Top 8 Data Migration Best Practices and Strategies

Whether you’re moving to a cloud-based infrastructure, switching to a new vendor for a specific enterprise platform, or acquiring a new line of business from an external party, you’ll likely be faced with the task of migrating big data sets to a new location. Data migration causes more headaches than most enterprise initiatives because the potential for user error, data loss, and miscommunication is so high. In order to have a successful migration that considers the needs and goals of all departments, take a look at these top data migration best practices and strategies before getting started.

More on migration in the cloud: Effective Cloud Migration Strategies for Enterprise Networks

Tips for a Successful Enterprise Data Migration

  1. Develop a Project Plan with a Clear Scope and Timeline
  2. Create a Cross-departmental Task Force
  3. Evaluate What Data Needs to Migrate
  4. Cleanse Data before Migration
  5. Check Regulatory Compliance Requirements for Migration
  6. Identify Needed Vendors, Partners, and Products
  7. Backup Your Data and Develop a Risk Management Strategy
  8. Review Migration Periodically with Agile Methodology

1. Develop a Project Plan with a Clear Scope and Timeline

Before you start a data migration project, it’s important to create a detailed project plan with clear goals for your data and involved teammates. Ask yourself the following questions while developing your project plan:

  • What needs to migrate? 
  • Where is it migrating? 
  • Who needs to be involved in this process? 
  • Who will be responsible for ensuring data is used correctly before, during, and after the migration process?
  • What is a reasonable timeline for completion?

Asking these questions ahead of time ensures that you stay on budget, include the right people, and backup the right data before making any drastic changes to your portfolio.

A project plan template to help you get started: Use a Project Plan Template for Your Next Project

2. Create a Cross-departmental Task Force 

Data migrations are typically handled by an IT or data science team, but these teams may not realize the full depth and breadth of how data is used and how the migration will affect other teams. To ensure clear communication and a data migration plan that works for every data user, create a cross-departmental task force to lead the data migration. The IT team will necessarily be more hands-on with the actual migration process, but members of the operations, marketing, and even HR teams that deal with that data regularly should be made keenly aware of how each step of the migration will affect their work.

Some tech teams may be concerned that including non-technical teammates would slow down the migration schedule, but it’s likely to have the opposite effect. Teammates from other departments bring a different perspective and often raise important concerns about a data move before it becomes a problem. In other words, the combined task force strategy might make some steps take more time, but it will likely save time in the future by preventing complex reworks of data sets and platforms. To have the most success with your combined team, consider taking on an ITOps approach to help with cross-team strategy.

More on ITOps: Bringing Hyperautomation to ITOps

3. Evaluate What Data Needs to Migrate

Some data might be able to stay where it is currently located. Some data might be duplicate data or data that is no longer needed. Evaluate what data needs to migrate before starting the migration process in order to save on time and costs. Several tools on the market, such as data deduplication and other data quality software, can automate the data evaluation process.

4. Cleanse Data before Migration

You don’t want to duplicate existing data problems in a new location, especially in larger data sets that will become more difficult to audit as they grow. Take the dedicated time you’ve set aside for migration to also cleanse data via data annotation, data governance, data deduplication, and other data quality tools. You’ll be surprised by the number of records that require easy fixes.

5. Check Regulatory Compliance Requirements for Migration

Especially if your organization is required to follow certain data regulations like HIPAA or GDPR, you’re held responsible for customer data, how it’s used, and who uses it at all times. Ask yourself these important data governance questions before starting your data migration so that you can avoid damaging data use violations:

  • Does your new platform align with your industry’s and your company’s regulatory requirements? Are there add-ons or safeguards you need to put in place in order to make the new platform compliant? 
  • Will you break any laws or rules during migration if you don’t follow specific steps with data?
  • Will any of your teammates require certain clearances in order to work with customer data during the migration?
  • Have you put in place security measures to protect data in transit?

Regulatory violations can have financial and even criminal consequences, not to mention the damage they can do to a company’s reputation. If you’re not sure if a platform or plan adheres to industry standards and guidelines, be sure to seek legal advice before compromising your users’ personal data.

More on managing compliance: Five Tips for Managing Compliance on Enterprise Networks

6. Identify Needed Vendors, Partners, and Products

Data migration is a big task that can be simplifiedand even automatedwith data migration tools and partners who specialize in data migration. Especially if you’re working in a specialized industry, look for solutions and partners that are familiar with your particular requirements and how you plan to use your data post-migration.

7. Backup Your Data and Develop a Risk Management Strategy

No matter how carefully you plan and how many expert technicians and tools you bring into the data migration process, there’s always the possibility of data loss or unwanted data manipulation. To protect yourself against worst-case data scenarios, you’ll want to take these two primary steps: backup your most important data before migration and develop a comprehensive risk management strategy. 

The tech market offers several data backup solutions that can make copies of your data to save offline and in other secure environments. Data backup and recovery is one of the simplest and most effective ways to make sure your data can be retrieved if an accident happens.

A risk management strategy is a plan that outlines potential risks in a project, where risks might come from, and how the organization should respond if that risk arises. Risk management strategies often exist at the more general organizational level, but for a big project like data migration, it’s important to update your strategy for this specific use case or to create a separate strategy entirely. Your risk management strategy team should not only include leaders for the data migration but should also include executives like chief risk officers (CROs) and possibly even a legal or insurance expert for additional support.

More on risk management tools and strategy: Best Risk Management Software for 2021

8. Review Migration Periodically with Agile Methodology

Data migration can completely ruin company data and platforms if the data migration strategy is not periodically assessed and updated. Consider adopting an agile project management methodology for your migration and complete the data move in short spurts or iterations. Don’t be afraid to pivot or adjust the scope of your project over time because you’ll likely find errors that need to be corrected or discover new best practices that can improve your overall data migration strategy.

Finding the right tool for a successful cloud migration project: Best Enterprise Cloud Migration Tools & Services 2021

Shelby Hiter
Shelby Hiter is a marketing content writer with more than five years of experience in writing and editing, focusing on healthcare, technology, data, enterprise IT, and technology marketing. She currently writes for three different digital publications in the technology industry: Datamation, Enterprise Networking Planet, and CIO Insight. When she’s not writing, Shelby loves finding group trivia events with friends, cross stitching decorations for her home, reading too many novels, and turning her puppy into a social media influencer.

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