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Meeting and Defeating Common Data Migration Challenges


Given the inescapable fact that nothing ever stands still — certainly not business practices and the technologies that support them — it’s not surprising that there comes a time for many organizations to move data from one system to another.

But neither is it surprising that the data migration process is a daunting one, which is fraught with challenges. In fact, Experian calculated that nearly four out of 10 data migration projects fail.

Preparation is Key

As you might expect, the difference between the projects that succeed and those that fail comes down to adequate preparation. Fortunately, however, short falls can be avoided.

While no migration project is ever easy, the process we undertook last year was particularly complex. As a critical element of our operations plan, we determined that we needed to migrate our data from a maintained infrastructure into a managed service. For us, that meant a transition between two popular platforms. More specifically, from Hazelcast to Redis. In doing so, however, we faced some atypical data migration challenges, as well as the more common ones.

**Read MORE about our transition from Hazelcast to Redis via our Engineering blog here!


At all stages, however, thorough planning and testing enabled us to effect the transition without any major glitches. The testing phase, in fact, included an entire month of intensive trials drawing on every scenario we could conceive of. If that sounds like a big investment of time and resources, well, it is. But everyone involved recognized that it was well worth it, and that timely testing eliminated the need for even more demanding corrections down the road.

Some Data Migration Challenges are Common to Every Project

Specific business needs may necessitate tailored solutions to clear unique data migration challenges. These can be as basic as finding duplication, misspellings, correcting erroneous data that exists in the source systems, or eliminating the pitfalls that result from siloing when different people in an organization have been using different technologies — this is far too common. In addition, challenges can also be unrelated to data. For example, consider the complications that follow when the wrong personnel is tasked to manage a process, or when inadequate testing along the way thwarts an attempt to go live at the end of the migration.

While it may be a demanding process at the outset, analyzing and correcting problems that inevitably occur in the source data will ensure that flawed or incorrect data is not transferred to the new system, and that the existing data is properly configured for an all-new system.

Similarly, a thorough data analysis will reveal potential problems that arise when information in the source system has been “hidden,” either because users have misplaced it over time or because the system lacks all of the necessary data fields. Correcting such errors at the planning stage can prevent costly migration challenges once the transfer is well underway.

Another common hurdle businesses encounter in moving data from a source to a target system occurs at the human level — data creators and users within the company will have one body of knowledge and IT experts have another. Note: Neither is complete without the other. Meeting the myriad data migration challenges that are bound to come about requires the collaboration of all parties involved.

Too often, and a primary reason for the aforementioned 38 percent failure rate, data migration projects also suffer from too little testing, too late. This is a challenge that’s easy to sidestep by including early and comprehensive testing phases during the planning stage, and involving users to identify any practical problems.

Successful Data Migrations Rest on Sound Foundations

As with most endeavors, what comes before the actual work makes all the difference. That’s no less true when it comes to contemplating data migration than when preparing for any complex, multi-faceted undertaking. But recognizing in advance that data migration inevitably involves challenges, and preparing to meet them head-on, tips the odds heavily in favor of a successful transition.

It may be tempting to look for shortcuts into the project, but a close look at the experience of others who tried to do the same should be enough to convince anyone that time and care invested at the beginning of the migration will ward off countless costly headaches at the end.


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