Successful data migration – planning is the key

Migration shouldn’t cause you a migraine. Here’s how you can avoid the biggest pitfalls when moving data from your on-premise servers into the cloud.

Birds migrating

Microsoft has continued to grow its migration and cloud management capabilities by acquiring two rather similarly-named platforms, Movere and Mover, in recent months. The acquisition suggests that the migration and management of cloud data is still a really strong area of focus for Microsoft.

At CompanyNet we have been helping customers migrate their data to the cloud for years, so we have a good idea of what works, and – more importantly – what doesn’t.

Motivation for migration

Organisations migrate their data for a variety of reasons. You’ll often see “digital transformation” or “cloud first” used as a banner objective, but these don’t tell you much on their own.

There might be a number of underlying motivations for migration. For example, you might have a need to reduce spending on infrastructure. Data centres and servers are expensive to operate, and replacing physical infrastructure with cloud services one way to drive down costs.

You might already have a cloud platform, but only be using part of it. For example, if an investment has been made in Office 365 to handle corporate email, then there’s an incentive and opportunity to use the service to store data, too. Migrating data to OneDrive and SharePoint makes better use of the service and reduces the need to have on-premises infrastructure.

Information governance is another factor driving migration to the cloud. Legislation such as GDPR has brought concerns around information security and governance to the fore.

Taking control

It’s difficult to manage and get data out of legacy data storage that’s split across many places, which can create uncertainty. Of course, this holds true for unmanaged cloud storage, too.

By migrating your data to Office 365, you can start to take control of your corporate data. Built-in features in Office 365’s Security and Compliance Centre make it easier to secure, govern and report on your organisation’s data – and cloud features can work with on-premise data stores through utilities like the Azure Information Protection scanner tool.

Getting the most out of your existing assets is a noble goal, but it can prove tricky to implement, particularly if your data is still on servers in your office. It’s rarely easy, for example, to discover information stored on network shares.

By storing data in the cloud, it’s easier for users to find information and hence more be productive. This can even go beyond just ordinary search, and into what’s called ‘discovery’. Microsoft Graph, which indexes data across Office 365, not only enables intelligent search across all your files, but can predict what files you’ll need and promote that content to you before you ask.

Select and use a migration tool

As tempting as it is to just ‘get on with it’ and migrate your data, it’s important to put a migration plan in place. Migration is much more than a technical exercise; here are a few areas to focus on which will help make it a success.

For any significant data migration, it isn’t practical to expect users to copy items manually. Not only is this an incredibly boring task, but more importantly it impacts file metadata such as the ‘last modified date’, which will be lost.

The solution is to use a migration tool or service which automates file transfers, preserves metadata and optimises the migration.

At CompanyNet, we’ve been using ShareGate to successfully carry out customer migrations. It’s not the only solution, and – depending on your needs – an alternative may be a better fit.

Another factor to consider is whether using cloud infrastructure may help, such as an Azure virtual machine or Azure Data Box to create a more effective migration route.

Design your cloud data structure in advance

It is possible to migrate an entire network share into a single SharePoint Document Library in one go. Just because you can do it, though, doesn’t mean you should.

We’ve never encountered a legacy network share that had been carefully designed. Network shares grow organically over time, leading to inconsistent folder names, confusing structures and a mess of access controls.

Migration is your chance to rethink the structure of your corporate data, and design it to be future-proof. Take the opportunity to understand the current and future needs of your organisation, such as how you work and how you’d like information to be governed.

Combine these functional requirements with any technical constraints to design the destination cloud storage. By doing this work in advance, it will ensure no headaches down the line, and make your solution a success once implemented.

Think about the human impact

The team here at CompanyNet often talks about the technology only being part of the solution. People are what matter – and with any activity that affects users, it’s critical to include them in the process.

For data migration, this means complementing the technical planning above with mapping out how it will work for your colleagues. For example, are you going to migrating in one big ‘cut-over’ – where people come in in the morning to find only the new system is available? Or is it a staged migration, where some users may need to work across old and new data stores until the process is complete?

Sharing your plans, reinforcing the reasons and benefits for the migration, and explaining what support is available will help everyone adapt and accept the change.

This will increase the positive impact of your work, and help it to ‘stick’, rather than fighting against user resistance.

Get your migration right

Migrating data to a cloud platform like Office 365 should unlock a range of benefits to an organisation. These include improved information discovery, governance and reduced infrastructure costs. But be wary of treating a data migration as a ‘technical project’. It needs input from a range of people, agreed objectives and a well-designed future state before you hit that ‘move’ button.

Even on the technical side, there are different ways to approach the implementation, and it’s important to analyse all your options before ploughing ahead. Taking the time to consider all these factors will increase the chances of success, with migration going as smoothly as possible and users supporting the change.

We can help

The expert team at CompanyNet has helped loads of customers successfully migrate their data to the cloud.

Migration is hard, but we’re here to help. Drop us a line to find out what we can do for your organisation.

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