How Content Services Can Accelerate Cloud Content Migration

Many new enterprise content management efforts are focusing on content services. When used correctly, these services help streamline the creation and deployment of content-centric technologies. Cloud-based providers are central to this approach, as providers design cloud services, at their core, to work through those services.

However, migrating large volumes of content to the cloud takes time because the bandwidth between a data center and cloud environments is much less than between server racks. But when properly planned and implemented, a Content Services Platform (CSP) can help speed up and simplify content migration.

What is a CSP?

CSPs are cloud-based and provide a set of services, implemented as a set of APIs that store content and associated metadata. Content services hide the details of the CSP implementation and instead provide users with direct access to logical business entities and documents. Users can organize, store, and retrieve content by client or by project rather than through a folder structure that only makes sense to the CSP implementer.

How CSPs store content is key to continuous or hot migrations, where a CSP pulls content from the legacy repository as needed, presents it to the user, and places it in the new repository – while the bulk of the Content migration work takes place behind the scenes.

With the logical business entities that content services present, applications – and the people who use them – don’t need to know exactly where content is coming from. Instead, content services can determine whether the old or new system stores the record and returns the information to the original business application, regardless of the location of the data.

Meanwhile, if the new system does not store the requested content, the CSP can initiate a process to migrate it and its parent business entity. Then, when the person who requested the information is ready to save the changes, the new system has the original content, ready to receive updates.

This live content migration process can take place in a full or partial migration. In a full migration, everything migrates in bulk and the individual items move in parallel as part of a live migration. Bulk upload identifies content that was hot migrated and ignores it. In a partial migration, only the used items migrate. This slowly turns the old system into an archive that organizations can decommission when system retention requirements expire.

Use these steps to determine if your organization is ready to migrate to the cloud.

Should organizations create or buy a CSP?

When migrating content to cloud environments, the inevitable question is whether to build or buy a CSP. Some considerations include the following:

  • If the legacy system is old, an external vendor can reduce the risk during the migration and shorten the timeframe for implementing this process.
  • If the organization has multiple legacy systems with continuous decommissioning, a vendor can help connect the different systems.
  • If the organization has a complex information architecture, it can benefit from building the CSP. Appropriate information transformations may require too much custom work with a vendor.
  • If the organization has internal developers to help troubleshoot migration issues and support the new system, it may choose to build. Otherwise, he may decide to work with a supplier.
  • If the organization has a transformation engine that translates business terminology into the specifics of the CSP implementation, it can plug into the live migration logic. Some CSPs can perform this functionality natively.

When should a business use a CSP?

Before an organization moves to a CSP, it must confirm that a CSP is the right choice. As defined above, the primary use case of a CSP is to deliver content with a clear and logical business context to support business processes. CSPs are essential for digital transformation because the content must reside where the organization can manage it.

However, a CSP is not ideal for collaborative content. Organizations should adopt a collaborative platform rather than using a CSP for this purpose. Organizations still need to manage collaborative content, but the platform on which people create content is the primary source of business value. Organizations cannot use a CSP to manage collaborative content because it can impose too much structure and control on the platform and remove all the aspects that make it useful.

Once an organization creates collaborative content, that content becomes part of a business entity. When companies add collaborative documents or entities to transactional content that directly serves a business process, it becomes part of the organization’s managed content repository. The repository captures the business context of the content and creates long-term business value beyond this initial collaborative process.

Determine what content to move

If an organization only moves active content to a CSP, it can reduce costs and speed up the migration schedule. This shift benefits both the business consuming the content and the efforts of the IT team to effectively manage the migration. However, this decision also leaves information governance experts in the dark, which can create problems.

CSPs are critical to digital transformation because content needs to reside where the organization can manage it.

Information governance allows organizations to know what content they own and where they store the content. Iterative and hot migration makes this a challenge. To locate content, record managers must query the content service. Their specially designed case management the interface may not know the location of the content, making compliance difficult.

To address this issue, instead of live migration for all active content, the organization can decide not to migrate content older than a specified date. This decision clarifies the location of the content. The organization can then move the older content to a system archive.

How to migrate to a CSP

Once an organization decides to move to a CSP and selects content to migrate, the steps are clear, although they require careful consideration. A full mass migration is a more traditional approach, although live migration can work well, especially moving from one cloud service to another. Follow these four steps for a successful CSP migration.

1. Create the business objects

Migrating business objects can be as simple as a script that reads from a comma separated values ​​(CSV) file and creates the objects. Organizations can also create a utility that uses the CSP API to create the objects. The latter approach can continually grab new objects and replicate them to the new CSP as the business creates them.

2. Migrate content in bulk

In order for an organization to efficiently move content from a data center to a cloud service, it needs a physical storage device. For example, AWS offers an edge computing, data migration, and edge storage device called AWS Snowball to move content around its environment. Likewise, Box provides the Box Shuttle service to move content in bulk to its system. Both devices can quickly move terabytes of content without overwhelming the network.

3. Perform a post-migration synchronization

Organizations can perform post-migration synchronization with a live migration approach or use API calls to actively push new objects and content into the CSP. The post-migration synchronization process can start as soon as the migration team sends the physical device to the CSP.

4. Switch the content to the new system

A failover can occur after the IT team completes the post-migration synchronization process. Alternatively, content services can know what content the business has migrated, and then extract the content from the appropriate environment, allowing for a more immediate transition.

As with any migration, a CSP migration strategy has several moving parts. An organization should sit down with all parties to assess how it uses content and when its content becomes inactive, and determine what options the IT team and CSP can support.

To look forward

An organization must consider that its future is not static. Ideally, he would deploy a CSP to run until the end of time, but history says this is unlikely. Additionally, an organization should not avoid another business service because it does not work with its current CSP.

In the future, companies will likely have to change their CSP provider. However, if an organization integrates business abstraction into its content services, systems won’t need to change. Instead, the hot content migration process will start over and slowly move content to the new platform.


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Jenny T. Curlee