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Data Migration Best Practices In 5 Steps

Data migration projects often bring their own challenges. From legacy systems to inconsistent data formats and portability issues, several factors can derail the migration.

However, proper planning can minimize the risk and ensure a successful migration. Let’s take a look at the steps you should take before and during your migration project.

But before we get started with best practices, it’s important to define what data migration is.

What is data migration?

A data migration strategy typically focuses on changing the way data exists within the business. The main goal is to change the location or format of the data. The project may require moving from on-premises to the cloud or within the cloud (tenant-to-tenant) and converting data.

Data migration projects are often extended to the whole technology infrastructure, which may impact the entire organization and the employee experience. The reason why the projects can be challenging is that they involve a lot of moving parts, often interconnected as mentioned in this Google Workspace migration article.

They are typically led by a dedicated project manager and involve a number of teams. The migration team itself may include business analysts, project managers, data architects, database developers, and data migration specialists.

While data migration projects are essential, they are typically not considered the most important project within a company. However, because data migration strategies typically involve so much data, they can often be complicated to complete without careful planning.

Data migration best practices

Here are the best practices to consider before undertaking a data migration project:

1. Create a plan, and map out the entire process

Planning ahead for the data that needs to be moved, where it needs to go, and how it will get there is essential. Who should have access to the information is something else your plan should address.

You need to consider the network bandwidth and other restrictions, the migration tools, and understand essential features such as the difference between cutover migration and staged migration. Security and governance must be top priorities. Make sure to address these areas in your data migration methodology.

2. Inspect and classify your data

Carefully inspect the data that will be sent. More specifically, during a cloud migration project between different collaboration platforms, you must define if you migrate mailboxes, files (e.g., Google Drive, OneDrive documents), teams, sites, etc.

List the number of:

  • Users,
  • Shared mailboxes and/or resources (rooms and equipment),
  • Microsoft Teams,
  • Site collections, subsites,
  • Total size in GB of each, etc.

Look for old, irrelevant, or unnecessary information. Aside from streamlining the relocation process, separating the data for deletion will provide your team with a clean dataset to work with. Also to prevent regulatory concerns.

However, it is important to adhere to best practices for data archiving and preservation, since certain types of data need specialized retention policies for compliance reasons.

3. Create a clear data migration policy

Having a plan in place is insufficient. Your data migration policy should ensure that information is transmitted to the right place and is kept secure while in transit.

Additionally, the policy should address data ownership and security. These elements are important, especially in the event of a data breach.
Finally, your policy should refer to your process, service-level agreements (SLAs), and timelines.

Every cloud resource comes with a contractual agreement, known as a service level agreement (SLA), outlining what the provider is delivering and the customer’s responsibilities.

4. Have backup copies of your data

Having a copy of the data you’ll be moving is helpful. If you have a copy of the data stored elsewhere, you will be certain that your primary files won’t get damaged in transit.

The most up-to-date copy of the backup should be utilized if the efficacy of the migration is in dispute.

Scheduled and closely managed data backup is essential. If something goes wrong, your users will experience less downtime if you have a backup in place.

5. Always test your data after the migration

After you’ve finished the migration, you should double-check that everything is where it should be and perform data migration testing.

To check the migration process, check the data’s quality, and verify that the data is correct and properly formatted.

During the migration testing, you should evaluate whether setting modifications are required to the migration tools, or if data changed, requiring a new migration, knowing the delta pass mechanism.

Testing is also essential for security reasons. In addition to checking that the data is properly migrated, check that everything has been properly encrypted.

Don’t forget to keep a complete record of the procedure

Your compliance staff will appreciate the work you put into documenting everything when the work is done.

Depending on your industry, regulators may likely want evidence that you’ve taken reasonable precautions to protect private information like credit card numbers or medical records.

Auditing the process will not only offer verification that everything was done successfully, but it will also help you discover areas for improvement in future migration.


Data migration projects can consume a lot of time and resources. But with proper planning, you can minimize the risk and ensure a successful project.

You are not alone. Several cloud migration tools provide consulting services. Tackling your migration project with an international team of experts to ensure your migration process from start to finish will save you much time. You can receive help defining the scope of your project, and the migration strategy, tracking your migration and generating relevant migration reports to ensure the success of your project.

Your migration project may be challenging, but following these best practices will minimize the risk and ensure that your project runs smoothly from start to finish.