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In a nutshell...

Migration is the term that is used for moving data from one system to another.

For example: Your data may reside in an old legacy database and you want to upgrade to a new system or, you may have data stored in Microsoft Excel Workbooks and want to have the extra integrity and functionality that a database can give you.

Tell me more...

People usually migrate data from one system to another when they realise their existing system is not up to the task in hand and by moving to a better system they will increase their businesses efficiency.

The difficulty of the migration will depending on the source of the data. In general, there are only two sources of data that need to be considered. The first is data that comes from an existing database and the second source is from anywhere but a database.

Source of data - Database:
If the source of your data is from an existing database, the process is going to be far easier than from any other source. This is because databases follow a set of rules for storing data and these rules are consistent between databases. (Note: This is only true if the rules in the source database were correctly applied).

If the rules were adhered too, then the migration should be relatively painless. The person migrating the data will most likely have to to make changes to the existing data or even add more data before it can be exported so that it conforms to the structure and validation rules of the new system.

During the migration, it's often a good idea to clean up the data before it's allowed into the new system. For example, maybe the old system didn't enforce the adding of a postcode when an address was added. You may want to hold back from inserting these records until you have run them though a postcode validating process such as the PAF system used by the Royal Mail postal company.

Source of data - Other:
This is where the real fun begins. Any data you have that's not part of a database is going to mean more work.

A common migration I perform is from Microsoft Excel. Excel is a very useful tool that allows users to enter data into something very quickly. The problem is, Excel allows you to break every rule in the book when it comes to storing data properly.

The migration of data from non database systems is painful and expensive but ultimately it will be worth it.

Anything else?

Do you have to migrate the data? Is it possible to run a new system and keeping the old system for reference? Depending on the situation, sometimes it's just not worth trying to migrate data.

For example, lets say I started a fruit and vegetable shop and I kept all my records in a spreadsheet. Six months later I realise the limitations of the spreadsheet and decide to use a database instead. What difference does it make to include the data from the last six months? Sure it would be nice to have it, but does the cost outweigh the benefit? If ever I need that information, couldn't I just interrogate my old spreadsheet?

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