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Understanding the Data Migration Process

At Cloudficient, we are all about providing ways for customers to migrate data to the cloud in an intelligent way. With ...


At Cloudficient, we are all about providing ways for customers to migrate data to the cloud in an intelligent way. With our next-generation cloud native technology, each of our solutions leverages the ReMAD platform to provide the fastest and best data migration experience possible.

Understanding-the-Data-Migration-ProcessIn this blog, whilst I want you to keep the above in mind, I want to focus instead on the much broader topic of performing data migrations. I want to explain and for you to understand the data migration process as a whole. So, it doesn’t matter if you’re migrating a few files or millions of files, if you’re migrating a handful of PST files or thousands of them spread across multiple data centers and office locations, or if you’re migrating legacy archive data from a few users or you’re migrating massive journal archives with Petabytes of data; ultimately the process to follow is this same data migration process.

Here are the five steps in the data migration process that will help you with whatever project you want to tackle.

  • Decide what data is going to be migrated
  • Decide how to do the data migration
  • Decide on user communication
  • Decide on what to do with data that is not going to go through data migration
  • Decide on how the data is going to be checked or verified

What Is Data Migration?

In its simplest form data migration is moving data from one storage location to another. For example, you could be migrating on-premise Exchange Server mailbox data from a particular storage device to another new one that is faster, more resilient, or has more capacity. Enterprise-size organizations are almost constantly performing data migration of some sort, but of course, many organizations are now considering that proper data migration is the process involved in moving on-premise data to the cloud.

In some situations, it might be that the data migration is like-for-like, or, put another way, all the data from the source location ends up on the target location. In other situations, there might be an element of expiry of some data or the elimination of particular types of data. In that latter category, I saw a few years ago where a customer agreed that they were going to move home folder data belonging to users from an on-premise file server to Microsoft OneDrive, but they were not going to migrate any MP3, MP4, AVI, or other video/audio formats as they considered them non-business files.

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What Is a Data Migration Process?

A data migration process is the set of steps that the data will go through to get from its source location to its target location. At Cloudficient, we have over a hundred years of combined team experience in performing data migrations with customers worldwide, but even now, we always consider that each migration is different. In other words, each data migration methodology and  process is different. Of course, there are similarities, but each process will contain differences. The key here is that the data migration strategy is tailored to suit the project requirements, which in turn assists with the business goals for performing the data migration in the first place.

Now we understand the background, let’s go through each of the five points in more detail.

Decide What Data Is Going to Be Migrated

One of the first things to decide in a data migration strategy is exactly what data will be migrated. If you take as an example data migration of on-premise mailboxes from an Exchange Server environment to Office 365, you may think it’s simple that you’re going to migrate all the mailboxes. But consider this topic in slightly more detail. Are you going to migrate every mailbox? Or is it only going to be user mailboxes, not shared mailboxes? What about mailboxes from employees who have left the organization? Are they going to be migrated to the same target, to a different target, or not migrated at all?

Decide How to Do the Data Migration

Once you’ve decided on exactly what data is going to be migrated, you should then consider how the data is going to be migrated. As mentioned earlier in this article, it’s important to be very clear about what is in scope and what isn’t. Some of the outputs from this analysis will help with the next stage in deciding when (how, and how often) to tell users about the migration.

At this stage, it’s also important to decide whether you’re going to do the data migration in-house or enlist the help of an external partner. Sometimes if the data is small or non-specialist, the in-house approach is the best, but at other times either due to the size, complexity, or some other reason, it’s going to be best to use a third-party partner. Using an external partner will bring in additional expertise and hopefully answer many of the questions around the data migration methodology.

Another thing to do at this stage is to perform a proof of concept of whatever method, tools, products, or solutions are chosen to perform the data migration. At Cloudficient, we firmly believe in doing a proof of concept. It would be in your environment, with your users, and your data. Read more about it here.

Decide on User Communication

Sometimes a data migration process might not need any kind of user communication. If you’re simply moving from one storage device to another, then it’s likely your migration project falls into that category. But if you’re moving emails, legacy archives, file system data, and so on, then end-users are going to need to know what’s going on, when it’s happening and what to expect before, during, and after the migration.

You can use outputs from the previous point to help decide what end-users will need to be told and when.

Decide What to Do With Data That Is Not Going to Go Through Data Migration

If the data migration strategy is not going to involve moving all data from the source to the target, then you’ll need to consider what is going to happen to the data which is left behind. Is it going to be kept for a period of time before deleting? Are end-users going to be allowed access to that data?

Decide How the Data Is Going to Be Checked or Verified

While this is usually something that should be called out in the section relating to how the data migration will be performed, it’s important enough in its own right to be included in this overall data migration process flow.

As the data moves from the source to the target, how will the data be verified or checked that is the same as on the source? It’s important for compliance reasons as well as ensuring end-users are kept happy that the data is not tampered with. It wouldn’t be a very good outcome if, for example, all files were migrated from a source environment to a target environment, but PDF files were not moved (in error).

In many situations, there are all sorts of ways that data can be checked and validated, from a simple count of items (and size) to more complex activities like checksums. In the end, for your data migration project and the purposes of your data migration strategy, a combination of different ways is likely the best solution. Whatever is chosen, it’s important to make sure it’s clear in the data migration strategy what will be done, when, and what steps might be taken if a discrepancy is discovered.

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Conclusion

A data migration process is something that organizations of all sizes will need to consider from time to time. However, the larger the organization, the more these processes will often be defined, used, and completed as large organizations tend to constantly perform data migration tasks for many different reasons.

Care should be taken in looking at the five key points described in this article to create the best data migration strategy and process for a particular set of requirements. Failing to spend time determining the answers to each of the points is likely to mean problems further down the road for the organization as data might be lost or be inaccessible.

For large enterprise-wide data migrations, it is often a good idea to involve experts in a particular field rather than trying to determine the steps and perform the migration in-house.

With unmatched next-generation migration technology, Cloudficient is revolutionizing the way businesses retire legacy systems and transform their organization into the cloud. Our business constantly remains focused on client needs and creating product offerings that match them. We provide affordable services that are scalable, fast, and seamless.

If you would like to learn more about how to bring Cloudficiency to your data migration process, visit our website, or contact us.

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