Best practices for moving your data between platforms

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As more and more data is transferred from internal systems to applications that access external APIs, the need to migrate data becomes increasingly important. Data migration can mean different things in different contexts, but in practice, when we talk about data migration, we usually mean moving data from one platform or system to another. It is widely recognized that moving data between different applications is time consuming and error prone. Let’s review best practices when migrating data that will help you avoid common mistakes.

Why is data migration important?

Data migration happens for a variety of reasons, but the most common is to improve the efficiency and competitiveness of your IT operations, as well as your business at large. Better structured data can be used more efficiently, and data kept in one place in one format reduces the need and expense of various systems and hardware.

But you have to do it right.

A poorly conducted data migration can have serious negative effects. As a result, redundancies, erroneous data, and other difficulties may arise and must be resolved after the fact. A bad data transfer effort can even destroy accurate, well-structured and organized data.

A robust data migration strategy helps minimize missed deadlines, financial overruns, and insufficient planning, all of which can lead to complete project failure. Above all, your data transfer approach must be secure and stay compliant. Failure to implement adequate cybersecurity measures and regulatory safeguards may result in a data breach or fines and penalties for non-compliance.

Best Practices

Make a plan, and follow it

You need to have a clear strategy in place for what data needs to be transferred, where it’s going, and how you’re going to route it. Your policy should also specify who should have access to the data. Each phase of the migration process, as well as the people who will be involved, should be described in your strategy. Consider possible system downtime, as well as technical or compatibility difficulties. Data integrity and protection should also be a priority in your data transfer strategy.

Understand your data

Carefully review the data that will be migrated. Specifically, look for outdated, obsolete, or no longer needed data. Setting aside data for disposal will not only make your move easier, but will also allow your team to operate with a clean set of data after the conversion.

However, keep in mind that some data requires specific security measures for compliance purposes, so be sure to follow data archiving and retention best practices to avoid regulatory issues and penalties.

Migration policies

It is not enough to have a plan in place. You will need to develop organization-wide data migration policies and put measures in place to enforce them. Your policies should ensure that data is sent to the right place and is properly secured once transferred. You can also automate migration policies to make destination data more secure, as well as create rules to reauthorize data during the move.

Back up your data

A good starting point is to have a data backup to migrate. Having such a backup will minimize the risk of the main data getting corrupted during the move. The backup should ideally be in the most recent state and should be used whenever migration performance may be in question. Data backup should be planned and strictly monitored. Having such a backup will also serve to reduce any disruption to your users if the process goes wrong.

Test and validate your data

After successfully migrating, you’ll want to double-check that everything is in its place. Creating an automated retention policy to prevent data leaks is part of testing and validation. Also, make sure stale data is cleaned up and permissions are rechecked. Back up old legacy systems too, so if any systems go down, you’ll still have access to them in a separate, secure area.

Document the whole process

When you’re done, your compliance team will appreciate detailed documentation. Regulators may need confirmation that you have taken appropriate or reasonable care of sensitive data, such as financial or health information, depending on your industry. Auditing the process will not only provide proof that everything was done correctly, but it will also help you identify areas for improvement in future migration.

Implementation of advice

Data migration is an invaluable process that will protect your data and ensure its accessibility when needed. But without the right approach, the process can lead to data integrity issues, as well as lost revenue, fines, and reputational damage. By following the tips above, your next data migration will be successful and minimize your risk.

Sean N. Ayres