Migrating data? Here's What You Need to Watch Out For

Thursday, May 5, 2016 by Jennifer Duits

Everybody loves a hardware upgrade, be it a smartphone, a tablet, a laptop or even a new server. It’s something shiny and new. When we talk about upgrades or migrating data though, it’s often more of a ‘must-do’ than a ‘nice-to-have’, whether it’s updating back office ERP systems, moving users from desktops to laptops or simply introducing a new back-up system. So while not the most exciting part of an IT team’s workload, data migration is a necessary part of day-to-day maintenance and management. It is also not without its risks, including loss of data.

As the company that is called in to help when data goes missing and has to be recovered, we see hundreds of cases every year when backups fail during the migration process. To understand when and why this continues to happen, we recently carried out research with nearly 600 IT administrators across the world to identify the biggest risks associated with data migration. The alarming fact that emerged from our research is that organizations most often experience data loss during migration because their backups fail for whatever reason. Even though these processes are carefully planned for beforehand, data loss can still occur.

Upgrades and migration processes are equally risky whether they are being undertaken for mobiles, laptops, PCs or servers and whether they involve changes to the hardware or the operating system. The problem is widespread: almost a third of respondents (32%) said that they had experienced data loss when migrating to new software from a server, while almost half (49%) lost data when upgrading software from a desktop or laptop.

The biggest lesson to learn

What can organizations learn from these insights?  The biggest lesson to learn is that some data loss is unavoidable, so it’s vital to ensure that a rigorous backup strategy including regular testing of backup and restore functions is in place. While organizations should check their capability to restore frequently, it’s especially important to do so before a migration. The need to upgrade systems is not going to go away: indeed the increasingly fast pace of change in IT means that upgrades will need to be made even more regularly.

Backup! Backup! Backup!

World Backup Day (WBD) promotes the importance of keeping all our data backed up, but to paraphrase a festive advert; a backup is not just for World Backup Day. That’s not to say you need to feed it, and take it for regular walks, but data does need taking care of.

It would be great to live in a world where we could guarantee that computers didn’t crash and that hard drives never became corrupted but we don’t - so the obvious solution is to have a reliable backup that is updated and maintained regularly. Statistics prove that we need it, especially when migrating.

Watch out when migrating and upgrading

Of the IT administrators we surveyed:

  • Nearly a third (32%) had lost data when upgrading software or migrating between devices
  • The good news is that 57% had a backup, but …
  • 75% couldn’t restore all the data, and 25% lost all their data

Upgrading and migrating data is a part of everyday technology life but it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be careful. Data loss is as risky with hardware as it is with software but there is an increased risk during any form of migration. It is alarming to see that so many organizations are experiencing data loss because their backups fail for whatever reason.

The risk of data loss is something that everyone, from those with a smartphone and a laptop to corporations with armies of desktops and servers, need to guard against and of course prepare contingencies for should the worst happen.

 Top tips for taking care of your data

  • Take the time to invest in a backup solution and set a backup schedule
  • Ensure all identified devices and media are included
  • Ensure that backups are running regularly in accordance with the determined schedule
  • Check backup reports for errors or failure
  • Test backups on a regular basis to validate that data has been accurately captured and files are intact
  • Include details of a third party data recovery partner in your disaster recovery plan

You can read the full report with the results of our data migration survey to find out more about how businesses are dealing with their migration struggles.

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