Legacy Data Migration: Your Roadmap To Success

Are you holding on to outdated business applications, legacy digital databases, and old data storage methods? Maybe it's a project management system your company first installed 3 decades ago. Or a sales CRM from a small vendor several years ago (that is no longer supported now as the small company folded up a few years ago?) Some businesses have used the same time-and-attendance since the first day they stepped into their office premises.

It's great to have a 'legacy'—legacy systems, however, are not such a good idea! There are several disadvantages of maintaining legacy applications:

For one, legacy applications slow down business. Does your system take eons to load? Faster and more efficient technologies become available with time, and organizations must leverage these to maintain a competitive advantage, enhance their productivity and optimize costs. And while old tech stacks may still work for you, if they are not updated with the latest security patches, you may expose your network and data to cyber threats. Lastly, if there is any problem with your legacy database or system, the cost of fixing it is likely to be high—both in terms of money and the disruption it causes.


HubSpot Video


What is legacy data? 

Legacy data can be defined as any information stored in an old or obsolete format or an outdated computer system or application, making the information difficult to access or process.

Let's take an example and try to understand all the aspects of this definition:

Think of land records related to a piece of property that has existed for several decades. These were stored in the local county recorder's office in the form of microfiche (a micro storage format widely used several years ago.) 

These records can be termed legacy data because:

1) They hold valuable information.

2) They are stored in microfiche, which is now considered an old and inefficient information storage format.

3) Since the microfiche requires a specialized microfiche reader device, this may be considered information that is difficult to access or process.

This example makes it clear that, by definition, legacy data refers to any valuable information residing in outdated systems, obsolete file formats or on de-supported applications that need to be restored or made accessible. 

A legacy system or legacy database is one that is hard to maintain and support and does not allow for easy integration with modern systems or newer applications. An important point to note is that 'legacy' systems need not necessarily be 'old' in terms of time. 

Regardless of age, systems, databases or information that is only understood by, or compatible with one system or cannot be extended for use with other applications (and therefore needs modernization) can also be termed as 'legacy.'


NEW GUIDE: How to Plan Your Move to Cloud Office Automation

What does data migration mean? 

Data migration is the process by which we can move information (including, but not limited to, legacy data) between different types of computer systems, applications, databases or storage media. It is also referred to as legacy data conversion as it may involve changing file formats, reformatting the information to make it compatible with the new system or application (also known as the target system), and may even require a process of data mapping. 

Migrating from a legacy system and moving business-critical data to a new application or storage location is not just a simple copy-paste or import-export job. It is a complex, painstaking project with little room for error.

You may require data migration when you replace a server, web application or a company-wide business system such as an ERP while moving from on-premises data storage to cloud-based data storage and archival systems or upgrading your database. Other instances that require data migration could be when companies merge or form a new entity which requires systems to be consolidated and all information to move to a standard, common tech stack.

Differentiating between data migration, data conversion and data integration

It's important to differentiate between data migration and data conversion or data integration, as the terms are often used interchangeably.

Conversion refers to transforming data from a legacy application to a new one through the ETL process (extract, transform, load.)

Integration, on the other hand, is restricted to the process of combining data from disparate systems into a common repository, allowing all the data from the various source systems to be processed and analyzed in a unified manner.

Why do businesses need data migration services?

Every organization must keep up with changes in technology, business systems and the latest methods of processing, managing and storing information.

When you update your business systems, you don't want to start from scratch with the new system and lose all the valuable information from your legacy system. You will want to move all your legacy data securely before you start using the new system. This provides business continuity which is critical in any data migration project.

The other reason for data migration from legacy systems is that you want to build on your organization's original investment in the old business system or applications. This is best done by preserving the data and migrating it to the new target system.

Last but not least, you owe it to your employees to allow them to have the best and latest systems to work with—remember, an enhanced employee experience (or user experience) goes a long way in contributing to a successful organization.

The prospect of moving vast amounts of data from obsolete or outdated systems into a new and, therefore, unexplored system is enough to give CTOs sleepless nights!

But data migration need not be as tricky and challenging as many make it out to be. The data migration process must be based on a sound migration plan, with team members across functionalities (including business people) being inducted with a common vision toward a successful migration of data and/or systems while maintaining operational continuity and without impacting current work.

A survey of 200 enterprise technology executives across North America and EMEA was commissioned by Archive360 and conducted by Pulse. When asked about the top concerns they have about moving legacy data to the cloud, these were the top 3 concerns of the respondents:

  • Concerns over regulations and compliance, including global privacy regulations, were cited by 60%.
  • Worries about infrastructure and security, cited by 55%
  • Uncertainty about the budget requirements for cloud adoption, including the total cost of ownership and return on investment, were cited by 51%.

What are the steps in a legacy data migration project?



The legacy data migration process includes multiple steps that must be carefully planned and articulated. Here are some of the common phases of a data migration project:

Phase 1: Discovery & assessment phase

The discovery phase of a project is a period of initial research and assessment before the project execution. The main goal of the discovery stage is to identify gaps, outline the solution, set expectations, address any doubts, and seek a formal sign-off from stakeholders.

It's also critical to finalize the target system or application to which you will migrate the legacy data and clearly articulate it in the project documentation.

In this phase, you can address all the administrative aspects of legacy data migration well in advance. Time spent in preparation will yield benefits during the execution stage as it will reduce the number of unexpected problems during execution. 

Step 1: Project discovery

Kick off the project with a high-level discovery of the project's scope. Assess which data or systems need to be migrated. Understand the current state of your data and systems. Prioritize departments or systems that hold a large volume of records or need urgent updates. 

Step 2: Project assessment

Explore your legacy document formats and their compatibility with the new system. Assess the requirements of the new application, system or database and decide on the classification to be followed in the new system.

Step 3: Project documentation

Next, articulate a formal scope of work document and get a sign-off from stakeholders so there is clarity on what the project will address.

Phase 2: Define the target state of the data & build your roadmap

Before moving legacy data to a new target system, you need to define the new environment and plan the strategy for the migration. You must also prepare the new system or application to receive your data to reduce the possibility of errors or incompatibilities after transferring your data. 

Step 4: Project Plan

Plan where your applications will reside based on best-fit and project scope. Build on what was discovered in the first phase. For example, are you migrating "as-is," or will new servers and infrastructure be deployed? A poorly designed or absent future state plan can derail the entire migration or create roadblocks throughout your organization.

Finalize your migration tools and resources, map out your KPIs' and articulate the infrastructure and support requirements to reach the targeted state.

Depending on the scope and complexity of your migration project, you may want to outsource the project to a data management company or partner with a data migration expert to guide the project to a successful migration with no loss of data and assured operational continuity.

Step 5: Data acquisition

Next, acquire the data—or in other words, hand over access to the data to the personnel who will do the job. Data can be transferred if needed via secure FTP or encrypted USB drives. Create a process flow for the project.

Step 6: Prepare a proof of Concept

Prepare a small batch for testing and convert the data to the desired state as a proof of concept (POC). Once the stakeholders approve this, you can proceed with the project execution.

Phase 3: Migrating data or moving to a new target system or application

After a successful POC, you can proceed with the data migration, which is the most crucial state of the project and requires an experienced team to ensure a smooth migration. 

Step 7: Data migration

The remaining data must be converted and/or migrated into your new system based on the finding or observations in the sandbox environment or POC.

Step 8: Exception handling

This is also the time to identify exceptions to the rules and process flow. Exceptions must be processed based on contingency rules which have been formulated at the planning stage. If the contingency rules were not established earlier, they must be set down and implemented at this stage.

Phase 4: Data validation and delivery

Thorough testing is essential once you have moved to the new system. The go-live step is the most exciting part of the data migration project, as your entire team will look forward to using a brand-new system or application!

Step 9: Validate and test

Once data has been migrated, it must be validated to ensure that all of it is moved correctly and data quality is maintained. This involves technical expertise, extensive testing and comparisons of the current state to the data before migration from the legacy system or format.

Step 10: Go-live

Once your data has been migrated and validated, you are ready to go live or deliver the data into the target database, system or application. Create a schedule for this final stage of go-live in which users may not be able to access some parts of the data or some functionality while you transition the live data.

Keep backups of data before going live. No matter how detailed your execution plan is, be prepared to face some unexpected or known issues and fix them on the fly during the go-live. 


NEW GUIDE: How to become a paperless company in 90 days

How to perform data mapping for a successful data migration

Data migration is particularly challenging when there's a lot of data in many different repositories, as different applications may store the same data in different ways. The data has to be meaningfully plugged into the new system.

Data mapping involves matching data fields from one database to another. It's the first step to facilitating data migration from legacy systems and other legacy data management tasks while maintaining the integrity and relevance of the migrated data or files. For example, the data field which shows the State in an address may show California as "California" in the legacy system, but the new target system may store it as "CA." Data mapping bridges such differences in the two systems so that when data is migrated, it is relevant, accurate, and usable in the new system.

As the volume of data and the number of data sources increase, data mapping becomes more complex and requires automated tools to make it feasible for large data sets.

If not properly mapped, data may become corrupted as it moves to its new target system. The quality of data mapping largely determines the quality of the success of your data migration effort.

How do you avoid pitfalls in your legacy data migration project?




According to Gartner, about half of all data migration projects either exceed their approved budgets or negatively affect overall business profitably due to flawed migration strategy or execution. 

Poorly executed data migrations can result in inaccurate data or other issues that require corrections and can potentially corrupt data that was well-structured and organized, to begin with.

Most importantly, your data migration strategy should support secure and compliant migration. Ignoring cybersecurity and regulatory measures could potentially result in a data breach or fines and penalties for non-compliance.

Don't relegate data migration into a step of a larger project 

Treat legacy data migration as its own project rather than making it a sub-process or step in a larger digital transformation project. Combining legacy data migration with another project, such as a backfile hard copy scanning project, may take away the focus, importance, attention and resources it needs for success.

Don't leave everything to a data management vendor or partner

Involve your core team in the data migration project at the relevant stages. This is essential to provide operational details, internal processes, feedback from users, and guidance on what stakeholders expect. Without these critical inputs, the data migration may not be executed the way you want. 

Don't forget to involve business teams in the migration project

While data migration is largely a technical project, the inputs from business teams and functional managers are of the utmost importance for its success. Include team members who will eventually use the new system or data. These may include end-users, C-level executives, analysts, and even the support people making the project work.

Don't underestimate the effort required for data migration

Data migration is a complex process. Even if you have a carefully laid-out process, you must remain flexible to adapt to revisions and variations as the project proceeds.

While it's essential to keep a deadline for the project, remember that timelines can stretch as problems arise on the fly, and the fixes will evolve as the project proceeds.

DRS Imaging: Migrating data from a range of data management systems

We have the experience and expertise needed to handle a variety of legacy data migration projects. Our migration experts have experience with many old data formats, digitizing legacy microfiche or microfilm records, working with old handwritten texts and even migrating data from once-popular databases and applications that are now obsolete.

For example, at DRS Imaging, we have experts who have significant experience migrating from Alchemy, a popular document management system many organizations used in the past. We can extract, export, and convert Alchemy data and migrate it to a modern system such as our industry-leading Mercury Enterprise Content Management System

We export the images and convert them to PDF or TIFF while retaining the file structure, creating a multi-page file in a format compatible with modern systems. 

The original index data is also retained, so it becomes easy to locate the documents you need from your legacy data, even in the new system. Using our image migration services, you can get ready-to-use PDFs or TIFF image files with a CSV or spreadsheet index, which you can easily import into a modern system.

That's how we unlock the value of your legacy data!

Connect with our experts for a legacy system migration strategy that will modernize your data management framework while ensuring the integrity and quality of your valuable legacy data.

We can recommend a new and modern content management system that will support your operations and provide best-in-class data security and compliance features. 

Mercury is an easy-to-implement ECM software that allows you to handle both structured and unstructured data stored in different applications, such as email, ERP and CRM systems, or other in-house applications.

Mercury reduces compliance risk by aligning data with your industry's compliance requirements with tools such as auto-encryption, strict access control, and version control.

It helps you constantly monitor your data to apply rules and policies related to Information Governance.

You can also generate audit-proof reporting, and eliminate manual report generation processes, ensuring data accuracy. Real-time or near-real-time data enables data-driven decision-making that promotes business growth.

Ask our content management experts for more information on Mercury.

Are you ready to migrate legacy data into a modern content management system?

A legacy data search in your organization's information archives will reveal decades-old information. It may include customer and employee data and other business reports or financial information usually not used for daily operations but may be retained for compliance or security reasons.

You need to develop a roadmap to migrate your legacy data into a secured and supported environment in a cost-effective manner. 

  • Identify the old data or storage formats you want to change. Are there any obsolete business systems or applications you still use that are not supported or do not have features and functionality that a modern data management practice uses? 
  • If yes, then move to the next question>
  • How many records do you have in the legacy system or format that need to be migrated?
  • Next, finalize which database, storage format or application you need to use for your business requirements. Not sure? Ask our data management expert consultants to review your data management, storage, and archival needs and recommend a new system. 
  • Finally, don't skip the most important step of mapping the old and new formats, fields and files to ensure the new system will ingest all the legacy data correctly.

You need to develop a roadmap to migrate your legacy data into a secured and supported environment in a cost-effective manner. 

DRS Imaging can help you develop a roadmap to review your legacy data in its current state, recommend a new data management and storage system and execute the transfer of legacy data into a new system.

DRS Imaging can help you convert all legacy documents and images, whether paper, microfiche, microfilm or digital files, into a modern content management system like Mercury. Mercury has proven to be an ideal solution across industries and is trusted by leading companies across key verticals like education, manufacturing, finance, legal, government, energy, and healthcare.

DRS Imaging is your ideal data migration partner

Do you still store paper records in your information archives?

Our off-site and on-site scanning services digitize paper documents and convert them into digital records that can be stored securely and cost-effectively and accessed and shared easily using a cloud-based document management system such as Mercury.

We also offer affordable data storage and archival solutions for businesses that need to store high volumes of records in secure and compliance-ready digital storage. 

Are your information archives already digitized?

If your document management system or digital storage is old or outdated, you may face performance issues as these systems become unstable if they run on an old operating system or are stored in legacy databases that are incompatible with newer applications.

You risk losing the edge on information governance and may even face penalties for not adhering to industry compliances.

Legacy systems may slow down your operational processes. Government agencies, medical institutes and legal departments can suffer severe consequences in service delivery and non-compliance issues if data cannot be retrieved in a timely manner.

DRS Imaging has experience in digitizing documents and managing data storage for document-intensive legal, government and education sectors.

We specialize in HIPAA-compliant medical records scanning and indexing services: our specially trained professionals prep, scan, and index medical records under stringent SOC 2 security protocols.

We offer affordable and reliable BPO services meeting standard industry compliances such as SOC 2, CJIS, HIPAA and HITECH. 

Our advanced scanning, document management, and data capture solutions automate the collection and distribution of incoming mail and deliver digitized documents directly to your business applications and workflows. Find out more about our mailroom automation to empower remote and hybrid teams in digital workplaces.

DRS Imaging is your ideal data migration partner as we deliver tailored solutions that solve real business problems.

Digitization & automation solutions from DRS lay the foundation for business efficiency and growth.

Connect with a DRS expert today and get a quote for your legacy data migration project.