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Aaron Dassen

Published at 02.05.2024

Digital Transformation

Data Migration Strategies: On-Premise Systems to The Cloud

Data migration, the process of transferring data between storage types, formats, or systems, is essential for organizations upgrading their systems or transitioning to cloud environments. ​​Effective data migration strategies from on-premise systems to the cloud are crucial, as they often encounter significant challenges and complexities. A recent study by Experian revealed that 64% of data migration projects they examined exceeded their budget, and only 46% met their scheduled completion dates. Furthermore, less than 70% of these projects were deemed successful. These findings highlight the difficulties associated with data migration, particularly when transitioning from on-premise environments to the cloud. Such challenges often result in project failures, financial losses, and dissatisfaction among staff and customers.

Why is Data Migration Such a Difficult Task?

When migrating data from an on-premise environment to the cloud, it's essential to develop a clear, well-conceived plan, select the appropriate migration strategy, and employ the necessary tools to manage the challenges and inevitable risks to data integrity, security, and availability inherent in such a complex process. As evidenced by the previously mentioned study, achieving a successful data migration is no small task.

This blog post aims to provide an overview of the process for migrating your data from an on-premise environment to the cloud, outlining the challenges involved, and offering strategies, tools, and best practices to facilitate a successful transition. We’ll cover background information on data migration from on-premise to cloud environments, then detail the process and compare two data migration strategies, highlighting their pros and cons. Furthermore, we will discuss challenges like data integrity and downtime, tools for migrating from on-premise to the cloud, and conclude with best practices to ensure a successful transition.

What Are On-Premise Systems?

On-premise systems, where companies manage their infrastructure and operations in-house, have traditionally been the standard due to the control and customization they afford. However, these systems can be challenging to scale during company growth and costly to update with shifts in technology or new functionalities that are difficult to implement with existing setups.

The popularity of cloud-based solutions is increasing as they offer several advantages over on-premise setups. With a cloud approach, a provider manages, runs, and maintains all the infrastructure, offering scalability through a pay-as-you-go model, enhanced flexibility, robust security, and disaster recovery. This setup not only keeps data safe in emergencies but also allows companies to reallocate IT staff towards more strategic business objectives.

The Overall Migration Process

The migration process should begin by defining the desired outcomes, such as specific business goals or operational improvements. Selecting a data migration strategy that aligns best with your company's needs involves considering factors like time, budget, and the technical expertise of your team. Next, choose a cloud provider that best meets your requirements, keeping in mind that each provider has unique strengths and weaknesses. This careful selection ensures a tailored approach to effectively manage your migration to the cloud.

On-Premise Data Migration Strategies
Big Bang Migration

This strategy involves migrating all data at once. Ideally, this approach minimizes downtime, and the migration process is relatively straightforward since parallel systems are not needed. However, it requires extensive, meticulous planning and a long implementation and testing phase. Similar to the waterfall model in software development, a Big Bang migration can work beautifully under perfect conditions, but it often encounters unforeseen issues if not thoroughly planned. These problems can be severe enough that the only remedy may end up being a costly and disruptive complete rollback. Consequently, since uninterrupted service cannot be guaranteed, this strategy is not suitable for companies that require 100% uptime.

Trickle Migration

In this method, data migration is segmented into smaller, manageable phases, each with specific objectives, deadlines, and scope. This strategy allows for individual validation and, if necessary, re-execution of each phase without impacting the entire migration. Issues are typically less disruptive, affecting only specific segments, thus reducing the time and cost needed for corrections. Trickle migration ensures continuous uptime as data is migrated incrementally. However, it is generally more resource-intensive, requiring multiple active environments and careful synchronization to avoid confusion and delays.

Choosing the Right Data Migration Strategy

The decision between Big Bang and Trickle migration should be made early, considering various factors such as the migration deadline and the feasibility of experiencing downtime. No single strategy is universally optimal—the choice depends on the specific needs and circumstances of the migration. Big Bang migrations are preferable when requirements are clear and well-defined from the outset. In contrast, Trickle migrations are suitable when data can be divided into subsets, or when precise planning is challenging. The experience and familiarity of the migration team with either agile or waterfall methodologies also significantly influence the choice of strategy, as teams tend to prefer approaches that align with their established processes.

Challenges in the Migration Process

Despite its importance, data migration presents numerous challenges that can affect its success. Here are some of the key challenges involved and how you can be better prepared for them:

Data Integrity

During the migration process, there's a risk that data may be lost, corrupted, or incorrectly transferred, posing significant threats to data integrity. However, there are several precautions and practical steps you can take to mitigate these risks:

  1. Create Backups: Ensure a backup of the data is made just before migration. This safeguard means that no data will be permanently lost, providing a fallback option in case of any migration issues.
  2. Encrypt Data: Protect the confidentiality and integrity of your data by encrypting it both in transit and at rest. Implement strict access controls to prevent unauthorized access or alterations during the migration process.
  3. Verify Post-Migration Data: After migration, it's crucial to check that data has been transferred correctly. This can be done by comparing the migrated data against the pre-migration backup, either manually or using automated tools, to ensure accuracy and completeness.
Data Downtime

Data downtime presents various challenges, as unavailable data can disrupt internal operations and customer services. For instance, essential data needed for urgent decisions might be inaccessible during migration, or customer services could be interrupted if critical information is being transferred.

The extent and impact of data downtime largely depend on the migration strategy chosen and the planning of the migration phase. To minimize the impact of data downtime, consider the following strategies:

  1. Schedule Thoughtfully: Plan to conduct the migration during periods of low activity or when the fewest users need access to the data. This approach, however, might be less effective for businesses with international customers who require around-the-clock access.
  2. Use Redundant Data Resources: Establish a temporary, redundant data source to serve as a fallback during the migration. Ideally, this source should be read-only to prevent discrepancies between the original and migrated data. If modifications to this temporary data are necessary, ensure there are mechanisms in place to synchronize these changes with the newly migrated data, minimizing complications and extra workload.
Migration Efficiency

Of course you want your migration to also be efficient to keep expenses as low as possible. This factor is mainly determined by the chosen strategy, the quality of your planning phase, the tools you use for the migration and of course the skill and experience of the people performing the migration.

Choosing the right tools can help facilitate a smoother and more efficient migration process. It's often beneficial to utilize tools provided by your chosen cloud provider, as they are specifically designed for compatibility with their environments. Here are some categories of tools, along with specific examples, that you may find useful or necessary for your migration:

  • Data Transfer Services: Utilize services offered by your cloud provider to streamline the migration of your data.
  • ETL Tools: If you need to transform your data before migrating, consider ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) tools.
  • Data Lake Tools: To organize, analyze, and store your data efficiently, data lake tools can be very helpful.
  • Monitoring Tools: It's important to monitor both your data and the systems or applications during the migration.
  • Security Tools: Protecting your data throughout the migration process is important.
Data Migration Best Practices

Here are some best practices to enhance your experience during the data migration process:

  1. Clean up your data
  2. Understand your data
  3. Conduct a pilot migration
  4. Minimize business impact

Before initiating migration, it's crucial to clean your data. This involves checking for accuracy in content and format, ensuring completeness, and removing unnecessary data. Reducing the volume of data to be transferred can significantly streamline the migration process.

Obtain a comprehensive overview of the data that needs to be migrated. This clarity will help you categorize the data effectively, particularly if you plan to divide it into subsets for different migration strategies.

Implement a "pilot migration" by transferring a small, representative sample of your data first. This trial run allows you to identify and address any issues in the migration process before moving the entirety of your critical data. Correcting problems in this controlled context can save considerable time and reduce stress compared to starting with larger, more important datasets.

Aim to reduce the disruption to business operations during the migration. Keeping disturbances to a minimum helps avoid additional complications and ensures that business processes continue smoothly throughout the transition.


This topic might initially seem as straightforward as a simple copy-and-paste task, but it's far more complex. Successfully migrating data from on-premise systems to the cloud requires careful planning, the right tools, and adherence to best practices.

We’ve learned that cleaning and understanding your data, utilizing pilot migrations to identify potential issues, and minimizing operational disruptions are crucial steps that can significantly enhance your data migration process. By integrating these strategies, organizations can ensure a smoother transition, maintain data integrity, and minimize downtime and costs. Embracing these on-premise data migration practices will not only streamline the migration process, but also pave the way for a more efficient and secure data management environment in the cloud.

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