Migrating User Data? Avoid Becoming the Next Infamous Migration Disaster

Recent history tells us that data migrations are fraught with potential risks. Whether your company is adopting new software, integrating a new operating system, or moving from a legacy system to the cloud, migrating data requires meticulous planning that covers all the bases. Skipping any of the processes, tools, and tests necessary for a successful migration can compromise user information and data integrity, amounting to significant reputational and economic damage. By avoiding the expensive mistakes made by the organizations below, and implementing a reliable migration strategy, you can ensure your project’s success.

Faulty server migration loses 12 years worth of files

Predating even Facebook, MySpace is remembered as the largest social networking site of the early 2000s, and was a space for storing and sharing photos, music, and other audio files. In one of the most recently reported cases of a data migration gone wrong, MySpace lost all content uploaded before 2016—a total of over 50 million files. Severely impacting the generation of musicians that grew up on the site, the loss raises valid questions on how websites can avoid such occurrences by remaining compliant to new data regulations.

25 million people exposed in unsecured data transfer

Data loss isn’t something that’s exclusive to our current technology landscape. In 2007, the UK government suffered one of the most infamous data-related mishaps. When tasked with sending the details of every family claiming child benefits to the National Audit Office, a junior employee at Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) sent the information on two computer discs, by mail. The discs contained personal data including bank account details for up to 25 million people in the UK, and they were lost in the transfer. By not having a secure system in place for sharing sensitive information—something that is still indispensable in today’s on-prem and cloud-based environments—the UK government put millions of people at risk of having their personal information compromised.

Cloud migration failure costs bank millions

In 2013, the UK-based bank TSB split from Lloyd’s Banking Group to become its own entity. Five years later, after lots of planning, the bank was finally ready to transfer all customer information from Lloyd’s legacy IT platform—or so they thought. What was meant to be a 24-hour window of disrupted services for TSB’s online systems turned into a week-long outage. During this time, many customers were unable to log into their accounts, and those who could appeared to have access to data from other accounts. In the few months following the incident, TSB reportedly spent almost $175 million on customer remediation and fraud costs, resource and advisory costs, as well as waived fees and charges.

Insiders to the bank have indicated that not enough testing was done on the new platform before the migration launched, a key component of any migration plan.

A comprehensive migration strategy is key

Failing to account for the various risks linked with a data migration can be costly. By not implementing a modern, secure, and properly planned approach to transfer data and systems, the organizations above lost vital data, funds, and customer trust. In any migration plan, it’s key to always be multiple steps ahead in order to foresee potential disruptions, security risks, and more.

The following best practices will help ensure you’re preserving data integrity, keeping your users secure, and making your organization more efficient as you update to new systems:

  • Secure user accounts before, after, and during a migration. Taking the time to encrypt all data will minimize the chance of leaking valuable user information that could put your company or users at risk.
  • Know the state of your user profiles before you start. Making sure that all user profiles are up to date with the appropriate levels of access will help avoid transferring incomplete or contradictory information that could lead to a failure.
  • Think through the user experience. Knowing how new systems may impact your end-users, whether they’re your employees, partners, or your customers, is key. Will the project impact logins? Will you need to issue new passwords, or invest time into training employees on new systems? Can you schedule downtime strategically? Thinking through these factors will help avoid putting unnecessary strain on your support team.

Migrating accounts and data can be time-consuming—but investing time, funds, and effort into doing it right will ensure you don’t turn your data migration into front-page news.

If you’d like to learn more about deploying a successful migration, check out our breakdown of the key components of a successful, modern migration strategy.