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Is Data Migration Holding you Back?

Often the thought of a new website and all the security and functional benefits it brings can be marred by worries about carrying across all the relevant information from the old site to the new.

So how can that process be made easier? Are there automated alternatives to manual migration? And what can go wrong? Well, in positive spirit let’s start there…

What Could go Wrong?

To be blunt, you could lose everything! All of that vital data that makes up the basis of your client base could be gone overnight.

Of course, no new website is worth this risk so you will need to ensure that whoever is handling the migration process takes backups and approaches your data with care, especially in this post-GDPR environment. Before moving a byte of data, make sure that those responsible understand what each piece of the data puzzle means, where it fits and what its purpose is.

Whether you have your IT or marketing team handle the export, it’s vital that everyone on both sides has a clear understanding of the process.

At this point you may have plenty of questions: How long will it take to wade through the data? Can the system you are currently using easily export the data? Or is it going to take someone’s time to go through every page copying and pasting information?

It’s all sounding a little daunting now, isn’t it but it needn’t be. Like most things, with clear planning we can be realistic about the timescales and ensure that the data is moved correctly to its new home.

But we did mention automated alternatives…

How can we Make the Process Easier?

You may have come across tools which promise effortless automatic migration of your data. These sound good on the surface but rarely deliver the expected results.

Let’s be clear: a website is its content and Google understands your business through the information you supply to it, matching searches based on that information. With automated migration, not only will your website design change but you could go from a search engine’s best friend to someone it doesn’t recognise overnight.

The impact could be terminal: no more traffic, no more enquiries, no more sales. So you can understand why we put a human value on the importance of the job.

So what is the answer?

The good news is that, although data mapping and migration are vitally important processes, they aren’t necessarily difficult. After all, you are basically only taking information from one pigeonhole and putting it in another.

For us, the challenge is in interpreting the time required without having seen the exported data while you will need to understand the new system and spend some time getting into it.

The complexity often comes from the number of these pigeonholes we are dealing with and the fact that some will be named differently in the new system. Others will be redundant and we may have to set up brand new pigeonholes.

Understanding the Migration Process

The first steps are to get the data out of your current system, analyse it, understand how it is sectioned up and what its purpose is and work out a plan for it.

The benefit of allocating enough time to this step is significant. Physically drawing out the field information and connecting it can highlight complex areas to review or areas that may have been missed.

Often the quickest solution at this point is mapping together two spreadsheets, one for the exported old data and the other for the way the new system wants the data. The client will best understand the old spreadsheet and we will best understand the new so all we have to do now is to clearly communicate and ensure all that precious data is pigeonholed correctly.

Then we just have the do the thing!

At this stage, time spent on attention to detail and planning can save a huge amount of time and effort in the future. Often, clients want to take the opportunity to spring clean (e.g. renaming hastily uploaded files, etc.).

The actual transfer of the external files and content, like images, pdfs and videos, is usually quick and painless. As long as there is correct access to the files themselves, these can be moved and the links that relate to them can be bulk edited so they pick up their new home.

Not Forgetting Time to Test

Anything that happens in bulk should be worked through and tested to ensure it has gone to plan. Again, we would discuss with you a plan to set aside a realistic amount of time for testing. The most common bug we come across is the importer skipping something it doesn’t understand (like a funny character or a space in an image link perhaps). This can leave the page looking terrible, even if it was a tiny data mismatch, but luckily this tends to be very easy to remedy.

Ready to get Going?

We’ve painted a picture of the pitfalls because in our experience there’s a potential to underestimate how much time and effort is required. However, using an agency like Vu Online means you can do things in bulk quickly and there’s potentially less work than you think.

The bottom line is this: the benefits of having a new system should never be held back by worries about data migration. There is far more to be gained visually and from an optimisation of content point of view and it often highlights gaps in content that have been needing attention for some time.

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