Migrating a website without the migraines

Given all that's involved, migrating to a new website can be challenging. Here is a checklist to follow that can help lead you to a smooth transition.

We all reach points in our lives when we realize we're ready for something new, and whether you're considering a career change or migrating a website to a new portal, the advice is the same: Make sure you're prepared and be sure to think it through first. Migrating a website can be a smoother process than you'd think, as long as you've done the groundwork.

Migrating a website efficiently requires taking a hard look at your current website and making decisive choices about what needs to make the move. Take an inventory of your website assets to ensure you don't forget to bring along anything crucial. You'll need a compatibility plan for placing your legacy data within your new, and likely more modern, portal's framework. Of course, you'll want your website to remain live while you make the migration, so you'll need a plan in place to keep your current system going throughout the switch. With everything to consider, an itemized checklist and timeline for the migration process is a key tool for making your transition.

Transferring your data to the new portal. Solving the logistical question of how to move your data from your current portal to your new one is the central issue of your migration. This question is dramatically easier to solve if your new portal has an API or open framework with a Web services-based method for accessing your legacy data. If that isn't the case, you'll have to rely on an export format to directly access the database, which will require greater technical ability and more time. A plug-in for your new portal may help migrate data from the system you currently use. If there is no official plug-in, check to see if third-party plug-ins and content migration tools have been produced by your new portal's community. Plug-ins can be tailored to your needs as well; for example, if you would like to migrate all of your website's blog content -- but only a selection of the related metadata -- a tailored solution can deliver on this preference.

Know your data. An analysis of your data inventory will help you choose what to bring along in the migration, whether it's your CMS, blogs, message board forums, application data or other Web content. A discovery and gap analysis will help you be certain you have the data you want. Detailing the configuration of your data in the new portal lets you foresee and plan for those situations where one-to-one mapping doesn't fit the new data structure. With the gap analysis complete and discovery begun, you can plan all the calls that will need to be made to the portal's service layer. By making a checklist that includes every piece of data involved in the migration and every call that needs to be done, you can proceed knowing that you have prepared as thoroughly as possible and that nothing will be overlooked.

Your migration timeline. The timeline you create for your migration project, itemizing each task involved, should resemble the following:

  1. Discovery and gap analysis
  2. Data mapping and development
  3. Testing
  4. Backup. Be certain your data is safe.
  5. Migration dry run. A dry run protects you from bugs or data corruption. It also shows you how realistic your migration timetable is and allows you to go forward better informed.
  6. Roll-back process and contingency plan. You must be able to return to your backup if necessary. Include a test and a dry run of this process to be certain.
  7. Content freeze. This is the moment you stop new content from being added to your site, so the migration won't miss any new material.
  8. Full migration of production
  9. User acceptance window and sign-off. You must offer a period of time for stakeholders to test the migrated site and ensure all is correct. Be sure to include time to perform any additional fixes that need to be made.

When it comes to new portals, painstaking preparedness makes for a more pain-free move. By being thorough and taking a "prepare twice, migrate once" mind-set, your website will be up and running without incident.

Next Steps

Introduction to portlet programming

Solving the CMS dilemma

This was last published in March 2015

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