4 Tips for Successful Database Migration


Migrating data from one database to another can be beneficial for a number of reasons. The new database might offer enhanced security, better performance, or more scalability — and if your current data ecosystem is heavily fragmented or outdated, migration can provide an immediate return on investment. 


However, database migration can be risky without an appropriate strategy. Data loss, data conversion, and unexpected downtime can easily extend the timeline.


Total Data Migration regularly handles enterprise DB migration projects, and by leveraging decades of expertise with an expansive set of hardware and software tools, we’re able to help our clients expedite their projects. Contact us to learn more or read on for tips for planning a successful database migration.


1. Identify the target for database migration — and establish clear goals.


As with any large-scale project, database migration requires a clear scope. You’ll need to outline your project carefully and document every process as you progress through each phase. The vast majority of database migration mistakes occur during this planning stage.


Some questions to consider:


  • What data will be migrated? 
  • What methodologies will be used to identify redundant data?
  • What storage media is currently used for the target data (cloud storage, backup tapes, etc.)?
  • Is the data standardized across all target media?
  • Can archival data be converted to match the target format?
  • What controls are in place to prevent data loss?
  • Will database migration occur in one operation (“big bang” data migration) or in phases?


This last question is particularly important. “Big bang” data migration, while resource intensive, is sometimes necessary to limit downtime. However, phase-based migration (also called “trickle data migration”) carries lower risks.


If you’re operating on an established timeline, we strongly recommend working with an experienced database migration partner. Total Data Migration can help your organization plan effectively — and address unexpected challenges that occur during the execution. 


Related: Planning Tape Data Migration: 5 Key Factors for Success


2. Don’t roll database migration into another project.


If you’re migrating a large amount of data, there’s a good chance that you’re making other changes to your IT infrastructure or data governance policies. We often work with enterprises that migrate databases when switching to new archival software, for instance, or when upgrading software to improve performance and scalability.


It’s important to treat database migration as its own project, not as a subset of a larger change. The challenges of migration vary from company to company — no two projects are exactly the same, and your team will need flexibility to respond to bottlenecks and unexpected issues.

If migration is part of a larger project, that flexibility may not be available, and teams may have difficulty communicating. The cost of the project (and the potential for unexpected downtime) will grow. 


In other words, once you’ve established the scope of the project, stick to it. 


3. Don’t assign the entire project to your IT team.


Your IT team may be capable of executing database migration on its own — but they probably shouldn’t. Depending on your IT department’s capabilities, they may not be able to execute the operation within the expected timeline while handling other duties (not to mention the additional workloads of data validation, backup, and disaster recovery). 


Involving other departments will help to minimize errors and operational interruptions. However, even with an all-hands-on-deck approach, third-party experts can be a valuable resource. 


An experienced migration partner will provide an excellent return on investment regardless of the size or characteristics of the data. By anticipating bottlenecks and establishing clear data controls, your migration partner will keep your project on track and within budget. 


4. Have a testing strategy in place.


Needless to say, your enterprise should see better performance after migration than your baseline performance. If you’re not executing load and performance testing, however, you can’t determine whether the project was a success or whether future errors will impact data availability.


Your database migration partner can help you form a testing strategy that includes both high-level analysis and query-specific optimization. Depending on the type of data and the target storage infrastructure, free (or low-cost) monitoring tools can be enormously helpful, but without experienced analysis, you’ll have trouble separating the signal from the noise — particularly if you’re migrating a large amount of archival data. 


Total Data Migration provides onsite and remote resources for all types of database migration projects. Whether you’re upgrading to a new database format or reducing operational costs by moving data tapes to the cloud, our experts can help your team maintain the quality of migrated data while complying with all security and privacy requirements. Get started by scheduling a consultation.