I know the sound of it makes you cringe and your blood run cold, but data migration is the IT equivalent of cleaning out the garage: The longer you put it off, the bigger job it is.
But like any complicated task, there are ways to keep the pain to a minimum, primarily through an organized approach and a new generation of technologies designed to automate many of the more mundane tasks.
One of the best ways to begin a migration is to find out what others have encountered, both to build on their successes and avoid their mistakes. This new blog from Matt Amity (likely a pseudonym) promises a step-by-step account of a migration project following the union of several county governments somewhere in the U.S. All names of places and people have been changed, presumably to protect the reputations of those involved, which offers hope that the blog will provide a warts-and-all account of the experience. The blog is only about a week old, so the real migration has yet to begin.
Additional expertise is also available on the Web. This article from Celona Technologies' Tony Scales and Iergo's John Morris offers their rules for successful migrations. Rule number one is that migrations are not technical issues, but business ones. IT can get the job done, but it's up to business leaders to ensure that the right data is moved in the right way at the right time.
While mergers and acquisitions are still the primary cause of most migration projects, the deployment of new technologies also plays a role. Chief among them is the rise of virtualization, which is causing a tremendous transfer of data from physical to virtual SANs. Simplifying that process is the goal of Incipient's new Automated Data Migration platform, which assumes many of the discovery, configuration and switch-over tasks currently done by human operators.
Upgrading to a new e-mail system inevitably leads to a challenging migration project as well, due to both the massive amount of data involved and the fact that it is largely unstructured. AXS-One is looking to capitalize on the Lotus/Exchange battle by targeting its Dynamic Data Migrator at moving data across the two platforms without a costly conversion process. The system is integrated into the company's Compliance Platform as an enhancement to e-discovery systems by allowing legacy e-mails to remain in their original messaging clients with full fidelity.
Anyone who's been through the process already knows that migrations are not to be entered into lightly. The right tools are important, but so is the right attitude. You want the migration to be comprehensive enough so that it satisfies organizational needs, but not so overly broad that it leads to a technological and logistical nightmare.