What is Data Migration in a Business Context

Data Migration

Data migration in a business context translates into challenges on a technical and business process level as well as opportunities to consolidate data in the target environment. Ultimately, it translates into how well the IT department of a company can help ensure a seamless transfer while meeting business objectives. 

1. What Does Data Migration Mean for Businesses?  

For businesses, small and large, data migration is a mission-critical activity where the IT team is at the forefront. The three core focus areas in most business data migration projects are:

  • Protecting the sensitivity of business information during data transfer
  • Making the transition from the source to the target environment seamless for the end-users (employees)
  • Meeting the project deadline (not in all cases) 

Ensuring a successful data migration means businesses must: 

  • Perform an extensive pre-migration assessment to understand the scope of work 
  • Identify challenges and loopholes and explore solutions
  • Plan a project roadmap that includes a timeline that sets the right expectations
  • Update all the incremental changes made during the migration through a delta migration (performed after one-time migration)
  • Have a proper plan to onboard end-users to the target environment

2. Why Do Businesses Need To Migrate Data?

The need to move business data from the source to the target environment can either come out of necessity (e.g., cost savings or a merger/acquisition) or as a strategy to re-structure or consolidate internal processes.

Many businesses share common reasons to migrate from local storage to the cloud and likewise for cloud-to-cloud migration. They are listed below: 

From on-prem/local storage to the cloud:

  • Embrace online/cloud collaboration: For many businesses, the primary reason to leave on-prem systems/local storage and move to a cloud suite is to embrace cloud collaboration which ultimately improves operational efficiency. 
  • Reduce operational costs: In many cases, aging on-prem systems/local storage becomes costly for businesses to run and maintain, especially for SMBs. So, by moving away from them to the cloud, SMBs and enterprises lower overall operating costs (including IT costs).  
  • Improve data security: Improving data consolidation, and overall business information security is also one of the main reasons businesses of all sizes plan to switch to the cloud from on-prem systems.  
  • Mergers and acquisitions: Businesses need to migrate data from on-prem to the cloud during a merger if the scope is to embrace a particular cloud suite for the new entity. And in an acquisition, the target company may need to switch from its local storage system to the cloud as required by the acquirer. 

From one cloud to another:

  • Lower/cost-effective pricing model: One of the most important factors driving businesses to leave their current cloud storage solution is a lower or cost-effective pricing model from another cloud service provider. For example, a cloud suite that offers per-user pricing can drive businesses to move away from their current cloud environment, which may have a one-size-fits-all pricing model.  
  • Improved security: Ensuring optimum cloud data security is a constant challenge. Since the cost of protecting business data outweighs the expenses involved in repairing security breaches, businesses can plan to move to another cloud suite (offering better security) from their current cloud environment for better data protection. 
  • More or better features: Features of cloud suites directly impact the way end-users collaborate online. And the better the collaboration between end-users and their teams, the higher the productivity and overall operational efficiency. While more or better features of a cloud suite may not be the primary reason for businesses to leave their current cloud environment, they may add to the list of migration goals. 
  • Mergers and acquisitions: In many cases, mergers and acquisitions are the sole purposes for businesses to migrate data from their current cloud to a new cloud. In mergers, both the companies may agree to either leverage the current cloud environment of one party or choose another cloud suite for the new entity. In acquisitions, the acquirer requires the target company to embrace its cloud ecosystem. 

3. Challenges To Migrate Business Data

Business data migration sure does create many opportunities that help improve internal processes and business outcomes. But it also brings with it several challenges. Here are some of the common data migration challenges businesses face: 

  • Assessing which data goes where: IT teams need to have clarity on whether to move the entire company data or strategically segregate them and migrate only the vital data. In many cases, not all company data needs to be migrated. By letting go of static or aging data, the IT team can help their organization lower migration time and cost. 
  • Migrating data along with metadata and permissions: The need to migrate company data along with metadata, sharing permissions, external shares, in-line comments, versions, and embedded links complicates business data migrations. The IT team can help operations teams retain their collaboration structure in the target environment by retaining these features. 
  • Migrating source environment-specific files: In many cases, businesses need to migrate the source environment’s proprietary files with critical data. For example, when migrating to Microsoft 365 from Box, businesses face the challenge of transferring Box Notes files since OneDrive for Business, and SharePoint Online do not support them. 
  • Ensuring the highest level of data transfer security: Challenges to ensure optimum security during business data migration are present in the local migration approach and over-the-network migration (online transfer). In local migration, IT teams face the challenge of setting up a highly secure data transfer infrastructure. And in online transfer, IT teams must ensure that the networks they plan to use are highly secure. 

4. Role of Third-party Data Migration Service Providers 

Migrating several hundred TBs or even PBs of company data along with permissions, metadata, and other features while retaining file/folder structure and user hierarchy with a manual approach is out of scope for IT teams. Therefore, businesses need to use a migration tool with capabilities to meet comprehensive migration needs.

Third-party data migration service providers play an integral role in helping businesses meet all their migration needs with their discrete migration tools. Business data migration-focused third-party tools, including CloudFuze, use source and target cloud’s API calls to read and write data securely. 

The capabilities of third-party tools to migrate data along with metadata, permissions, and other features without any downtime make them an indispensable asset for mission-critical business data migration. 

Businesses also have the option to use the migration tool of cloud service providers, such as the SharePoint Migration Tool from Microsoft. However, they have many limitations, such as support for only specific cloud combinations, limited transfer speed, and limited functionalities. These tools are suitable only for simple data dump projects in most cases. 

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Pankaj Rai

Pankaj Rai

Pankaj Rai, at CloudFuze, constantly seeks to help IT admins/managers, business leaders, and decision-makers access insights critical to planning business data migrations and making informed decisions.