Data migration strategies and best practices

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Data migration strategies

Data is the lifeblood of any business. Migrating this critical asset to the cloud requires meticulous planning, strategic decision-making, and careful execution. Just like moving a priceless piece of art, it’s not just about getting from point A to B, but also about preserving its integrity and value during the transit. That’s why choosing the right data migration strategy is paramount, and why we want to give you our top considerations for data migration strategies, a summary of the tools available to you, and some best practices you should follow.

Let’s start with three common data migration strategies that businesses consider when moving to the cloud:

1. Lift-and-Shift (Rehosting)

In the realm of cloud migration, rehosting—often referred to as the ‘lift-and-shift’ approach—stands out for its simplicity. It involves moving applications and data from an on-premises data centre to a cloud environment with minimal changes.

When it comes to post-migration data storage, rehosting typically maintains a familiar environment for IT teams. The data storage structures used on-premises are replicated in the cloud, ensuring a smooth transition with minimal disruptions to existing workflows.

The benefit of this approach is that it allows organisations to leverage the cost-efficiency and scalability of the cloud while minimising the need for extensive retraining or reconfiguration of applications. The cloud provider’s infrastructure becomes the new home for your data, but the way you access, manage, and interact with that data remains largely unchanged.

However, maintaining this familiarity also means that some of the potential benefits offered by the cloud might not be fully realised. For instance, cloud-native features designed to boost performance, enhance security, or optimise storage costs may not be compatible with your existing data structures.

2. Refactoring (Re-architecting)

Re-architecting, or refactoring, represents a more comprehensive approach to cloud migration compared to rehosting. This strategy requires a substantial redesign of applications to fully tap into the potential of cloud-native features. While this method is more complex and time-intensive, it can yield significant enhancements in performance, scalability, and overall cost-efficiency.

When re-architecting, data storage also undergoes a transformation. Instead of merely replicating existing storage structures, organisations have the opportunity to embrace new solutions that are optimised for the cloud and scalability. This can involve transitioning from traditional relational databases to cloud-optimised solutions such as NoSQL databases or object storage. The choice of storage technology can have profound effects on data accessibility, resilience, scalability, and cost.

For instance, using object storage services like Amazon S3 or Google Cloud Storage can provide unlimited scalability, robust data protection, and easy data access from anywhere in the world. Similarly, adopting a NoSQL database can offer enhanced performance for specific use cases, such as handling large volumes of unstructured data or delivering real-time analytics.

However, embracing these new configurations requires a thorough understanding of cloud-native technologies and a readiness to invest in necessary changes. This might include retraining staff, rewriting applications, and implementing new data governance policies.

3. Hybrid Approach (Replatforming)

Replatforming represents a middle ground between the simplicity of rehosting and the complexity of re-architecting. Often referred to as ‘lift-tinker-and-shift’, this approach involves migrating applications and data to the cloud while making some modifications to leverage cloud capabilities.

In terms of data storage, replatforming allows you to balance between old and new configurations. It enables the preservation of certain aspects of your existing storage structures while adopting select features of cloud-native storage solutions. This can lead to improvements in performance, scalability, and cost-efficiency without the need for a complete overhaul of your storage architecture.

A common scenario where replatforming is beneficial is during eCommerce migrations. For instance, you might switch from a traditional SQL database to a managed cloud database service for improved scalability and reliability. However, the general structure of the database and the way it interacts with your applications may remain largely the same. Replatforming also presents an opportunity to optimise storage space. By consolidating scattered databases and storage resources, you can achieve more efficient utilisation of storage space.

However, replatforming is not without challenges. It requires careful planning to ensure that the modifications made during migration do not disrupt existing workflows or lead to compatibility issues. Moreover, while less intensive than re-architecting, replatforming still demands a certain level of cloud expertise to select and implement appropriate cloud-native features.

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Top tools for data migration

  • AWS Database Migration Service (DMS): This tool supports homogenous migrations such as Oracle to Oracle, as well as heterogeneous migrations between different database platforms.
  • Azure Database Migration Service (DMS): Microsoft’s Azure DMS provides a comprehensive solution for migrating on-premises SQL Server databases to Azure SQL Database.
  • Google Cloud’s Transfer Service: This service allows you to move large amounts of data from online and on-premises sources to Google Cloud Storage.
  • IBM InfoSphere Information Server: This tool helps to integrate, understand, and govern data across multiple environments.
  • Informatica PowerCenter: A widely-used data integration tool, Informatica PowerCenter, simplifies and automates data migration tasks.

Best practices for data migration

  • Plan thoroughly: Start with a clear understanding of why you’re migrating data and what you hope to achieve. Define your objectives, establish a timeline, and identify potential challenges.
  • Choose the right tool: Evaluate different data migration tools to find one that suits your needs. Consider factors such as compatibility with your existing systems, ease of use, scalability, and cost.
  • Cleanse your data: Before migrating, cleanse your data to remove duplicates, correct errors, and fill in missing information. This step can improve the quality of your data and make the migration process more efficient.
  • Test, test, test: Testing is crucial to catch any issues before they impact your business operations. Conduct multiple rounds of testing at different stages of the migration process.
  • Backup your data: Always have a backup of your data before you start the migration process. This step provides a safety net in case anything goes wrong during the migration.
  • Train your team: Ensure your team understands how to use the new system and can handle any issues that arise during the migration process.

Remember, data migration is not a one-size-fits-all process. The right tools and best practices will depend on your specific needs and circumstances. Consider seeking expert advice to ensure a smooth and successful data migration.

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Security and compliance

Security is a paramount concern during the migration process, especially when moving applications and data to the cloud. Any lapse in security measures can expose sensitive data to risks, leading to breaches that can have severe consequences, including financial loss, reputational damage, and regulatory penalties.

Firstly, during migration, data is often more vulnerable as it’s being transferred from one environment to another. If adequate encryption and secure transmission protocols are not in place, data could potentially be intercepted or manipulated. This highlights the importance of using secure and reliable tools for data migration, which ensure data integrity and confidentiality during transit.

Moreover, the new environment must be properly configured to maintain security post-migration. This includes implementing appropriate access controls, setting up firewalls, and ensuring all software is up-to-date to prevent any potential exploits. Regular vulnerability assessments and penetration tests should also be conducted to identify and rectify any security weaknesses.

Of course, compliance with data protection regulations must be ensured throughout the migration process. Data handling and storage practices must align with relevant laws and industry standards to avoid legal repercussions.

Prioritising security during migration is not just about protecting data, but also about preserving trust with customers and stakeholders, maintaining business continuity, and staying compliant with regulatory requirements.

Work with our experienced DevOps consultants

Have confidence in your data migration strategy by partnering with our in-house DevOps experts. They can conduct a thorough health check of your systems and help create a prioritised list of next steps so you have clarity at every step of your data migration. Speak to our Solutions team today to get started.