Legacy data migration facilitates business transformation, data security and compliance, and operational effectiveness.

Legacy Data Migration: A Comprehensive Guide for a Smooth Transition

Sooner or later, businesses using software to collect, store, and organize vital company information have to move it to a more advanced environment, which makes them face the inevitable: legacy data migration.

Though it brings multiple benefits in terms of cost optimization or seamless scaling, some businesses are hesitant about such transitions out of fear of losing some important information in the process.

We hasten to reassure you: migrating legacy data is not always as risky and challenging as it may seem at first glance. In fact, you can turn the transfer of your legacy data into a seamless and painless experience. All you have to do is carefully consider all steps of data migration and assemble a reliable data migration team to manage the whole process.

That’s when our comprehensive guide on legacy data migration comes to the rescue. Here we will explore certain cases when it is necessary. Additionally, we will uncover the most common challenges you may face down the road and explain how you can successfully overcome these pitfalls. Finally, we will discuss all stages of data transfer.

Are you ready to set off a legacy data migration journey? Let’s start!

What is Database Migration?

Let’s start with the definition of database migration. We use this term when we speak about moving the data from one system, called source data management system, which is usually old and cannot keep up with the growing company requirements, to a newer, more advanced software solution that is referred to as the target database.

The simplest illustration of legacy data migration looks the following way:

Database migration process implies moving data from an old database to a newer, more advanced one.

A common issue that forces businesses to consider a database migration is the wrong structure of the initial database management system. Over time, when the amount of data has grown significantly, the database starts slowing down. Hence, there is a need for an adequate substitute.

According to Brightwork Research & Analysis, there are two types of legacy data migration projects you may require:

  • Homogeneous migration suggesting that the data are transferred to the latest version of the current database.
  • Heterogeneous migration implying the transition of legacy data to an entirely new system.

Another classification provided by Corporate Finance Institute suggests dividing data migration projects into following types:

  • Storage Migration – you move your company information from one storage to another. The most common example of such migration is transition from papers to digital.
  • Database Migration – this process denotes moving the pieces of information between two database management systems. It may cause you some challenges if source and target databases have completely different data structures.
  • Application Migration – you migrate company information to another computer environment. It is a common procedure for businesses changing applications or software vendors.
  • Cloud Migration – this process implies moving from on-premise software solutions to cloud platforms. Cloud migration has been increasingly popular owing to multiple benefits it brings customers. They include cost reduction, centralized security of the sensitive information, high performance, and accessibility.
  • Business Processes Migration – the information on core business processes and key metrics related to operational effectiveness, customers, and products needs to be transferred to another environment. It often happens when businesses face reorganizations or mergers and acquisitions.
  • Data Center Migration – it implies changing data center infrastructure. Here you can change the physical location of the data center or start utilizing new infrastructure equipment at the same place.

Additionally, we should mention three popular data migration approaches, namely:

  • Big Bang Database Migration – all the data from a legacy system is moved to a new one in a single procedure at a single time point. We recommend holding the Big Bang Database Migration on scheduled downtimes or weekends.
  • Trickle Database Migration – the whole process is split up into several sub-migrations with their goals, strategies, and deadlines. With this approach, your migration team will easily confirm the successful completion of each stage of the migration process.
  • Zero-Downtime Database Migration suggests replicating the data from a source database to a target one, making it possible for businesses to access and use the system when migration is still going on.

Based on your business needs, a legacy database migration procedure may also include data conversion or its translation into a different format and data integration, which means aggregating the information taken from various sources into a single database.


Major Advantages of Database Migration

Though legacy data migration can be somewhat challenging and risky, in the long run, it is worth the effort. Increased efficiency, improved informational security, and accessibility are just some of the benefits businesses can derive from legacy database transfer.

The full list of advantages looks the following way:

The major benefits of legacy data migration include better data accessibility and security, improved operational efficiency, and cost optimization.

Cost Optimization

Maintaining legacy database management systems can cost businesses a lot of money. The reasons below explain where these high costs come from.

First, legacy software is prone to frequent crashes. Fixing them while maintaining routine workflow requires an extra workforce, which results in additional expenses.

Secondly, there can be a lack of certain professionals. When technology becomes outdated and is no longer used in modern software solutions, it is getting increasingly difficult to find a specialist who knows how to work with it.

This shortage of specialists causes fierce competition in the labor market with higher rates and recruitment costs.

Finally, since legacy software solutions have limited capabilities, businesses have to spend extra money trying to optimize their performance.

To sum up, legacy data migration is necessary if you need to keep your information safe and sound without paying extra money. Surely, you will need to make some investments to migrate from a legacy database successfully, but in the long run, it will save you a lot of money.

Upgrade to a New Technology

Another common reason to start a legacy database migration project is the adoption of new technology. At some point, businesses may need to upgrade to more advanced technology that will suit their company’s needs better.

When you consider moving info to a more enhanced platform, focus on finding a reliable database migration partner that will walk your organization through the main steps of data migration and provide ongoing maintenance and support services to ensure that a new platform shows stable and seamless performance.

Improved Data Accessibility

All-around accessibility of crucial corporate information has become a must-have for modern organizations. Unfortunately, legacy systems cannot meet these requirements.

Thus, legacy software makes it extremely difficult to access crucial info from different devices. And even if it is possible, it takes a lot of time to find a necessary piece of information.

Such inconvenience negatively influences a company’s resilience and ability to survive in a rapidly evolving business environment.

By migrating legacy data to a more advanced platform, businesses can significantly improve its accessibility across their organization and, thus, facilitate the decision-making process, risk minimization, and enhanced transparency.

Enhanced Operational Efficiency

Simplified data management provided by legacy data migration brings businesses multiple benefits in terms of greater performance, reliability, and fewer crushes. As a result, your employees will spend less time on troubleshooting and will be able to focus their effort on more crucial tasks at hand.

Seamless Scalability

Today’s highly competitive environment forces businesses to expand their offerings and grow their customer base and IT assets to stay in the game. The usage of legacy databases with limited scaling capabilities may hinder business development.

Luckily, the transfer of your legacy data to a more advanced software platform addresses this issue successfully. You will be able to scale it where necessary to handle increasing amounts of data.

Better Regulatory Compliance

You have to be sure that your sensitive corporate information is carefully protected and that your security practices comply with rules and regulations established for your industry.

The transfer of your legacy data to a new environment can help you with this task. The latest data management systems come with multi-layered security functionality that will protect your data against common threats and cyber attacks and make your software regulatory-compliant.

The major benefits of the data migration process make it an absolute necessity for organizations since it not only ensures the security and accessibility of their data but facilitates increased efficiency, productivity, and performance.

Data-driven Decision Making Process

Usually, company data kept in a legacy system has an outdated format, which often leads to data silos and inconsistencies. As a result, businesses may have a great amount of data they cannot utilize to the fullest.

Migration to an advanced platform allows you to use your data efficiently. This way, you will be able to gain a competitive edge by enhancing your customer experience and improving your offerings.


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Key Challenges Associated with Data Migration

Legacy data migration though beneficial in the long term, is far from easy. There are certain challenges you have to overcome to ensure a successful data transfer. To get you prepared, we came up with a list of the most common pitfalls in data migration.

The picture below illustrates what challenges you may face when migrating legacy data:

Careful planning helps avoid the most common pitfalls of the data migration process, such as ulcer requirements or lack of data governance.


Incompatibility between data formats of old and new data management systems is a common legacy data migration challenge, arising from differences in database structures or utilized file formats.

Another reason is that you migrate legacy data to a platform with different character encoding.

Data Inconsistency

According to ECM Consultants, the issue with data inconsistency or incompletion may arise for different reasons, be it outdated data sources or human error.

To overcome this challenge, make sure that you have an accurate and complete data set before initiating the data migration process. Data cleansing and data normalization will help you to reach this goal.

Poor Quality of Legacy Data

Pretty often, the quality of legacy data is poor and does not meet the latest quality standards. You may face this issue if the legacy data on your source platform is incomplete or inaccurate.

Therefore, your task is to assess the state of the data stored on a legacy system, identify relationships behind it, and define whether some changes or improvements are required before starting the process of legacy data migration.

Unclear Requirements

The lack of clear and straightforward requirements can lead to serious misunderstandings between the legacy data migration team and the stakeholders.

To avoid this mishap and ensure that all involved parties are on the same page, you should create a document specifying the data that should be transferred and covering data migration requirements, the mapping of the data, and the project timeline.

Lack of Data Governance

The lack of data governance may have negative consequences, such as compromised data quality or increased security risks.

Hence, it is crucial to prepare a detailed data governance plan before you consider moving legacy data. The roles and responsibilities of the team responsible for legacy data migration, security procedures, and quality standards should be specified there.

These are the most common challenges associated with legacy data migration. Other issues may vary depending on the complexity of the data migration project and the amount of info that should be transferred.

The best way to overcome these challenges is to plan everything beforehand: create a clear data migration strategy and detailed documentation where all potential risks and pitfalls will be specified, along with an action plan to minimize them.

Apart from that, you should back up your data. Thus, if something goes wrong, you will ensure that no amount of your precious data is missed or corrupted.

Now that you know what legacy data migration is and what makes it necessary for your business, let’s discuss the main steps of data migration process.


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Step-by-Step Guide on Legacy Data Migration

Based on our experience in moving our customers’ legacy data to a newer, safer environment, we can say for sure that the standard database migration process consists of seven stages. Check the picture below to learn more about them:

Careful planning, data audit and backup help ensure seamless and painless data migration.

Now let’s take a more price look at each of these stages:

Step 1. Create a data migration strategy

We have already mentioned that without proper planning, legacy data migration can turn into a dangerous undertaking. Hence, your first step is to develop a solid strategy where all steps of data migration will be covered.

It would be crucial to include the following information in this document:

  • Project scope. Consider carefully the amount of data, business processes, and what systems should be affected by legacy data migration.
  • A data migration approach. Define the ways of migrating legacy data proceeding from your business requirements, company needs, and time-frames. You can either transfer your legacy data gradually or carry out migration in one go.
  • Data migration tools. Choose the most suitable tools and technologies that you will use during the data migration process.

We recommend using this information as a starting point and then adding data on any other aspect of the legacy database migration process you may find important for your organization.

Step 2. Conduct a Complete Data Audit

Your next step is to analyze the full scope of legacy data that should be migrated. During this process, you can get rid of useless digital clutter, uncover possible data quality issues, prevent duplications, and detect potential conflicts.

Additionally, the comprehensive audit will provide you with a clear picture of what your data look like before moving it to a more advanced environment. This process implies identifying missing or unnecessary fields.

This way, you will be able to minimize risks of inaccuracies, incomplete data pieces, and other issues.

Step 3. Backup Your Data

Backing up your data is another critical stage of the data migration process. It allows you to restore your original database if something goes wrong during migration of your legacy data to a new platform.

Even if you hire a seasoned software development company with multiple successful data migration projects, you should not miss this step since it can lead to lost data. So you would better be safe than sorry.

Step 4. Design a Data Migration Solution

Based on the outcomes of the data audit, build the structure of a new platform.

At this stage, technical experts responsible for migrating your data write a script for data transition and select the most suitable data migration tools.

Additionally, these specialists handle data mapping, which implies matching fields from one database management solution to another one with the purpose of facilitating crucial data management tasks, be it data integration or migration.


Step 5. Test the Data Migration Solution

As soon as the target database is ready, do not forget to test it with real data. Here we recommend that you start with a small amount of data. Thus, you will be able to ensure that the migration process will go as it should and there will not be any complications.

Step 6. Migrate the Data

Here comes the core stage of the whole migration process: actual transfer of your data from platform to another. Today you can find dozens of automated migration solutions that will help you with this task.

For example, if you are planning to move your data to AWS cloud infrastructure, you may utilize a set of migration services provided by Amazon.

If you are transferring the data stored in a system required for crucial company’s processes, you would better suspend these processes till the migration is over. At the same time, the data migration should not interfere with your established workflows.

Step 7. Monitor the System After Data Migration

As soon as the migration is complete, you should closely monitor a new environment to ensure that it works as it should. Thus, you will be able to identify and fix bugs at the earliest before they become a serious issue.

As soon as each of these stages is completed successfully, you may say that the migration process is finished. Now your data is safe and sound and you and your employees can use them in a new environment.

Modernize Your Legacy Database with OpenGeeksLab

Sooner or later, you may notice that your current database infrastructure cannot keep up with evolving company needs and growing amounts of data. That’s when database migration becomes the best possible solution for cost optimization and enhanced data accessibility and security.

We hope that our guide on legacy data migration showed that the process of moving your data to a new environment is not as challenging and daunting as it may seem. Surely, you may face some challenges when migrating legacy data, but with the right data migration approach and tools, you will overcome them successfully.

If you consider reengineering legacy software and now looking for a reliable legacy software modernization team, we are here to help. OpenGeeksLab has accumulated vast experience in delivering high-quality legacy data migration services. We will carefully analyze your current data and develop the most suitable data migration solution that will suit your specific business requirements.

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