Service Excellence

4 Questions to Ask Before Starting a Data Migration

Jim Donovan By Jim Donovan Senior Vice President, Services Storage Portfolio April 26, 2017

Data migrations are a pain. There I said it. They’re messy and they keep storage admins up at night.

But, they’re also a necessary part of business operations. To realize the value, the performance, the promises of modernized new infrastructure, you need to onboard your existing data and processes.

Because of this, data migration will always be a part of storage tech refreshes. But, it no longer has to be tedious, time-consuming, error prone, or painful. The key to turning that corner is in asking the right questions before you get started and choosing the right vendor to engage with.

Let’s focus on your people and partners — the most crucial component to success or failure. When it comes to migrations, you want proven industry experts who are well versed in moving data. So how can you distinguish the amateurs from the pros? Here are some questions to consider to help you make that decision.

  • Are you working with a company that has the capabilities to perform platform- and vendor-agnostic migrations?

This is a big deal when you take into account that most data centers are sprawling, multi-generational, complex environments and the tier 2 and tier 3 storage that you’ll find in there are likely heterogeneous and the disks are outdated.

  • What is the company’s track record for dealing with complex environments and do they have a track record that demonstrates a commitment to customer collaboration and service excellence?

Every environment is different and every business has its own tolerances and requirements. Migrations are a cooperative exercise, so you’ll want to make sure that a strong desire to collaborate is in place.

  • How standard and proven is the migration methodology?

How thorough is your prospective vendor with pre-work asset mapping?  Is their remediation strategy proactive or reactive? In other words, do they start with a low-cost base rate, move over what they can, and fix whatever remains after the fact? This should give you an idea of potential hidden costs, anticipated business disruption and the level of automation that the vendor has developed to make its migration successful.

  • What underlying data migration technology does the vendor use?

This can make a huge difference in choice and convenience. If migration capabilities are embedded into the product, you can go with a DIY approach. Even if you would never actually do it yourself, embedded technology simplifies and reduces the level of effort for the data movement. That would result in a significantly lower cost for migration, even if you decide to leverage outside expertise to do the job for you.

Dell EMC moves massive amounts of data (over an exabyte each year and more than 200 petabytes of that comes from non-Dell EMC arrays) so we’ve seen many different scenarios. What we’ve learned is change is good, questions are good, and it’s always worth exploring better options. One particular customer that comes to mind had 500+ TB of data and for the last 15 years refreshed their storage annually — a process that took nine months to complete each time. With Dell EMC’s proven and standardized methodology, we were able to complete that same migration 75% faster. For the customer that meant 7 months of data migration work eliminated, $400,000 in maintenance costs saved and a reduction in TCO by $60,000/month.

Jim Donovan

About Jim Donovan


Senior Vice President, Services Storage Portfolio

Jim has been with Dell EMC for over 20 years in various leadership positions. In his current role, he is the interface to the primary storage, data protection and converged infrastructure divisions for service delivery teams.

His teams are responsible for product introduction, serviceability, testing and continuous improvement, support and deploy partner management, services tools development, and product enablement for delivery.

Jim is a University of Massachusetts Boston alum and enjoys skiing and golfing in his free time.

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One thought on “4 Questions to Ask Before Starting a Data Migration

  1. Jim, I can see why data migration would involve strong customer collaboration. It seems like businesses tend to thrive whenever information is easily spread. I can definitely see how data migration could easily help to streamline productivity.