Differing Content Migration Strategies: One Size Doesn’t Fit All

There can be varied approaches to content migration, even within the same company.

Content migration—even within the same company—is never standard. When it comes to your content migration strategy, one size doesn't fit all.

Indeed, there’s a reason clothing manufacturers make dresses and shirts in different sizes. No two people have the same needs. Why shouldn’t content migration follow the same pattern? Nothing in life—or business—is cut from the same cloth.

As I’ve gone from client to client, I’ve always known that the one-size-fits all approach doesn’t work from client to client. Each client has a specific set of needs for which Doculabs tailors its services.

However, the one-size-doesn’t-fit-all dictum became even more obvious to me while recently engaged on a content migration project at a major Midwest utility. I realized that even within an organization there could be varied approaches to how content is migrated.

In any content migration project, pay attention to both time and cost.

We were helping this particular client migrate content from their network drives and old SharePoint sites to Microsoft Office365. The initial thought was to move all files in a very intensive manner. We would scan the content, clean up the ROT (redundant, obsolete and trivial information) and apply metadata tags to all the content during migration. (See our video blog, Managing Abandoned Data.) What we realized, of course, was that the process would be too long—and too expensive.

Was there another, less time-consuming and less costly way to do it? Absolutely. We encouraged the utility to focus on the most high-value or high-risk content.

Focus first on the most high-value or high-risk content.

In conjunction with the client, we determined that the highest value content was related to running critical assets (think power plants and electrical substations). We changed our approach to give those documents the most attention. We worked with the company’s end users to identify where that content was stored, how it was organized, and what critical pieces of metadata were required. Everything else, the client decided, would be migrated in a simple lift-and-shift fashion. (See our recent blog, All Content Is Not Created Equal.)

If you're automating content migration, be careful that your tool isn't too expensive.

Once we figured out what content needed to be moved the next step was figuring out how to move it. The client had previously purchased a tool to fully automate the process of migration, including attaching metadata tags. The tool they bought, however, charged client by the terabyte. The cost was prohibitive to the client—more than $20,000 per terabyte, with more than 100 TB to move!

Pay attention to who owns the content, and how organized that content is.

To solve the problem, we came up with two distinct approaches. These depended, to a large extent, on the type of people who “owned” the content and how well organized that content actually was.

The more thorough, tagging approach could be applied to highly organized content. For those files, Doculabs helped write scripts to move data from point A to point B. It was to that information that the company used metadata to describe specific attributes.

For content that was less well organized, or for content that only made sense to a human being, the organization created folders where files could be migrated in a simple drag-and-drop fashion.

Ultimately, though, the client didn’t need to have all its content migrated to a brand new environment. Their business critical content already was highly organized and findable for employees. This dual approach meant that the company felt the project was a huge success.

Because all content is different, work with "low hanging fruit" and content that's already highly organized.

For all companies, the key to choosing the right cleanup and migration strategy is to realize that not all content is created equal. It may be best for your organization to focus on high-risk/high-value content first. Or maybe you should tackle low-hanging fruit and focus on content that already is highly organized.

How long will the migration take? That depends on the tools you use and how organized your content already is. It also depends upon the availability of resources to help you manage the migration.

Vendors with tools that help with content migration all charge clients differently.

There are many options for tools, including those developed and sold by Active Navigation, FileFacets, Metalogix, Nuix and Varonis. The trick is that some vendors charge by the terabyte; others charge a flat software-licensing fee. Still other vendors charge by the number of agents that their client deploys into their environment.

Of course, each tool has strengths and weaknesses. That’s just like tailoring clothes. Depending upon which tool you use, you may need to take multiple approaches to migration within one single organization.


Rich Medina
Jim Polka
I’m a Principal Consultant. My expertise is in security-based information management and strategic deployment of ECM technologies.