Best data migration practices for organizations

6 April 2021

Fastly outage – is the internet too dependent on edge cloud? (Photo by Morgan Sette / AFP)

Despite recent innovations in the field, migrating large organizations to the cloud can still be a clunky business filled with challenges. It could take months or even years to sift and identify data involved in the migration – a process that can be complicated even further for organizations like government agencies, that have to deal with sensitive data and a string of compliance regulations.

But the advantages that the cloud can provide are undeniable, such as the tighter security protocols for the distributed cloud model. Especially with the advent of remote working and hybrid working culture, data migrations from on-premise storage to cloud computing, including to multi-cloud and hybrid cloud environments have become more crucial to maintaining uninterrupted operational continuity.

The advantages are being recognized the world over, including for government agencies at every level. In the US for instance, agencies at the local, state, and federal levels all need to secure sensitive data at a high level. The US Department of Defense (DOD) is preparing for its biggest data migration effort in mid-2021, when the data for over 1 million users from its private virtualized environment will be transferred to a beefed-up Microsoft 365 cloud environment built especially for the US government and the DOD, known as the Government Community Cloud (GCC).

Public data migration best practices

Overseeing the migration of a government agency can be just as intricate as a private company, but with the added complexity of stricter compliance regulations. The complexity is compounded by the different approaches taken by IT teams at different levels of the administration: for example in the US, local and city councils have a lot of autonomy and are not part of every unified national database for a lot of their local IT needs.

The requirements vary from department to department, and not every region is necessarily managed the same way. In spite of this, certain data migration best practices can be applied to help smoothen government migrations, just like a private organization.

A huge aspect of the migration process is adequate preparation. With proper planning, the data migration itself can be relatively smooth. Unnecessary data can be weeded out and eliminated beforehand, slashing cloud storage costs.

Planning also allows the organization to determine the best approach to tackle the migration – would a phased handover be more suitable? If yes, which systems should be ported first? With so many firms still working from remote locations, has the migration been planned or scheduled to take place at off-peak hours, when there will be minimal disruption for users?

And given the complexity and the sensitivity of data involved for government agencies, it might be wisest to partner with a migration service provider. In the US, the vendor should be approved to deal with GCC licenses as applicable – the same should apply in any other country, make sure the appointed vendor is authorized and up-to-date in their approvals to handle government projects.

Furthermore, the internal IT team needs to work closely with the service provider. To thoroughly understand and outline the project requirements and deliverables. This is to ensure that there is no aspect that is overlooked, and both sides are up to speed on the security and regulatory compliance requirements.

Not just the vendor, but the team members and all the tools used in the migration need to meet all the necessary certifications to carry out a government project. Of course, certain territories will have more stringent requirements than others.

Finally, an effective transition or change management strategy will be important to complete the transition. Proper internal communications and comprehensive training for employees will help everyone involved be aware of what’s required from them, including grasping any new processes or protocols and circumnavigating any productivity loss during the data migration.

While the nitty-gritty of a public sector migration might be similar to a private company’s, a government data migration can be a much longer and unwieldy process, especially with the vast number of people and the copious amounts of sensitive data involved. It is better to undergo the whole process with the assistance of professionals, as rushing a poorly planned data migration can result in more problems after the fact, resulting in additional tasks and lost time.