Data Migration: What It Is and Everything Else You Need to Know

Two folders with documents flying between them, representing data migration

Data migration is exactly what it sounds like: moving data from one place to another! 

Organizations are generating more data than ever, and getting value out of that data has become an important component of their success. With the number of tools and platforms available today, everything from customer journeys to annual sales and employee satisfaction is tracked, recorded, and quantified. 

All that data is valuable. Just like any other valuable asset, it needs to be handled carefully. That’s why data migration is so important. 

In this article, we’ll break down when data migration happens, break down common data migration challenges, then explain how it all works. Then, we’ll go over what’s involved in the data migration process, and what that looks like when migrating data between work management tools. 

When does data migration happen?

Getting the most value you can out of your data requires sophisticated tools, platforms, and resources. Data migration usually happens because of a change in one of these. Maybe your current tools aren’t cutting it anymore, or you need a new data storage solution as you scale. Sometimes the reason is as simple as moving to a new office. All this means migrating data from old systems to new ones.

Data migration can happen online or offline. Online migration moves data over a secure internet connection. While any amount of data could be transferred this way, in practice online migration works best for smaller amounts of data. It would take an absurdly long time to migrate the amount of data a multinational corporation relies on over the web. In cases like these, data migration is best done offline by transferring the data to physical storage solutions. These are then shipped to their new destination, such as a cloud server. 

What are the risks and challenges of data migration?

Because data is so valuable, it’s important to carefully plan and execute its migration. Issues during data migration can corrupt data, causing errors and inefficiency when it finally reaches its destination. In a worst-case scenario, problems with the migration process could even lead to losing all your data.

Planning and preparation can mitigate most data migration risks. In particular, make sure the data is backed up before you try to migrate it. That way, there is no risk of losing it should anything go wrong during the migration process. 

Technical issues

Often, risks associated with data migration arise from unforeseen technical obstacles and problems. For example, it might take much longer to transfer the data than estimated. This can lead to higher costs for bandwidth usage or rental of physical storage solutions. Actual technical issues — even a power outage — can slow data migration to a crawl.

It’s important to consider and evaluate the impact of these risks. It’s also a good idea to budget in a contingency fund in case they cannot be avoided.  

Data security

Security is another common concern when dealing with data, especially for organizations that handle sensitive personal information like addresses, medical history, and the like. Make sure you take the necessary steps to ensure a secure data transfer. For an online migration, that could mean data encryption. For physical migration, be sure to thoroughly vet vendors.

Administrative and capacity issues

Some businesses also run into trouble if they try to fit in data migration on top of their regular day-to-day work. Data migration can seem straightforward, but it’s still a very important undertaking that needs to be taken seriously! 

Don’t underestimate the scale of your data migration project. Make sure you have a solid, realistic plan and someone with the expertise needed to execute it, whether that’s an existing employee or an external consultant. 

How does data migration work?

While there are many different ways to migrate data, the process often boils down to three steps: extract, transform, and load.

Whether all three steps are necessary depends on the type of data, and the environments it’s being moved from and loaded into. For example, a very straightforward transfer of one type of high-quality data might not even need the extraction or transformation processes. 

Designing a data migration strategy can get pretty technical, and you’ll probably need a specialist — like a data engineer or programmer — to oversee the process. Careful planning and preparation are the keys to moving through the below steps smoothly and efficiently with minimal stress. 

Make your data migration process clear and get approval from all relevant stakeholders. You should also test out your data migration strategy as much as possible before you begin.

Data extraction

Extraction refers to pulling all the data you need to migrate out of where it’s currently stored. It’s likely that your business will need to extract data from a wide variety of sources, especially if the reason you’re migrating is to get everything into a more unified, comprehensive system. These sources can include CRM software, spreadsheets, analytics tools, legacy applications, marketing tools, and other types of records and databases. 

While data extraction can be done manually, doing so is incredibly time-consuming, and the results are much more prone to error. For that reason, manual data extraction is not a realistic option for most organizations. It’s much more likely that your business will use a specialized software tool designed for data extraction. 

Data transformation

At this stage, you or your data migration specialist will audit and refine the data to make sure it arrives at its new destination with a minimum amount of errors. This step is especially important if you’re consolidating different types of data from multiple sources. 

Typically, data transformation includes processes like cleaning the data of inconsistencies, removing redundant or duplicate data points, sorting it into categories, and making sure it’s formatted according to the same standardized rules. 

Data loading 

Finally, the data is transferred to its new destination via online or offline migration. 

Data can be loaded all at once — known as full loading — or incrementally. Incremental loading can allow your business to clean or transform the data in batches, or compare it against data that’s already been loaded for duplications and inconsistencies. For this reason, incremental loading is the better choice for most businesses. 

What about data migration between work management tools?

If you use a work management tool, you’ve probably already experienced a tool debate or two. Your team uses one tool, and the team you need to collaborate with uses another. Or maybe you’re dealing with an acquisition, and the new kids on the block are bringing tons of new data with them. Whatever the case, you need a quick way to get data from one tool to the other. This is very different from migrating a huge quantity of data physically. With this kind of migration, you need something that can handle every step of the migration process without impacting your daily work.

Enter Unito. With some of the deepest integrations on the market for the world’s best work management tools, Unito is the quick, straightforward solution for your data migration needs. With just a few clicks, you can set up a workflow including the tool your data is leaving and the tool it needs to go to. Data from the first tool will be automatically synced to the other without interrupting your team’s work. Even new tasks created in the old tool will be synced over to the new tool, meaning you can ease your team through a transition period rather than immediately switching to the new tool.

Curious about Unito’s migration package? Reach out to us by clicking on the chat bubble at the bottom right of your screen and let’s talk about what Unito can do for your data migration.

Getting started

Data is only going to become more important. That means data migration will continue to be a regular part of operations for most businesses, whether that’s because their systems are going out of date or they need systems that scale with them.

The prospect of migrating all your data into a new system might feel overwhelming, especially if the data itself is central to your job. But with the right amount of preparation — and the right process — you can get all that crucial information from one place to the other with less hassle.

What’s next?

1. Looking to learn more about productivity and workflow management? Here’s our blog!
2. Curious about how businesses like yours use Unito? Check out our case studies.
3. Ready to start? Try Unito free for 14 days!