Data migration is the process of moving digital information to a different location (such as to cloud storage), application, database, or computing environment.
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Data migration is the process of selecting, preparing, and moving existing data from one computing environment to another. Data may be migrated between applications, storage systems, databases, data centers, and business processes.
Each organization’s data migration goals and processes are unique. They must consider many factors such as costs, timing, technical requirements, impact to business operations, the potential for data loss, compliance requirements, and more.
Businesses may undertake data migration projects for a number of reasons, such as to:
Consider the following example: when someone buys a new computer, they usually prefer to install the newest versions of software and just copy over the most important files from their old one. Adding a bloat of obsolete software and files would unnecessarily take up storage space and slow down their new device. Likewise, efficient data migration ensures that the new system is utilizing correctly cleansed, extracted, and transformed data.
Data migration can be a key enabler of digital transformation — the use of digital technology to modernize business workloads and processes. It often goes hand-in-hand with cloud migration — specifically to ensure that no outdated or corrupt data is migrated to an organization’s new cloud infrastructure.
Data centers store files or databases used by software applications, which drive business processes and workflows. As such, data migration is commonly categorized into five types:
There is no “one size fits all” process for every type of data migration. However, a complete data migration plan contains three phases, which then comprise a number of other components and stages.
Pre-migration is the initial planning phase, which ensures that the migration will go smoothly and aims to minimize risks. During this phase, the data migration teams establish project objectives, scope, staffing/resources required, and critical requirements.
Pre-migration tasks can include (but are not limited to):
Once the plan has been created, the right permissions are secured, and all the data is ready for migrating to the target system, the actual data migration begins. The “go live” execution can include:
Data migration is not complete after “flipping the switch.” The results of the migration must be audited and validated to make sure everything has been correctly transferred and logged.
Once the post-migration audit is deemed successful, the old system can be decommissioned.
In a data migration, organizations may decide to migrate one system to another one or merge two systems into a brand new one. Whichever strategy they choose, there are two common data migration approaches.
"Big bang" migration: The “big bang” data migration moves an entire dataset in one phase from the legacy system to the new target system. This migration typically occurs over or during a planned downtime period (such as a weekend or holiday).
"Trickle-feed" migration: Global businesses or critical infrastructure providers that need to avoid periods of data inaccessibility may pursue a “trickle-feed” data migration, instead. This phased approach packages and transfers data in smaller increments.
Data migration and the term “data integration” are sometimes used interchangeably, but they are distinct. Unlike a data migration project — which only happens once — data integration is an ongoing process involving incremental data changes. Also, unlike data migration, data integration can combine data residing in different locations into one unified view.
Data migration can be a key milestone for data integration initiatives. For example, a business may migrate large amounts of unstructured data (such as music, video, and images) to a new object storage service, but integrate that data with a media processing tool hosted elsewhere.
Cloudflare R2 is an AWS S3-compatible, globally distributed object storage that allows developers to store large amounts of unstructured data with zero egress fees. R2 enables customers to quickly and easily migrate data objects stored in other cloud providers to an R2 bucket of their choice, with the R2 Migrator (also known as Super Slurper).
Learn more about Cloudflare's developer platform.
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