When it comes to migrating your content to a new content management system, the only way to go is automated. In this article series we take a close look at several of the automated solutions on the market, starting with Kapow Tech's content migration tools.

The Need to Migrate Content

We've had this conversation before. There always seems to come a time when you need to get your content out of one system -- be it a file share, a CMS, a DMS or whatever -- and put it into a new system.

Whatever your reason, there's one important thing to remember: the content itself. It's never simply a matter of taking from one and putting into another. That, in the words of Gerry McGovern, is a disastrous strategy.

Content Migration Approaches

There are a number of ways to migrate content from an existing CMS or other location into a new content management system. As a refresher, these are:

  • Manual cut and paste
  • Custom coding
  • Utilizing generic CMS APIs
  • Reverse engineering the content database
  • Implementing an automated content migration solution

Which approach works best for you comes down to how much time, money and resources you have. There are pros and cons to each option, but for most of you, the days of cut and paste are long gone. Considering the complexity of most websites, the need for automated solutions has become self evident.

The good news is that a number of automated solutions already exist. Among these we count EntropySoft, Kapow Technologies, Vamosa and Vital Path. In this first article we take a look at Kapow Tech's Content Migration Module to see how it compares to others in the market.

Kapow Technologies

Kapow Tech is probably best known for their Web Data Server (WDS), a developer-friendly platform that enables users to build mashup solutions with the flick of a keystroke. The WDS makes use of a number of robots. Using standard web protocols, the robots can automate navigation and interaction with web applications and provide secure access to the underlying data.

Kapow Tech's Approach to Content Migration

RoboMaker, part of the Kapow Visual Development Environment (VDE), is a tool for building robots. It enables you to build robots that can crawl a website and see both visible and invisible content (i.e., metadata).

Kapow RoboMaker.jpg
Kapow Technology's RoboMaker Concepts

This is where content migration gets started.

Content Migration Module

The Migration Module is technically a part of the company's Web Data Server, but is also marketed and sold independently. The diagram below lays out the constituent parts of the solution and also makes it clear how the migration technology shares deep synergy with the company's larger Web Data Server mashup platform.

Kapow Technologies Data Transformation and Integration Platform

Migrate From Anywhere

The Content Migration Module allows you to migrate content from just about anywhere, including XLS, XML, CSV, file directories, digital asset management systems and content management systems, to just about anywhere. The key to its flexibility is RoboMaker's ability to adapt to many different input formats and sources.

For each system that you want to migrate content from, you create one or more robots in the VDE. What's nice about this visual environment is that you aren't coding robots, but instead use a flowchart like process to configure how the robot will work.


Kapow Technologies RoboMaker VDE

In many cases, all you will need are these robots to extract and transform your content. In more complex situations you may need a combination of robot and API. Kapow's VDE does support the ability to connect to external web services to assist with content migration.

Don't Forget to Inventory Content

Of course the first step in any migration is the process of inventorying your content. Kapow's inventory process records links and checks for broken links.

Because there are always a number of inter links in your website, there is an order to migration. Kapow's order is to first grab ids of any resources, then push content that interlinks and then finally push the other content.

Verify as You Build

Kapow's migration solution crawls the presentation layer of a website to retrieve both the visible content and its invisible metadata. As a result, in the VDE you see the website you are creating the robot for, create extraction rules, apply any transformation rules and test the robot.

By providing the ability to test the robot on real content, you know instantly if your extraction and transformation is successful and can quickly make iterative refinements. By responding to technical error notifications from the tool you can address a broad range of issues during the testing phase.

Getting Content into the New CMS

Every content management system is different. So there is no single approach to loading content into the target CMS. Kapow does offer the ability to write to the database of the CMS, but this is not a common scenario according to the company.

You are more likely to extract content to an XML file or a staging database, and then load it into the target CMS using its own API. In some instances you may even load the content via the web interface of the new CMS.

Coding Skills Not Necessary

Although the Content Migration Module looks straightforward, it does require some level of IT knowledge -- specifically you should understand HTML and some programming basics. It's not a tool for the business user, which is probably as you'd expect.

Kapow says the tool would most likely be used by system integrators, development teams or vendors who have a CMS they want to assist you with migration into.

Let's Talk Migration Turkey

There are a few things about Kapow's Migration Module that we like, including:

  • The ability to test the migration robots and debug them before they are used on an actual migration.
  • An environment that is more about configuration than coding.
  • The ability to migrate content from sources like XLS and CSVs, in addition to more traditional sources like file directories and CMSs.
  • No need to freeze content for a migration because it can happen all at once with a high degree of accuracy.
  • Bi-directional synchronization between source and target systems.

While we liked what we saw, we didn't fully buy into the company's "100% of the data 100% of the time with 100% accuracy" (and no coding) message.

No Migration is Simple

It is possible that with smaller migrations, the 100% rule may be true, but with larger implementations and more complicated websites, we don't really see this as a reality. In addition, with no content freeze period -- although nice -- it is entirely possible that some new content could be introduced between testing and the real migration periods that could break your migration logic. I admit, though, that this problem is more of a procedural than technical one.

There's also some training required to help understand how to best use the RoboMaker VDE. While it may be more of a configuration than coding environment, it is a non-trivial tool and there are certainly decisions to be made while configuring it. Kapow Tech does offer training and professional services that assist in this area.

Who Knows Your Content Best

The "verify as you build" approach is based on two principles:

  • You know your content best
  • You can verify the results of your instructions as you write them

We've got a small problem here. If the migration tool is used by developers, system integrators or CMS vendors, then they aren't the ones who know your content best. It is the business folks that understand what content they have, what needs to be migrated and how it must be transformed.

It is also the business folks that need to verify the migration has been successful. So there is still a strong quality assurance element to the migration process. Granted, the accuracy is likely going to be better than a black box or custom coded solution, but QA by the relevant business teams is essential. This probably means that you need to factor in some training for these folks, if your project is going to go as smoothly as the marketers' promises.

Watch it Action

Watching the Kapow Migration Module in action does give you a good feel for how much work is required to migrate your content. The company offers several videos demonstrating the process including migration from a Fatwire CMS and a Sitecore CMS (which Kapow demonstrated at J Boye Aarhus last month).

But you don't have to stop with canned demos. You can also download a trial version of Kapow Data Server which includes the Content Migration Module.

The Low Down

The Kapow Tech's Migration Module is definitely a product to look closely at. While you may not get the 100% results suggested, you should see an decrease in migration time and more efficient results. The wise team leader will ensure that at least one business user understands the tool and can work alongside the IT folks during the refinement and QA processes -- budget some training dollars to get the different elements of your team on the same page.

Stay tuned -- In the next article we look at Vamosa's Content Migrator product.