Smart business owners know that improving their computer systems keeps them competitive. These changes are often undertaken to improve efficiency, reduce costs and increase revenue. While it’s unlikely that management will perform the actual processes, it is helpful for them to understand their choices.
Three terms that are used to describe these changes are Upgrade, Conversion and Migration and, unfortunately, they are often misunderstood and sometimes misused.
This is perhaps the easiest concept to understand. It simply involves taking an existing software or system and changing it to the most recent version. For example, Microsoft issues new versions of their operating systems every couple of years which are applied using the upgrade process they provide.
Upgrades often fix security or functional issues leading to improved performance. Sometimes major new features are included in an upgrade and, if so, plan on scheduling staff training time.
Tips when upgrading:
- Prior to upgrading, have your support group check for the compatibility of any applications in other functional areas such as accounting, customer management, etc. that work in conjunction with the system you are upgrading.
- Be sure to have the technicians make two backups and verify that they work before starting the upgrade
This term is applied when one set of data or information needs to be changed to make it compatible with another system. For example, you may have client information and sales data that you want to integrate into a financial system to help with sales forecasts. The two systems have to use the same data format for this to occur. One of the formats needs to be converted or modified to match the other. While a conversion can create huge efficiencies for the organization, the process can be time-consuming.
Tips when converting:
- Look for available options within the software for converting data
- If needed, research third party conversion tools that work with your applications
- Determine which data you need to convert
Business owners often confuse “migration” with “upgrade” and use the terms interchangeably. A migration, however, is more like doing an upgrade and conversion all at once. Migration is the process of moving from an application to a totally new one rather than continuing with one that is outdated. If additional resources are required, the process will also require a new server as well. The goal in a migration is to preserve the historical data and place all data into the appropriate locations in the new system.
Migrating to a new system tends to have the greatest efficiency improvements but it also has higher risks if it is not well planned and executed. Businesses looking to make a bigger leap forward through the addition of new features usually choose to migrate to a newer option.
For effective migrations, data on the old system must be mapped to the new system, and after being moved, the results must be verified to determine that the data was accurately translated. Also, it must fully support the processes in the new system. Automated or manual data cleansing is commonly performed before or during a migration to improve data quality, eliminate redundant or obsolete information and match the requirements of the new system.
The migration process also includes changes to the new system settings so it operates as needed for your business. Time must be allocated for training and to get back to the normal daily production pace from before the changes.
Application migration can be a complicated process due to the differences between the original and new environments. Elements such as operating systems, management tools, networking architecture and storage systems can differ so make sure your team researches all these issues.
Cloud migration is the process of moving data and applications from on-site computers to the Cloud, or moving them from one Cloud environment to another. Cloud migration projects are complicated because the data being moved is stored and managed remotely by external organizations that often store data in multiple locations. As a result, special considerations must be made in regard to data portability, privacy, integrity, security and business continuity.
Tips when migrating:
- Plan, plan and plan some more to make for a smooth migration
- Copy the data to a test environment and run repeated migration trials until it works right every time
- If the migration fails, return to the pre-migration point and try again another day
A migration project commonly has multiple phases so it is essential to have a seasoned project manager who can break the migration into manageable chunks such as data conversion, creating new reports, verifying compatibilities, implementing the solution and training staff. The business partner or vendor you choose and their ability to manage the project will impact your budget.
A migration can be stressful, but it can also be an opportunity to see delightful improvements. Once a business has gone through the process of selecting the new system, most can’t wait for the rare chance at a fresh start.
The Benefits of Outsourcing Technology Changes
- When upgrading: all applications will be thoroughly tested to verify the upgrade doesn’t “break” them. Often, upgrading without sufficient testing leads to unexpected downtime
- When converting: established procedures will be used to make the process faster and less stressful on the staff
- When migrating applications: standard application migrations procedures will be used to make the process finish faster and cause less disruption
- When migrating Cloud resources: an experienced outsourced technology services company will properly plan and execute the work and streamline the process to ensure success
So consider using a business partner for these procedures to ensure that the ride will be smooth and the results will be well worth it.