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How to Treat a File Migration Like Moving to a New Home

Moving to a new file system is a lot like moving to a new home. Here's how to make that move go smoothly.

Dan Devoe

One of our team members at Image Relay recently went through a new home purchase, and with that, all of the work and stress of packing up his family’s stuff, organizing it, and moving it to a new home.

Many of us have made similar moves, and I think few of us would say “oh, that was really fun.” When looking back at cutting down on all the stuff you have and don’t need, however, many of us might think the process was worth it.

Although missing the tedium of wrapping fragile items or the pain of lifting heavy boxes, the same process of making a home move can apply to making a big file migration. Whether it’s from a makeshift system of hard drives, desktop folders, multiple cloud storage options, physical media, and even email attachments or from a dedicated digital asset management system (DAM) to another, the same steps apply.

With an ultimate goal of getting the things you want to keep to a new home, here’s how to make it happen.

1. Figure out what you have

The first step in a big move is going through your home and figuring out what you have. “I forgot we had that” and “I haven’t seen that in years” are common things heard during a big move. As one goes through every closet, every drawer, there’s often a mix of pleasant surprises and completely baffling discoveries. Maybe you don’t need to keep that old parking voucher that expired six years ago, but you also found that bracelet you thought you had lost.

With digital assets, the process is similar. A migration should begin with understanding what you have. You may be lucky to be using a dedicated digital asset management (DAM) system already, which makes for understanding your inventory easier. Many companies and organizations, however, start with a much more complicated mix of storage options. Different servers, cloud storage options, desktop folders, thumb drives, you name it, your assets can be almost anywhere. And the analogy to a move might even be more direct - you may have to look through actual closets and drawers to find old hard drives or other physical media, like DVDs and perhaps even tape drives. Getting all of those sources together is hard but absolutely critical to ensuring a productive migration.

Once you have control of the potential universe of your assets, you can move to the next step of deciding what to keep.

2. Decide what you need

Choosing what to keep is the most fraught part of the moving process. Maybe one person is more of a hoarder and another wants to throw out anything they haven’t used in over a month. I can’t tell you what is right or how to solve potential conflicts within your family (there are professionals for that!), but when the move involves only digital assets, these confrontations should be quite a bit easier to handle.

For large file migrations we recommend creating an information governance committee with members from relevant functional areas, like marketing, creative, IT, sales, and perhaps others depending on what type of migration you’re running. The members of the committee should all be leaders in controlling assets within their respective departments. This committee chooses what must be included in a migration, what doesn’t need to be included, and what things fall somewhere in the middle.

3. Have a “yard sale”

A yard sale is a great way to get rid of some of those possessions you don’t really want anymore. For asset migrations, this is a great opportunity to get your team together and “sell” your assets. All of those things that don’t fit into the categories of “definitely need” and “definitely don’t need,” put them up for sale among your teams.

After an information governance committee makes initial determinations of must haves and files to be discarded or archived, it’s a good idea to get buy-in from the respective functional teams. Are there assets people on your creative team would like to have? If so, make them raise their hands. This is your “yard sale.” Leaders from the relevant teams across your organization “buy” assets for their teams by pointing out the assets they want and explaining the value of those assets.

4. Reorganize what you’re keeping

Get out those labels! Making up those boxes for “bedroom” and “kitchen” makes knowing where everything should go much easier. For digital assets, this is the time to consider a reorganization of your files. Determine what “room” makes sense for these assets to live in and box them up appropriately. That may mean new folder structures or moving files to different folders that make the most sense. The information governance committee can also work to apply new metadata conventions so that each file has useful and important context and information applied to it.

5. Get help with the move

After a backbreaking move with heavy furniture going up multiple flights of stairs, “never again” is a common refrain. It’s no different for a big asset move. Bring in the professionals. They’ll ensure that all your possessions are handled properly and deliver them to exactly where they need to go.

You’ve put in the hard work of analyzing, cutting, and reorganizing files, now it’s time to let some professionals bring your assets to a final destination.

The technical migration of moving assets to a new system with the appropriate folder structure and reassociating the metadata to the appropriate files is a lot like moving a piano. Moving a small keyboard yourself is doable, but moving a grand piano to a third floor room requires a lot of special expertise. This is when your DAM vendor can step in and make sure your important assets stay safe and end up where you want them.

6. Unpack!

Everything has been moved and now it’s time to enjoy your new home. Unpacking should be easy, but for those who have moved, you know it can be hard. Assumptions about where things would fit or how they’d be used in the new home are often incorrect and it takes some time to reorganize and get things right.

With migrations to a new DAM system, these same type of problems come up. What was believed to be a perfectly set up architecture always runs into some hiccups when put into practice. You don’t set it and forget it. It’s a constantly evolving thing, just like a home, and you don’t see that until you’ve lived in it a bit. So, be prepared for some changes, and regular evolutions as your assets and teams evolve, and also look for a partner to be there with you to help you through those changes.

Whether you’re moving to a new home or moving your digital “home” to a new system, now is the time to start living and making connections. Integrating into your new neighborhood means making connections of all types. Connecting other tools (workflow tools, distribution tools, connections to other apps) and inviting new collaborators is how to make the most of your new home.