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What is data migration?

Storing data is one thing, but what if you need to move it?

Migrate data with Dropbox
A person migrating data between two laptops

What is data migration?

Data migration is the process of moving large amounts of data from one location to another. You might consider moving your PC files onto an external hard drive, a form of data migration in the simplest sense, but generally, data migration occurs on a much, much bigger scale.

What is data migration used for?

Data migration is used to update business technologies, either for efficiency or security. Moore’s Law states that we can expect significant development in speed and capabilities of technology every two years or so, meaning it’s always important to stay ahead of the game.

Getting up to date with technology and leaving your legacy systems behind is an unavoidable part of modern business. It also means picking up all your data from one system and moving it to another, and that is data migration.

What types of data migration are there?

There are several different types of data migration, each with different applications:

  • Storage migration: This is when data is moved from one storage format to another – for example, digitising paper records for online storage.

  • Application migration: This is when you change an application for a new one – for example, moving from your business’s legacy programs to Xero for your financials.

  • Database migration: This is when you move your whole database over to a new location, like going from your local office PCs to completely cloud-based.

Is cloud migration the same as data migration?

Cloud migration is a form of data migration and concerns moving data from your desktop or office-based file server to the cloud. It is also the term used when you move from one cloud to another.

Isn’t the cloud the same for every business?

‘The Cloud’ is, essentially, the Internet, but the way you gain access to the cloud depends on your service of choice. Dropbox, for example, is different from Google Drive. Both offer cloud storage, but having access to one doesn’t automatically grant you access to files stored on the other. Cloud migration would be moving data from one to the other.

How do you make a data migration plan?

A game plan is essential to a successful data migration. If you don’t plan ahead, you could end up losing your data altogether, or at least having lengthy downtime that your business could certainly do without.

Here are just some of the essential steps to take before you execute the actual move:

Understand your data quality

Look at the current status of your data. How sensitive is it? What format is it in? Is the migration going to change this? By recognising potential issues before they occur, you can make allowances and adapt your migration plan to prevent data loss.

Make a backup

You should have one of these in place already, but if you don’t, make one. Data migration is a huge undertaking, and if it were all to go wrong, you need to know your business’ data is still safe somewhere and able to help with disaster recovery. If you ever need to set up a new computer or laptop, you can access all of your existing files at the touch of a button.

Video describing how backup makes migrating files to a new computer easy.

Understand your time frame

Data migration is a massive commitment, so don’t expect to just show up one morning and have it ticked off the list by lunch time. Remember, you’re moving all your business data, and that means your whole team will be impacted, as well as your stakeholders. You may have to prepare and budget for downtime or perhaps arrange to complete the migration process over the weekend. Either way, don’t press ‘go’ until you know precisely what you’re getting into.

Understand your staff

Who is actually running this migration? Is it your professional IT team, or have you left it to your coder to try their best? Moving your data is as vital as moving your business’ finances – if it’s lost or corrupted, you’ll pay the price. Using the best data migration tools is just as important to your business as using the right management tools or any other crucial process, so choose wisely. Thankfully, the Dropbox Movebot data migration add-on can provide your business with the expert guidance you’re looking for and simplify the entire process for your team.

What are the best data migration strategies?

Ready to go? Make sure you keep these tips in mind:

Grant correct permissions

This is a step you may overlook, but the very first part of any migration should be locking out anyone who doesn’t need to be involved and giving access to those who do. This is essentially a transplant of your business’s heart, so you don’t want anyone accidentally pressing the wrong thing. Similarly, you don’t want to be worried about access in the middle of a crisis. Make sure everyone knows their role and has the tools they need.

Make sure someone is monitoring

Data migration, done properly, should be a smooth process, but don’t assume that. Make sure you have someone on hand to deal with any issues that pop up. Even if you are using a dedicated software or service, it pays to stay vigilant.

Test your system

Don’t call everyone back in the second your migration is complete. You need to test it, and you should keep this in mind when you’re calculating downtime. You may want to bring in a small selection of staff to help discern if your migration has impacted any of their day-to-day tasks. If you do find issues, it may take a few days to fix.

Run maintenance and keep a backup

Some issues may not be apparent right away, which is why it’s important you have a backup available. If and when you are certain the migration was a total success and all issues have been resolved, update your backup to your current file formats so you’re ready for when your next migration date rolls around.

Preparation is key

Data migration is probably the biggest IT task your business will face, so make sure you do it properly, arming yourself and your business with the best tools for the job. The Dropbox data migration add-on is the ideal solution for easy, professional data migration. Helping you to manage access and permissions, robust analytics keep you up to speed every step of the way, and human help is always at hand.

Your business may have reached a point where data migration is unavoidable, but data loss is something you can definitely dodge if you prepare correctly.

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