Moving Unstructured Data Is Risky and Pricey, but Critical: Five Steps to Improve It

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Click to learn more about author Daniel Esposito.

It’s time-consuming – and often very costly – for enterprises to perform a network-attached storage (NAS) or object data migration. As moving unstructured data has proliferated over the past decade, with as much as 90% of all data defined as unstructured data, the task has become increasingly daunting for project teams.

As enterprise datasets have become ever-larger and more complex, it is now essential to have a foolproof approach to migrations – especially considering that the vast majority (83%) of data migration projects fail or miss the mark with budgets and schedules. It’s easy to understand why when you consider the multitude of risky tasks that IT must execute, across every aspect of the project, which can affect data integrity and the migration team’s reputation. Each unique action can lead to business disruption, problems in reporting and governance, and high personnel costs. Other potential negative outcomes of improperly executed NAS and object platform migrations include migrations distracting IT personnel from their strategic initiatives, and more switchover events with lengthy outages.

IT administrators can avoid these problems – and instead enjoy a speedy, accurate data migration – by using dedicated migration software. Below are five key steps to minimize risk and ensure a successful migration project via migration software.

Step 1: Begin with Discovery and Analysis

Migration teams don’t want to just jump into a data migration without first arming themselves with a thorough analysis of the environment. Enterprises should consider:

  • The type of content that’s on the source system: Is it end-user-based, application-based, or a combo?
  • The available capacity
  • The number and size of the files: Are they large, small, or some of each?
  • The presence of shared-access multiprotocol, complex datasets, etc.

What you want to avoid is relying on a tool that offers no specific capabilities for the discovery and analysis phase, which leads those doing the migration to fall back on using static spreadsheets to try to piece together basic details. This substandard approach fails to provide proper planning and management of a migration project. Alternatively, migration software helps maximize the discovery and analysis phase by interrogating endpoint configuration and offering visibility into the traits of the datasets those devices offer to the client community.

Step 2: Prioritize Planning and Design

Once the information-gathering phase is complete, migration teams can next hone in on planning and design. A key component of success here is communication with end users, application owners, and other stakeholders. Begin by figuring out answers to the following questions related to the planning and design of the migration:

  • How much of the existing data needs to migrate? Is it all data, or are there exclusions like only specific file types, shares/exports, or directories?
  • Will all file-system structures migrate as is, or is reorganization of directory trees needed?
  • Do you need to prioritize specific content based on deadlines?
  • When it comes to cutover event schedules and a tolerable amount of downtime, can groups of end users and application owners agree on cutover event schedules and on how much downtime is acceptable?

The decisions that the migration team makes during this phase are critical and should dovetail with migration software that allows for the creation of automatic migration policies.

Step 3: Switch to Migration Execution via Software

Historically, migration execution – which involves file content being copied and kept synchronized between the source and target systems – would be the time when migration scripts were loaded onto copy hosts (whether Microsoft Windows or Unix/Linux) using copy tools. In this outdated method, the cross-server workload was imbalanced, as the project team would have to put scripts into the OS scheduler for the various kinds of copy hosts.

A smarter method to avoid these hassles is to use modern migration software. The advantage of a software-based approach is that it allows you to define migration policies that determine:

  • Which content gets copied between target and source
  • The frequency of resynchronization of content
  • Simple management and monitoring with just one pane of glass

Step 4: Provide Stakeholders with Verification and Reporting

Stakeholders in the migration need to stay in the loop on progress, which means it’s important to have the ability to report on all migration activities – from high level down to file level. Enterprises also need the ability to adjust to modifications that happen in the environment during the migration, which may result in:

  • New storage resources (volumes, shares/exports) being added to the source
  • Changes in the source system workload that necessitate throttling changes
  • Stakeholder decisions to modify security characteristics during content copying

After a migration is finished, stakeholders need to see the results and receive assurance that not only was all file content duplicated, but that the content was validated for accuracy, using migration software that hashes every file to maintain a chain of custody.

Step 5: Be Sure Your Migration Solution Offers Tools and Tech Support

Modern migration tools are highly automated and purpose-built. Anything less is simply not up to the task of executing complex migrations. Seek a migration solution vendor that offers 24/7 technical support, so that your enterprise has what it needs to help you get your data to a new platform with less risk and greater speed.

The right migration software can help you realize a faster and more significant ROI on your new platform investment, while saving money and reducing risk with a policy-driven automated approach. As IT staff are freed up to focus on value-added projects, your project team can feel confident in the results of your NAS or object platform migration.

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