Content services are a major focus for new enterprise content management efforts. When used properly, these services help streamline the creation and deployment of content-centric technologies. Cloud-based providers are at the center of this approach since they are designed, at their core, to operate through the use of services.
However, migrating large volumes of content to the cloud is time-consuming, because bandwidth between a data center and the cloud is much smaller than that between server racks. But when properly planned and implemented, a content services platform (CSP) can help speed up and simplify content migration.
A CSP provides a set of services, implemented as a collection of APIs that store content and the related metadata. Content services hide the CSP implementation details and instead provide users with direct access to logical business entities and documents. Users can organize, store and retrieve content by client or project, rather than a folder structure that only makes sense to the CSP implementer.
This difference is the key to performing a continuous, or hot, migration, where a CSP pulls content from the legacy repository as needed, presents it to the user and places it into the new repository -- with the content migration heavy lifting happening behind the scenes.
By referencing the logical abstract presented by content services, applications -- and the people using them -- don't need to know exactly where content is coming from. The content services can determine if the record is in the old or new system and return the information to the original business application, regardless of where the information resides.
Meanwhile, if the requested content is not in the new system, the CSP can initiate a process to migrate it and its parent business entity. By the time the person who requested the information is ready to save any changes, the original content will be in the new system, ready to receive the updates.
This hot content migration process can take place as part of a full or partial migration. In a full migration, everything is migrated in bulk, and individual items are moved as part of a hot migration in parallel. The bulk upload will identify content that has been hot migrated and skip over it. In a partial migration, only those items that are used are migrated. This slowly turns the old system into an archive that can be decommissioned as the retention requirements for the system expire.
Build or buy?
When migrating content to the cloud, the inevitable question is whether to build or buy this migration intelligence. Here are some guidelines:
- If the legacy system is old, writing the connection between the new content services and the legacy APIs may be difficult. Using an outside vendor reduces risk and shortens the implementation timeline.
- If there are multiple legacy systems and continuous decommissioning, a vendor can help connect all the different systems.
- If there is a complex information architecture, building is often better. Getting the proper information transformations may take too much custom work with a vendor.
- Are there in-house developers to help solve the migration challenges and support the new system? If not, it may make more sense to work with a vendor.
- If the organization has a transformation engine that translates the business terminology into the CSP implementation specifics, then you can plug in the hot migration logic. Some CSPs can perform this functionality natively.
Ready for the future
The most important thing to consider is that an organization's future is not static. Ideally, an organization could deploy one CSP to work until the end of time, but history says this is unlikely. There are many good content services that are ignored just because they don't work with a chosen CSP.
In the future, it is likely that you will need to change your CSP provider. If you build the business abstraction into your content services, then the systems won't need to change. Instead, the hot content migration process will just start over again, slowly moving content to the new platform.