6 Essential Questions to Ask Yourself Before Starting Your Data Migration Project
By Tanya Bissonnette, Services Solutions Architect
The need for data migration has existed long before many of us even started our careers in IT. And, with the onslaught of technological advances, and maybe primarily because of this, this need is only growing.
Today’s data migration projects are often driven from:
- Replacement, upgrade, or expansion of storage systems
- Software upgrades and replacement
- Migrating from on-prem to the cloud or from cloud to cloud
- Migrating to a centralized database model
- Infrastructure maintenance
- Data or system consolidation
- Data center relocation
However, starting a data migration project can be daunting since these projects are often full of complexity and demand careful planning and execution to guarantee the integrity of your data and systems. Whether you’re moving data from one system to another, consolidating disparate systems, or transitioning to a new cloud provider, being prepared is essential to ensure a successful outcome.
Here are some crucial questions to answer before you begin to help you gain clarity, identify potential challenges, and set the stage for a well-executed migration.
What is the purpose and scope of the data migration?
The first step of any data migration project should be defining the purpose and scope. Why are you migrating data, and what are your goals for the project? Is the goal to improve system performance, upgrade your technology, increase scalability and flexibility, or integrate disparate workloads? Clearly outlining your goals will help you prioritize your tasks and guide your decision-making throughout the project.
Do you have a complete understanding of the data you are migrating?
We’ve all heard the saying, “Garbage in. Garbage out,” which seems to be especially applicable to data migration projects. Before starting, you should have a solid understanding of your data’s structure, the amount of data, its quality, and any dependencies. Do you know all of the data types, formats, and relationships involved? Is your source data complete and accurate?
The impact of cleanup time on a data migration project should not be underestimated. By assessing the integrity of your data up front, you can determine what cleansing or transformation is required prior to the migration, which can save significant time and cost. While this may seem like an additional step that prolongs the timeline, failing to address data quality issues before the migration can lead to significant consequences, such as corrupt or incomplete data in the new system, compromised data integrity, and inaccurate reporting. Doing this helps you ensure a smoother transition, minimize the risk of data errors, and lay a solid foundation for future data operations.
What are your security and compliance requirements?
Data security and compliance are critical considerations in any migration project. As part of the planning process, you should evaluate the sensitivity of the data being migrated and ensure that appropriate security measures are in place to protect it during and after the migration process. You should have a firm understanding of the regulatory requirements that govern your data, as well as any data privacy or legal obligations associated with your organization or its data.
Have you identified potential risks and developed a fallback plan?
Data migration projects can be complex, and you may encounter challenges such as data loss, compatibility issues, system downtime, and impacts on business operations. It is important to identify and anticipate any likely roadblocks, then develop contingency plans to help minimize potential disruptions.
As part of this process, it is important to define your fallback (or rollback) plan. The fallback plan details the steps required to revert to the previous state in case unforeseen issues occur during or after the migration. It should include strategies to roll back to the previous system, restore backups, and reestablish data integrity. The plan should also outline the triggers that would necessitate a fallback, such as critical data errors, system failures, or unacceptable performance degradation.
Identifying these potential challenges and establishing a fallback plan will help you manage risks, minimize system downtime, and maintain business continuity throughout the migration project.
What are the total costs involved with your data migration?
Looking at the complete cost of migrating your data involves assessing the pricing structure (one-time or monthly recurring) and other factors such as compute, storage, and network usage fees. Some providers may also charge ingress or egress fees for data transferred into or out of the cloud. To help estimate these costs, you should evaluate your data transfer patterns, such as incoming and outgoing data volume. Additionally, you may need to consider potential charges for data transfer between different cloud regions or availability zones. Understanding these factors will help you accurately determine the total costs involved and allow you to make informed decisions about your data transfer and storage strategies.
What is your data migration plan?
Finally, it is critical to develop and document a thorough data migration plan. This helps ensure a smooth transition process by outlining the steps and activities required to migrate your data from the source to the target system. It includes items such as data extraction, transformation, and loading, as well as any necessary system downtime or maintenance windows.
As part of the plan, you should identify any key milestones, define responsibilities, and establish a clear timeline for each phase of the data migration project. Additionally, your plan should outline how to validate the migrated data to ensure accuracy and completeness. Define the criteria for data validation and establish a robust testing process which should include performing sample tests and comparing the results with the source data to ensure the integrity of the data.
You should also ensure your plan includes how you will communicate and manage stakeholder expectations. Define how (and how often) you will communicate the project’s progress, potential risks, and any anticipated disruptions. Establishing transparency and providing regular updates will help you build trust and ensure stakeholders are aligned with your project’s objectives.
Careful planning and preparation are the foundations for a smooth and efficient data migration process. Addressing these key questions before you begin your data migration will help you develop a thorough migration plan, mitigate risks, and ensure the success of your data migration project. And, if you need help creating a data migration strategy or plan, our team of experts is ready to assist you. We look forward to hearing from you!