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Data migration testing ensures that all your data sets and system integrity are maintained when they’re transferred to a different host. Depending on the size of your organization and the work it does, migrations can be highly technical or fairly straightforward.

SEE: Checklist: PC and Mac migrations (TechRepublic Premium)

Whatever line of business you are in, the process of migrating systems that are business-critical should not be based on guesswork or improvisation. In this guide to effective data migration testing, learn how to make a plan for your move and how to track progress at every stage of the process.

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What is data migration testing?

Data migration testing is a process that starts pre-migration to secure the different stages of your migration. There are three main phases for testing: before, during and after the migration. All three stages should be outlined in your data migration testing strategy with clear protocols and metrics to test.

SEE: Best practices to follow for data migration (TechRepublic)

Data migration tests are not only carried out to avoid data loss: It’s also to check for corrupted systems and make sure everything else is working correctly. They prevent operational disruptions by testing new environments and incorporating security and compliance best practices.

Migration testing strategy key components

Migration team

To build your migration team, source experts and leaders who can guide the entire testing process. The team should include representatives of IT, management and other departments. Make sure they have a certain level of data literacy, know their migration tools, and feel comfortable working technically with both the legacy and the new system.

Organizational communication

Establish communication channels across the organization and inform all workers about the migration process and how it might cause downtime or otherwise affect their work.

Risk identification

Before migrating, detail the risks involved with the migration and ensure each point has a contingency plan. Disaster recovery and business continuity plans are helpful forms of documentation to protect against rogue migrations among other issues.

Formal testing phases

Outline the details of the three phases of migration formally. Documentation will help the migration team carry out the plan effectively while also offering a blueprint for any future migrations.

Data migration testing checklist

A significant number of things can go wrong when you are migrating data and systems; data migration testing checklists are often used to mitigate these high risks. These tests can be comprehensive, but organizations should never expect a 100% error-free migration. With checklists in place and phases defined, the percentage of migration errors can be drastically reduced and fixed before they turn into bigger issues.

Before embarking on your migration journey, it’s essential to understand that the process requires advanced technology and computing skills, including SQL, black box and white box testing, front and back-end testing, and data flows. If your in-house team does not possess these skills, I highly recommend you find a migration testing expert service.

SEE: Hiring kit: Cloud engineer (TechRepublic Premium)

As mentioned above, there are three defined phases of migration testing: pre-migration, migration and post-migration. While other tests — such as backward compatibility verification and rollback testing — are often included, these three phases are at the core of data migration testing:

Pre-migration testing checklist

  • Define the scope of your migration.
  • Map what the migration flow needs to look like.
  • Back up your data in third-party storage systems that won’t be affected by the migration.
  • Set budget and timeline expectations with the migration team.
  • Ensure that both legacy and new systems align with all security and compliance requirements.

Migration testing checklist

  • Break your migration into batches for more efficient testing.
  • Verify your migration scripts.
  • Complete data validation testing.
  • Set user access parameters and ensure everyone in the organization has the access level they need for new systems.

Post-migration testing checklist

  • Expand into end-to-end software and application workflow testing to get a more holistic view of how the migration went.
  • Compare data in new systems to inventories of legacy systems.
  • Translate and transform data as necessary to format it for the new systems.
  • Complete incompatibility testing and data deduplication.
  • Use penetration testing and vulnerability scanning to check security.
  • Run stress and performance tests.
  • Confirm all users have the access levels they need for new systems.

For a more comprehensive checklist and guide to pre- and post-data migration testing, check out our TechRepublic Premium library of resources.

Data migration testing tools

Migrating big data, sophisticated systems and applications often requires automated migration tools. These tools speed up the process, provide visibility into the entirety of the migration, and help your migration team manage their tasks and any issues that arise.

Data migration testing tools can be deployed in-house or on-premises. They can also be open source tools or come from cloud vendors as built-in solutions.

SEE: How to identify and avoid common data migration mistakes (TechRepublic)

Cloud migration testing tools are easy to use, with built-in security and automation features. They are also among the most-used types of data migration testing tools. In contrast, open source tools are free but are usually harder to use and require more niche technical knowledge.

Some popular migration testing tools include Acronis, EaseUs, Paragon Drive Copy Professional, IBM Informix, AWS Data Pipeline, Azure Cosmos DB and SnapLogic.

Challenges of data migration

There are several challenges that come with starting a big data migration project, even if you follow every step of a data migration testing checklist. Challenges of data migration include:

  • Maintaining data quality and integrity.
  • Avoiding data loss and corruption.
  • Preventing systems and application malfunctions or downtime.
  • Completing testing simulations.
  • Finding and training experts for your data migration team.
  • Using data migration tools and resources effectively.

Whether you are migrating to the cloud or building a new on-premises data center, transferring your operations to a new server or host has many benefits. However, organizations need to outline their data migration testing strategies and thoroughly complete those tests to ensure they mitigate or avoid these data migration challenges entirely.

Read next: Top data quality tools (TechRepublic)

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