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Analysis & Strategy

What is a Migration and Why is it Done?

In information technology, migration is the process of making a copy of data and moving it from one device or system to another, after which processing uses the new device or system. The key, or challenge, is to do this without disrupting or disabling active business processing and, most importantly, maintain the integrity of the data.

Migrations can be routine and on a small scale or they can be large, enterprise-wide migrations that are planned in terms of months and even years. Regardless of the scope, steps must be taken to ensure data integrity, compatibility, low downtime, security, and a seamless migration process. This requires clear strategy, requirements determinations, and well laid-out plans for design and implementation.

There are a number of different business drivers that may call for a data migration:

  • Deployment of a new operating or applications system.
  • New users or businesses need access to an existing system (mergers, acquisitions, etc.).
  • Server or storage technology replacement or upgrade.
  • Server or storage consolidation.
  • Changes to database schemas and structure.
  • Relocation of the data center server or storage equipment maintenance.
  • Workload balancing or other performance-related tuning.


Migration Analysis and Strategy - Step, by Step, by Step

There is a lot at stake in a data migration. Business information is key to business operations so specific goals need to be established.

  • Data must be migrated completely and accurately from the source location to the target location and according to company and regulatory policies on information controls and security.
  • There cannot be dropped or incomplete records nor any data fields that fail validation or other quality controls in the target environment.
  • The process needs to be done quickly with as short a downtime window as possible.
  • The cost must be manageable in terms of both technology and staff requirements.

There are also risks and challenges associated with a data migration that must be considered:

  • migration data may be part of a larger chain of dependencies which can increase the complexity
  • ill-defined rules for integrity, controls, security, availability, and recoverability can result in an incorrect migration
  • data may be too distributed to migrate easily

Effective data migration strategy achieves an optimal balance between data accuracy, migration speed, low or no downtime, and minimum costs.

Combining risks and challenges with goals and requirements involves a strategy with clearly defined phases and milestones along the way. Entry and exit criteria should be defined for each phase and the milestones set to trigger auditing and reviews.

These phases, three in general: analysis, design, and deployment, can be broken down even further into six distinctive steps:

  • Data Assessment
  • Data Cleansing
  • Test Extract and Load
  • Final Extract and Load
  • Migration Validation
  • Post Migration Activities

These phases may happen concurrently or in an iterative fashion but must not be shortcut in any way.

ENS-Inc teams approach data migration projects using best practices and industry proven methodologies.

We work with you to identify your project objectives, scope, requirements, key resources, and stakeholders. ENS-Inc firmly believes that planning activities and documentation are necessary for a solid foundation for your data migration project.

Our project managers understand that life cycles for data migration projects require both structure and flexibility, with the ability to change as a result of issues encountered during development or testing.

ENS-Inc develops and deploys your successful data migration step, by step, by step, and provides the training and knowledge transfer to empower your success.

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The Analysis Phase of a Migration Strategy

Before data migration occurs, there are three areas that must be assessed.

  • Data Classification
    • Where is the data stored? Where is it backed up? Where is it archived?
    • Data structure needs to be understood and requires visibility into data usage, capacity, and growth patterns.
    • The various interfaces and reports utilizing the to-be-migrated data need to be considered.
    • Network connection between data points, especially required bandwidth and controls, need to be clearly evaluated and understood.
    • Conditions for data access, retention requirements, control and security measures such as encryption are described.
  • Data Migration Requirements
    • What data will be migrated?
    • How much downtime is acceptable?
    • Will there be new or modified service-level agreements?
    • What are the expectations for the new storage infrastructure?
    • Are there objectives for greater technical flexibility or stability?
    • What are the organization’s standards or policies concerning data?
    • What historical data is to be migrated?
  • Technology Considerations
    • How old is the operating system from which the data is to be migrated? Some migration tools do not support legacy operating systems.
    • Which storage tiers and devices are involved?
    • What data structures are to be used for target data? Identical data structures will reduce the time and complexity of the migration.
    • What staging area requirements are present?
    • What options are needed or wanted for recovery or failover?
    • Is a central console needed to manage data migrations across multiple servers?
    • If the migration is to be controlled from a remote server, which protocols must be supported?
    • Will the data integrity need to checked or monitored during the migration rather than just after?

It is important that all of these questions, and more, are asked and the answers resolved before your migration deployment takes place.

ENS-Inc engineers and consultants have over 100 years combined experience and know which questions to ask. Even more importantly, they know how to design a data migration that takes into account the unique requirements of your organization.

Our expertise...your needs...your success.

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The Design Phase of a Migration Strategy

During the design phase, ENS-Inc engineers and consultants assemble the results of the analysis phase and then define how these objectives will be realized. The responsibilities, roles, and tasks for both client team members and ENS-Inc team members are determined and clearly defined.

  • The data elements are mapped from the source to the target.
  • A plan for freezing the physical data structures during the migration is put together.
  • The tools to be used are identified and/or acquired.
  • ENS-Inc developers deliver the software to facilitate data extraction and checking.
  • Clear acceptance criteria are determined and agreed upon.

The project plan and structure is put together during the design phase. Wherever possible, dependencies and complexities are reduced to better manage the deployment risk.

A data migration can present formidable challenges and careful methods must be adopted to ensure valuable data is properly transferred, preserving integrity and other relationships. The semantics of the business objects and related data on the source and target sides often have subtle differences that can make migration rules complex.

ENS-Inc ensures a smooth, complete, and accurate data migration by making sure the following elements are in place before proceeding with deployment:

  • sound migration methodology founded in industry-leading best practices
  • adequate and thorough project planning based on solid and proven life cycle methodologies
  • determination and use of appropriate tools for extraction, transformation, and loading
  • proper test suites to test the migration
  • sound audit procedures and documentation - if adequate documentation of information is not available about the source data, then reverse engineering may be required
  • good issue resolution mechanisms
  • thorough cutover planning

By establishing a standard and repeatable methodology for each endeavor, ENS-Inc is able to provide our customers with industry-leading services and ensure excellent results.

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The Deployment Phase of a Migration Strategy

The deployment may be conducted in phases or as part of a parallel run or pilot depending on the migration approach chosen.

  • The physical data structures are frozen on both the migration source and target and interfaces are brought down where required.
  • Data is staged from the source location, quality reports are run and any data errors or inconsistencies identified.
  • Data quality issues are fixed in the staging area where preliminary reconciliation then takes place.
  • Reconciling items are investigated and resolved before the data is migrated to the target location and reconciliation reports are once again run.
  • Acceptance criteria are checked and if reconciliation errors or other criteria are not met, then the system is rolled back to the original data source.
  • If all is good... then interfaces and processing from the source is discontinued and activated on the target.

At this point, acceptance criteria and performance metrics are evaluated and any data issues resolved, whether syntactical or logical. A go/no-go decision takes place.

The goal of a successful data migration is to keep the length of the deployment phase to a minimum.

Testing and implementation are inseparable. If the analysis and design phases have been properly completed and issue resolution mechanisms are in place with change management in the project plan, then deployment time is minimized.

ENS-Inc delivers proven, reliable and scalable data migration solutions.

As a part of the process and also following deployment, ENS-Inc provides onsite training and knowledge transfer to empower your success.

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