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What Is a Data Migration

In an increasingly digital world, data is a business's most valuable asset. It’s needed to handle customer transactions, gather business intelligence, and power the apps that make modern living convenient. 

But data isn’t stagnant; it grows with an organisation, evolving with its customers' needs. The more customers you have, the more transactions you have to process, and the more customer records you may need to keep.

Whether it's to upgrade IT infrastructure, transfer data to cloud-based storage, or deploy new software features, data migrations are a necessary part of running a modern business.

What is data migration?

Data migration is the process of transferring data from one storage location to another. It includes all the planning, mapping, extraction, and formatting needed for data to be accessible in a new storage environment.

Data migrations are generally performed when upgrading IT infrastructure to accommodate new storage capacity, application workloads, or security regulations. They can be as simple as manually moving files between folders and disks or as complex as a major forklift upgrade to new server hardware within a data centre.

As business agility is tied closely to data mobility, data migrations play a major role in upgrading legacy applications or hardware and migrating operations to the cloud.

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What is ETL and how does it work?

One-off data migrations from legacy hardware to new infrastructure aren't the only way data needs to be moved around a modern business's IT infrastructure.  

Extract, transform, and load (ETL) is a big data analytics process whereby automated ETL pipelines can be established for the routine processing of big data to be used in applications. Here's how it works:

  1. Extract: First, the data is extracted from the source, which could be composed of one or multiple databases.
  2. Transform: Data is compiled and transformed into a readable structured query language (SQL) for the target database.
  3. Load: Once transformed, the data is loaded onto the new source, where it either replaces or integrates itself within the target system.

ETL is just one example of how businesses can quickly move large volumes of data from one location to another to support day-to-day operations and application workloads. Investing in on-premises and cloud solutions that allow for seamless data mobility across environments is critical for businesses to remain agile and highly available for their customers. 

Common data migration challenges

From the first moment of extraction to the final deployment to the target source, you must ensure the safety of your data. Improper extraction or transfer could corrupt a system’s data. Likewise, a failure in your IT infrastructure or a disaster such as a blackout or a cyberattack could also threaten your database. It’s critical to have a disaster recovery plan in place before performing a data migration.

The compatibility between the two sources poses another complication. The SQL of the original source could be different from the target source. This is especially common in application migrations where two applications run through two different systems. It becomes necessary to translate the data into a compatible language before completing the migration process.

An organisation’s website could also experience downtime during the data migration process. Downtime is when the data centre is unable to be accessed online. In data migration, when new data is being uploaded to the target source, the system may not be accessible while the upload is in progress. And, a loss of access usually means a loss of customers and business.

Avoiding the obstacles of data migration

Before undertaking a data migration, it’s important to prepare. Familiarizing yourself with the source databases and the migration technology is important for success. Double-checking that the data will transfer properly helps to create a seamless transition between the old source and the new one. Contacting your customers and your business partners is also important to prepare them for any downtime that may occur.

There are multiple methods you can use to prevent downtime and keep your website up and running during data migration. For example, a zero downtime deployment allows access to the original database until the migration is completely deployed. Techniques such as schema migration (where upgrades are uploaded in increments to avoid downtime) or the hybrid cloud (cloud storage that allows access from two different entities) can also provide continued access to customers during the data migration.

After the data is transferred and the information is deployed, it’s vital to validate that the migration completed properly. This means ensuring the database is up and running before altering or erasing the original source. If there were any complications or if any information got corrupted during the transfer, you’ll need to go back and fix the issues before moving forward.

Make data migrations easier with Pure Storage

Pure Storage simplifies the data migration process with non-disruptive upgrades to the latest controllers, external host and internal array connectivity, solid-state disks (SSDs), and other components. Pure helps to convert and protect your data, offering a hybrid cloud to minimize downtime. From preparation to validation, Pure is there for your company and your data every step of the way.

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