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Data Migration Challenges

Biggest Data Migration Challenges and what you can do about them

(Part 1)

Migrating data, applications, and equipment from one IT environment into another is both a rite of passage for an organization and a cause of great anxiety. On the one hand, it represents success because the company has outgrown its existing data solution. But on the other hand, it is a complex and potentially risky undertaking that could lead to a variety of problems. Understanding common data migration problems can help organizations to better prepare themselves for a technology transfer and take advantage of their new IT environment when they get there.


  • Confusion and Disorganization
  • This may not sound like a technical issue, but most data migration problems can be traced back to confusion surrounding the migration plan (if one is in place) and a failure to adequately prepare for the move. Modern technology transfers are massively complex undertakings. When the people responsible for making those moves fail to inventory systems and data, underestimate the time and effort it will take to relocate them, and fail to identify what resources will be needed in the target environment, they’re laying the groundwork for disaster.



  • Developing a comprehensive data migration plan should always be the first step in any technology transfer. This not only establishes the scope and the goals of the project, but also develops the timeline for carrying it out and identifies the people who will be responsible for making it happen. It highlights potential problem areas ahead of time so risks can be mitigated effectively before they have a chance to derail the project and delay implementation.


  • Data Loss
  • When so much data is being transferred from one location to another, there’s always a possibility for some of that data to be lost. Some amount of data loss may not be consequential, especially if it’s “junk” or other “non-essential” data that won’t be missed. Similarly, some lost data can easily be restored from backup files. But some types of data loss are much more serious. Even setting aside the potential disaster of losing confidential or private information that needs to be protected, data loss could create a ripple effect that terminates portions of the migration process. If the data loss escapes the attention of IT personnel, no one may realize essential data is missing until an application crashes due to missing data.



  • Backups, backups, backups. No essential data should be moved out of its current environment without being backed up somewhere. This enables IT personnel to rollback elements of the migration in case a problem occurs. In some cases, this could be done easily with backup images stored in an existing or off-site system. For mission-critical data that needs to remain available during the migration, swing and parallel environments can be set up to ensure business continuity. Data is critical to the success of today’s organizations and they shouldn’t take any chances with it during a migration.


(Part 2)


  • Compatibility Issues
  • Shifting data and applications from one environment to another is theoretically a simple process, but in practice, things are much more complicated. Even though some assets can be “lifted and shifted” without too much difficulty, this can create some compatibility problems down the line due to poor optimization. Changing operating systems can render some files inaccessible because they’re no longer in a readable format. Access controls may not make a smooth transition from the source environment to the target system, leaving people unable to access key applications when they need them. In an absolute worst-case scenario, the entire system may crash once it’s removed from its legacy environment.



  • Any thorough data migration plan should include a detailed assessment of the current system’s operational requirements and how they must be adapted to the new environment. Migrating everything first and waiting to deal with whatever compatibility issues arise later isn’t just failing to plan; it’s planning to fail. All system requirements should be documented ahead of time and closely monitored throughout the process. Only after thorough tests have been run within the new system to validate its performance should the old operating system be shut down.


  • Hardware Challenges
  • Software compatibility issues are complicated enough, but sometimes the destination environment simply isn’t capable of handling the amount of data and applications being migrated. While overestimating capacity can lead to needless (and costly) waste, it can be dangerous thinking that all assets will transfer to their new environment on a “1 to 1” basis due to differences in operating environments and the way different hardware deployments utilize resources. And, of course, there’s always the nightmare scenario of a server being damaged during transfer to a new location or pulling up to the loading dock only to discover that the new server cabinets won’t fit through the door.



  • Aside from seemingly obvious points like measuring whether or not new equipment will fit through the door (a surprisingly common oversight), any legacy hardware that’s being migrated must be exhaustively checked after installation. In many cases, this equipment will not have been moved from its previous location for many years and the movement may have caused damage (from things like static discharges or dust and dirt breaking loose). For new equipment, it’s important to make sure it meets the operational requirements of the data and applications being migrated.

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