What is Data Migration: Strategy and Best Practices | Q90

Post by 
Christina Parker
October 10, 2022

What Is Data Migration: Strategy and Best Practices?

Big data has become a major component of many modern businesses. For this reason, processes such as data migration have to be refined so they are seamless and well-established. Irrespective of where data is moving from and where you are moving it to, you need a competent data migration strategy.

In this post, we will answer the question, what is data migration? We will then define a data migration strategy, show you how to create one, and share some best practices to keep in mind.

Let’s jump in.

What Is Data Migration?

Data migration is the process of moving data from the source system to the target system. The process can involve moving data from one repository to another, from a data warehouse to a data mart, from a data warehouse to the cloud, or from inputs to a data lake among others.

What is a data migration is an easy question to answer, but the data migration process itself is not as easy. On the surface, the process appears to be a straightforward one and most businesses do not take it seriously. They delegate it to the last minute and don’t do much planning beforehand.

The result?

 A messy and overwhelming data migration process that takes longer than expected and runs over budget. Sometimes, the new system might host low-quality data that affects the core operations of the business leading to less-than-optimal experiences.

To have a seamless data migration process, you must have a well-thought-out data migration strategy.

Why Do You Need a Data Migration Strategy?

The main reason you need a data migration strategy is that it provides a structured approach to the data migration process and enhances the performance of the process.

A data migration strategy also helps you prevent failure by outlining the problems likely to occur throughout the process so you can mitigate them in time.

A data migration process also helps you answer the why of data migration. Are you transitioning to a legacy system or upgrading your tool? With a data migration strategy, you know what the process aims to achieve.

For your data migration strategy to work, it needs to be thorough and well thought out. To help you ensure your strategy is effective, let's look at how you should go about creating a data migration strategy.

How Do You Create a Data Migration Strategy?

How you design your data migration strategy will largely depend on the specifics of your business and what you need. However, the strategy should follow these 6 steps:


Planning is the first and most important part of a data migration plan. It helps you set realistic expectations for the data migration process, create a clear path to follow, and determine how you will measure success.

Start your planning by assessing the scope of the data migration. Working with your IT team and all stakeholders who will be affected by the data migration, determine the points that need adapting and how much data the new system needs to function. Most of the time, you don't need to move entire data sets. Some data sets might need to be archived.

Next, choose a migration approach. Will you be doing a big bang migration or is the trickle method better for your business?

The big bang approach is better if you wish to complete the data migration process within a limited period. However, it can lead to massive downtime of some of your most mission-critical systems. Also, any errors that occur can incapacitate your business for a long time.

The trickle process takes longer and is more complicated, but it reduces the risk of downtime. It also leaves plenty of room to spot and correct errors as they occur.

Once you have decided on the migration approach, it's time to budget for time and finances.

To calculate how much time you need, you have to understand how much data you need to move and compare it to the network bandwidth. Consider possible downtimes and any after-hours and weekends you might need to put in to ensure business continuity and add a safety period to cater to possible contingencies.

For the financial budget, include any compliance validation fees, data migration solution costs, and payments to your in-house or outsourced team.

Once your time and finances are sorted, you should create a retirement plan for your old system. This involves training your staff on the new system, disposing of old hardware, terminating software licenses, and canceling support and maintenance of the old system.

Next, select the appropriate data migration tools. The tool you choose should have the necessary features such as workflow orchestration, drag-and-drop tools for easy data mapping, and extensive ETL capabilities.

 You can either get a ready-made tool or create one from the ground up to ensure it caters to your exact needs. If you chose the latter option, you should include the time needed in your overall time budget.

Finally, your planning session should include building a data migration team. Your team should include data users who understand different aspects of your data, IT professionals, business users, and developers.

Prepare Data

Once the planning stage is over, you have to prepare your data for migration. Start with a detailed audit to determine if there are any missing links, conflicts, quality issues, or inconsistencies. Use an automation tool to cover the auditing process as it can be labor-intensive.

You should also create a backup for your data as a protection layer in case anything happens during the transfer process and you lose valuable data chunks.

This is also the stage where you take note of data access rights and map them out to the new system. Who can access, edit or delete data? Create a clear plan so your employees know their roles.

Migration Design

Before you engage in the data migration process you must create a clear data map that matches the fields of your source system to those of the target system.


This is where the actual data migration process takes place. You take high-quality data from the source system and transform it into the right format before loading it into the new system. This stage will require you to use ETL engineers and an ETL solution to automate the process.

Testing and Going Live

Technically, you should conduct testing at all stages of the data migration strategy. Every time you manipulate data during the planning, design, and execution, you should conduct tests to ensure that the solutions you come up with are feasible.

Also, if you use the trickle data migration strategy, you must conduct testing for each batch of migrated data to spot errors and ensure data quality.

Once the data migration process is complete, conduct running unit, full volume, system, and batch application tests before you go live.

Audit and Maintenance

The final step in your data migration strategy should be to conduct thorough auditing to monitor system performance. The audit system should help you ensure that all data is of high quality and no data is missing.

You should keep conducting audits from time to time to ensure that data quality is upheld, all users are satisfied and there has not been any data degradation.

Data Migration Best Practices

In addition to having a well-thought-out data migration strategy, you must follow data migration best practices when migrating data.

Some data migration best practices you should follow include:

Build A Data Migration Strategy and Stick to It

A data migration strategy shows you what data to migrate, where the data should go, and how it will get there. It helps you assess the time and cost the process will take and prepares your team so they know their roles in the process. Without a strategy, you risk having a chaotic migration, massive downtimes, and low-quality data being migrated into the new system.

However, creating a strategy is no good if you don’t follow it. Stick to the plan even when everything seems to be going too smoothly. It’s the only way to avoid errors.

Establish Data Migration Policies

Having a data migration strategy is not enough, you must set clear rules and policies that must be adhered to throughout the data migration process. Your policies should ensure that data is moved to the correct location and is protected even after the data migration process ends.

Create a Data Backup

Should anything go wrong during the data migration process or the implementation phase, you cannot afford to lose valuable data. Therefore, you must ensure your data is adequately backed up before you begin the migration process.

Test Test Test

Finally, testing should be a major part of your data migration strategy. As we mentioned before, you must conduct testing at every stage of the process. The planning, design, and implementation phases should include testing. Testing will help you identify errors early on before they lead to catastrophic results in your business.

Final Word

Data migration is an important part of any modern business. Since data plays a vital role in the operation of a business, you will inevitably need to migrate data at one point or another. Since the process is so vital, it is important that you plan for it well in advance, and allocate the required time and financial resources. You must also follow data migration best practices to ensure you have a smooth and seamless data migration process.

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