When I was a kid, some of the best travels were vacations with my family. My parents would plan a vacation for weeks. They ordered custom maps from Texaco, marking the preferred scenic route and gas station exits of every Interstate on the map. (Dad worked for Texaco.) Hotel reservations were made in advance. ATMs were nonexistent, so Dad exchanged cash for traveler’s checks. Toys, food and drink were all carefully packed away so that we were prepared for any contingency.

Looking for a New Travel Freedom

2014-18-September-Road-Map.jpgWe don’t travel the same way anymore. When I travel with my family now, we can count on finding lodging, ATMs and restaurants anywhere we go, guided by GPS and empowered by Web searches on our smartphones. It’s a new found travel freedom.

Your enterprise data, though, isn’t dreaming of far-off amusement parks or mountain getaways. Instead, the bright shiny objects that lure us are new platforms and clouds – SharePoint 2013, Office 365, Salesforce, Google, Box and more.

Many vendors offer fantastic solutions for content migration among the increasing number of choices we have to host our data. Any migration begins with a careful inventory of the content, applications and processes affected by a move. Increasingly, a complete inventory must include any custom applications that need to be moved or rebuilt in the new environment, maintained in the old platform, or discontinued as part of application lifecycle management (ALM).

Eliminate ROT

This leaves our content. How do we triage our information? Some file formats may not make sense in a new location -- for example, raw video files. But much of the analysis searches for information “ROT”:

  • R = Redundant
  • O = Obsolete
  • T= Trivial

Getting rid of the ROT makes sense -- and by extension, what’s left is unique, current and relevant. We should only move what we need, right?

Except many of those files may contain information that is so critical and sensitive they shouldn’t even be files. Hypercritical files demand special care. Excel files, for example, are convenient, portable and shareable -- easily copied and easily emailed. But a critical file may be so critical it serves as a mini-application, critical to key business processes -- and if so, it may contain data that requires better protection than just file-based Access Control Lists. For example, a payment and invoice file might also contain personally identifiable information (PII), credit card data or social security numbers.

We could keep the data in the file -- but why? One file could contain an information mother lode with tremendous risk if that single file is shared or distributed improperly. And the most powerful tools available to secure that file (encryption, for example) inhibit easy collaboration and multi user access. I would argue that such files are better transformed into a new application at the target.

For example, Access Services on SharePoint or Office 365 provide a simple way to upload Excel or Access data to a SQL backend, fronted by Web pages and forms, automatically. PII-rich data is undoubtedly better secured if it’s stored in an encrypted SQL database, rather than a moveable file. Beyond Access Services, there are many simple tools to upload file-based tables into relational structures -- from Excel through Informatica.

When preparing for your data journey, it’s important to travel light. Currency and relevancy are important attributes for user adoption and efficient collaboration. Paring down old, irrelevant information is essential. At the same time, a different approach to upsizing critical files into databases or small applications helps retain the focus on the user collaborative documents, and minimize the potential for ROT in the future.

Title image by Jason Kuffer (Flickr) via a CC BY-SA 2.0 license