What makes a good migration? How can you make sure that your enterprise chooses a migration partner that will help your migration succeed? Once you’ve assessed your legacy content and used that information to understand exactly what your migration needs are, the next step is to choose a migration partner. A good migration partner can make or break a migration. With experience from thousands of successful enterprise migrations to draw on, CASAHL is here to help you learn what to look for (or look out for) when making that decision.
So how does one go about picking the best migration partner? What are some things to watch for and avoid when choosing a migration partner? There are a lot of enterprise migration companies out there, so we’ll walk through several categories of considerations you’ll want to keep in mind. First, why choose a migration partner at all?
A good migration partner offers many critical benefits to enterprises that need to migrate enterprise content and applications. Good migration partners have in-depth knowledge of the systems they work with and hands-on experience with migrating difficult content. A good migration partner may be able to help you preemptively address problem content identified during assessment, and can definitely help you troubleshoot before and during the migration. In addition to their specialized knowledge, effective migration partners often have custom migration software that enables them to migrate much faster and more effectively than you might on your own.
What Makes a Good Migration Partner?
All enterprises have different migration needs, but all good migration partners tend to share certain traits. These are the migration partners that will work with you to make sure your migration plan is feasible, point out things you may have overlooked, and do their best to help make your enterprise’s new deployment meet your needs.
That said, there’s a difference between a good migration partner and a migration partner that’s good for you. Before you try to choose from the many options out there, narrow the field by asking some basic questions: does the migration company you’re looking at work with all the source and target systems your migration will involve? It’s generally best to choose a migration partner who does, but if they don’t, do they have a referral network or preferred partner who does work with those systems?
Migration partners who can work with the full range of possible source and target systems exist (like CASAHL!), but they’re few and far between. While finding a migration partner who can work with all the systems you need to migrate is the best-case scenario, finding that you need to work with a pair of partners isn’t unheard of, especially if you have a particularly involved combination of source and target systems. Engaging multiple migration partners can drive up the cost of migration, but if that’s your main concern about an otherwise ideal partner, it’s worth considering. Depending on the migration partner in question, they may be able to point you towards a partner that does migrate a specific system, even if they don’t handle it themselves. A good migration partner will be able to guide you through your options and explain any partnerships or migration subcontracts up front.
Are they thorough when migrating simple content? Any migration partner worth their salt must have processes in place to handle the volume and variety of content you need to migrate, complete with metadata. Automated migration of simple content is also a plus – migration partners with software that can automatically migrate content are able to simultaneously cut down on migration costs and instances of human error while improving migration speed.
Similarly, do they migrate permissions and the relationships between files? If not, your users are going to be inconvenienced and unhappy. Some legacy platforms rely more heavily on this type of interdependence than others – for example, an enterprise that relies heavily on Google Sites and Drive would likely consider this a top priority, because without file relationships the sites will lose a lot of their cohesiveness and therefore usefulness. With that in mind, decide how to weight this in your decision-making process based on your enterprise’s specific needs.
Can they handle your problem content and any complex applications you need to migrate? Some types of apps can be pretty tricky to migrate, especially the customized legacy ones, but experienced migration partners should be able to evaluate complex custom apps on an individual basis and tell you whether they can migrate them, or at least offer a functionally similar replacement. Partners that offer post-migration verification tend to be particularly conscientious about this sort of thing – once the migration is over, a good post-migration verification confirms that both simple content and complex application components wound up where they’re supposed to be.
Other good traits to look for in your potential migration partner center around communication. Your potential migration partner should answer questions and address concerns before starting the migration, and ideally before you commit to work with them (though going in-depth on the latter may incur a consultation fee). The best migration partners will work with you to examine your existing migration plan and adapt it to work best with their tools, avoid potential problems you may not have foreseen, and offer advice on ways to keep your new deployment from suffering the same problems as the old one.
Even after you’ve found a quality migration partner, it’s good to go over other details up front, such as that migration partner’s policy for migrations that go over any preestablished migration duration or quantity boundaries. What’s the course of action if something goes wrong during a migration and data gets lost or corrupted? Will there be a lot of extra fees or support charges that bust your budget? It’s disheartening to consider what happens if things don’t go right – and we hope that this guide will help prevent that – but if they do, having at least a baseline idea of what to expect can help avoid some nasty and expensive surprises. A good migration partner should prevent the need for this info from arising in the first place, but they should still be able to give you an idea of potential contingencies up front.
Potential Warning Signs: Identifying and Avoiding Bad Migration Partners
Not all migration partners will meet the standards set out above, but particularly bad choices tend to have a couple distinct giveaways. What warning signs can you use to identify the options you definitely don’t want to pursue?
First: cost. If a migration partner puts in a surprisingly low bid or offers a price tag that’s noticeably lower than the other companies you’ve queried, be wary – the lowest tier of migration partners often achieve lowest-bid status by cutting corners. In many cases these companies opt to exclude metadata from their migrations, and simply scrape the data out of its original home and dump it into the target system with no metadata instead. The lower price tag can be tempting, but the results of this type of migration are hugely disruptive for your enterprise and your users – no metadata means no author/owner details attached to files, no saved permissions or relationships between files, and no other context for all your content. Trying to sort out that amount of disruption is really not worth the savings.
As a corollary, it’s generally safe to assume that even if a company doesn’t lead with the low price tag, if they don’t migrate metadata, it’s best to steer clear. The up-front expense might be lower, but migrating content without keeping metadata is a recipe for trouble and future headache.
A second warning sign is how the company talks about application migration. Migrating applications, especially complex or custom ones, is time-consuming and difficult; this sometimes means shady migration partners try to appear much better at migrating applications than they actually are. If a company’s site says they migrate apps in one place, but then says nothing else about it and provides no further detail, it’s often an indicator that the company knows they can’t migrate all types of apps and wants to hide that shortcoming.
An additional but less immediately damning warning sign is a migration partner that offers one-size-fits-all migration plans, hand-waves questions about specific concerns, or ignores attempts to discuss the planning you’ve already done. Migration is a complex process, especially when dealing with large amounts of legacy content, and cookie-cutter solutions aren’t always applicable or effective. This is less immediately damning because, in rare cases, perfectly reputable migration partners with poorly written web sites or poor communication skills can seem to fall into this category. However, cases like that are easy enough to resolve – if your enterprise asks the migration partner for clarification and receives vague or highly repetitive responses, it’s probably a bad decision to work with that company.
Addendum: Email Migration
A brief aside on email migration: odds are good that if your enterprise is migrating content and applications, you’ll also have to migrate email. Email migration, as mentioned in our previous post, is generally complementary to but separate from content & app migration; it’s not really in our wheelhouse, but still needs to be considered, in part because the guidelines detailed above also apply to email migration partners.
It’s worth asking your preferred migration partner about email migration. If they don’t do it themselves – which they may not, as many content and application migrators don’t do email – they can probably at least point you in the right direction. Microsoft’s FastTrack program, for example, often helps customers address their email migration needs when migrating to Office 365. Partners that don’t migrate email themselves still often have the aforementioned network of partnerships and recommendations for you to draw on.
Conversely, email migrators also sometimes present with some of the same warning signs we outlined in the previous section. It’s a little trickier to sort out which email migrators are deliberately misleading and which are just so enthused about email migration that they forget to clarify email migration when advertising themselves as complete migration solutions – a surprising number seem to do the latter – but the same general rules of thumb apply.
Conclusion: What Next?
Having been called in many times to help salvage in-house migrations that went badly awry, we at CASAHL really cannot stress enough that we do not recommend trying to carry out an enterprise-scale migration on your own. If your company plans to migrate anything more complicated than out-of-the-box email, has accumulated more than two years of legacy content, or has complex customized applications, please consult a professional migration partner. It will save you, your users, and your budget a lot of stress and strain.
Picking the right migration partner can dramatically improve your migration process, especially if you address concerns and potential problems ahead of time. Choosing a migration partner that fits your enterprise’s specific needs is the best way to make sure that your migration goes smoothly. Remember, migration planning is iterative – a migration partner that helps you develop and refine your plans as you discuss options is a migration partner that’s helping you set your new deployment up for success beyond the migration itself.
If you take the time to consider your migration requirements, research your options and reach out to migration partners, you’re on track for a successful and cost-effective migration. Decide what you need to make your migration a success, reach out to the people best able to help with that, and then, once you’ve found the partner that works best for your enterprise, move on to the migration itself!