your data to a new system, you will want to thoroughly test in order to make sure that everything is working as it should. The first key component of testing and validating migrated data is creating an automatic retention policy in order to prevent data leakage. Other vital testing and validation objectives include cleaning up stale data, ensuring that all data is located where it should be, double-checking permissions, and backing up any legacy systems that you still rely on.

5. Document Your Migration Process

Every step and action taken throughout the migration process should be carefully documented. There are a couple of reasons why it is important to document your migration process. For one, documentation may be required to prove regulatory compliance depending on your industry and the type of data that you are moving. If you are migrating sensitive data such as healthcare or financial information, for example, you will need to prove to regulators that you have taken reasonable steps to secure this data throughout the migration process. The second reason why it's a good idea to document your entire migration process is that this documentation can serve as a helpful blueprint for future migrations, helping you avoid repeating any mistakes that might have hindered your prior migration process.

Top Data Migration Tools

Types of Data Migration ToolsFigure 3: Types Of Data Migration Tools

If you are concerned about the hassles and headaches associated with migrating data to a new system, the good news is that there are plenty of tools and software solutions available today that are designed to make the migration process much easier and more efficient. This includes tools such as:

1. Hevo Data

Hevo Data is a no-code data pipeline platform that is designed to help organizations integrate and load data from over a hundred different sources. The best thing about Hevo Data is the fact that it is completely automated and, as a no-code solution, requires a very minimal learning curve. Hevo Data also offers 24/7 live support, live monitoring, real-time data transfer, and automated schema management.

2. Stitch Data

Stitch Data is a no-code cloud-based ETL platform that is designed to make the process of moving data far more intuitive and efficient. Key features of Stitch Data include features such as in-app chat support, tools for transforming data through external processing engines, and support for various SaaS and database integrations as data sources.

3. Fivetran

Fivetran is a data migration tool that promises to eliminate user maintenance and ensure 99.9% uptime by offering automated data integration that is made possible via a fully managed ELT architecture. Key features of Fivetran include features such as an idempotent core architecture that limits data duplication and failure, in-app support, comprehensive documentation, and support for over a dozen Data Warehouse destinations.

4. AWS Data Pipeline

AWS Data Pipeline is a data migration tool offered by Amazon Web Services. Key features of this tool include support for preload transformations that use SQL commands, online customer support through a knowledge base and ticketing system, and support for SQL, DynamoDB, Redshift tables, and S3 locations.

5. SnapLogic

SnapLogic is an integration platform as a service (iPaaS) that offers a data migration tool as part of its platform. With the SnapLogic data migration tool, users are able to automate much of their data migration workflow through the tool's workflow builder. Other key features of the SnapLogic data migration tool include visualization and reporting tools, browser-based accessibility, and the ability to automatically define all data migration parameters.

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