Whether you’re in the market for content and data migration due to a cloud-focused digital transformation project, a physical move, or another critical business event like a merger, it’s important to be aware of some of the hidden risks associated with a project of this scale. Only then can you develop a robust data migration strategy.

Although data migration might seem like a relatively straightforward process, the sheer volume of documents that most companies have—and the amount of unstructured data within those documents—can lead to a migration project that’s more time- and resource-intensive than expected. 

Here are five of the most common challenges that can occur during a data migration, with strategies to help reduce their costs.

1. The Metadata in Your Content is Weak

Unfortunately, many migration projects struggle with poor visibility into what is being migrated, , particularly when content is unstructured to begin with. Many organizations accept weak metadata within their documents as an inevitable part of the data migration process, while others aren’t even aware of this issue.

The Solution: You don’t have to live with weak or missing metadata while you’re migrating unstructured document content. Nor do you need to have your employees retag everything manually. By implementing a solution that automatically recognizes and enhances your documents metadata through the migration process, you’ll gain increased visibility and findability for your content.

2. Links & References Can Stop Working

In an increasingly digital world, losing the hyperlinks that connect your documents can cause a multitude of risks. If your documents are moved to different locations during your migration, however, these links can be broken—and there’s no way to get them back.

The Solution: Implementing a link-mapping system is a possible stopgap, but it isn’t a perfect answer. To keep all your hyperlinks safe, make sure you’re using a solution that allows you to quantify and redirect them, regardless of how you choose to organize your data following your data migration.

3. The Content You’re Migrating Contains ROT

Migrating your unstructured document content without knowing what’s in it is like moving homes without cleaning out your closet first. You’ll end up bringing a lot of useless items with you (like that tacky holiday sweater from your great-aunt Selma). If you just "lift and shift" your entire digital repository, your data migration will take much longer, and you’ll face more difficulties along the way.

The Solution: Use technology and automation to eliminate the ROT (redundant, obsolete, and trivial) content. By cleaning and standardizing your document content first, you can discern which information is worth migrating and what’s best left behind. That way, you’ll save time and reduce storage costs.

4. You Don’t Know Which Version of a Doc You Need—So You Migrate All of Them

This challenge can arise if you’re migrating multiple versions of the same document without knowing which one you need. This is particularly difficult if some of your document content is paper-based. When you’re moving thousands (even millions) of files, data duplication becomes problematic. Migrating redundant, obsolete, and trivial (ROT) data slows down your migration, clouds critical decision-making, and contributes to rising costs (since employees will waste time searching for or recreating content).

The Solution: Rather than "lifting and shifting" all of your documents indiscriminately, it’s crucial to clean, standardize, and classify your unstructured document content before it moves to its new home.

5. You Need to Store Sensitive Content Differently—But You Don’t Know Where It Is

If your industry has recently undergone regulatory changes—or if you’re just trying to migrate your content as safely as possible—it’s vital to ensure that sensitive and confidential information is kept safe. But how can you secure sensitive information if you’re not even sure where it’s located amidst?

The Solution: To reduce organizational risk, ensure that sensitive documents are properly classified before migration by locating PII (personally identifiable information) and redacting confidential information. This is particularly important for organizations that operate in highly regulated industries, such as healthcare and financial services.

Future-Proofing Your Data

If you’ve already migrated your content and are experiencing some of these issues, don’t despair. It's still possible to extract more value from your data. By stemming the tide of unstructured content, you’ll save time and reduce costs in the long-run. Now, go forth and migrate. Your future self will thank you.