infoTECH Feature

January 30, 2019

How to Effectively and Securely Migrate Data in Preparation of a No-Deal Brexit

By Special Guest
James Clifford, BitTitan EMEA sales director

As the Brexit deadline nears, the only thing that has remained certain throughout the withdrawal process is the uncertainty of Brexit’s impact.

“There is some inconsistency in the data that has been exchanged,” said Lilia Stoyanov, CEO of Transformify, an HR software and freelance platform. “As a U.K.-based company that operates globally and has many clients in the EU, we would expect more clarity.”

A no-deal Brexit could have significant repercussions on businesses in the United Kingdom (U.K.) regarding data flow and protection. Trade and

service industries between the U.K. and European Union (EU) largely depend on the free and unencumbered exchange of data. In fact, between 2005 and 2015, the volume of data entering and leaving the U.K. increased 28 times, and three-quarters of this data was exchanged with EU countries. However, in the aftermath of a no-deal Brexit, this sort of open environment for data exchange will likely no longer be possible. In the result of a no-deal, the U.K. will officially be considered a “third country” to the EU, and thus no longer part of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Consequently, this will result in data from EU countries no longer being able to flow freely into the U.K. and to U.K. businesses without a contract in place between them that meets EU-approved terms. This can be especially detrimental to a U.K. company that has a data centre located in the EU.

“A no-deal Brexit is not on the cards at the moment because the U.K. has again extended the leaving day until Jan. 31, 2020, in order to come to a deal that would include adequacy in its pages,” said Ray Walsh, digital privacy expert at “However, if a no-deal Brexit eventually occurs at that point [when] there would be no deal in place, U.K. firms would be in limbo.”

Many companies are either unaware or unprepared if a no-deal Brexit were to occur, especially small and medium-sized businesses. In such a climate, U.K. businesses that manage or store large volumes of data in the EU, such as those in the financial or tech industries, may look to neighboring countries like Ireland as a new base for their EU operations or they may look to U.K.-based cloud data centres. In moving their operations, businesses will need to securely transfer large volumes of data.

To successfully and smoothly move operations and migrate data easily and securely, a business should follow a process. When changing data centres and migrating large amounts of internal data, it is essential for a company to have good planning and preparation beforehand, ensure it is transparent with key internal stakeholders throughout the process and get help from third-party migration tools. Outlined below are best practices for organisations looking to move data centres from one country to another and needing to securely migrate their data in the process.

  • First, build consensus for the move and decide what to move. Getting internal buy-in and support from both the executive management and the IT department is the first critical step in the process of a business deciding to move its data in preparation of a no-deal Brexit. The IT department will likely have input and advice on this process, so it is important to involve them early. As with any large internal company transition, there will likely be political hurdles and resistance of change from some groups, so it is important to involve key stakeholders at the beginning and garner their input and support.

Another important early step in deciding whether to move one’s data is understanding and determining how much data a company must manage for the move. Large amounts of data can take a long time to migrate. Identify what programs and data are imperative to migrate and which programs may be phased out in the migration process. Email, public folders, archives, calendars and other workloads are some programs that are commonly transferred over.

  • Review the environment and determine requirements. The next step is for a business to find the optimal migration toolset to transfer its data from one location to another. During the migration process, it is important for a business to know specifically what features and functionalities of a migration tool are important to them, as various migration tools have their strong suits and weaknesses. For example, some questions to ask when selecting the right migration tool could be:
  • What is the desired timeframe of the migration and can the tool help meet this goal?
  • What is the budget for the migration project?
  • What is the usability of the tool – is it proven with independent third party reviews such as Gartner Cloud Migration Reviews?
  • Is the tool cloud-based?
  • What type of support and customer service does the vendor of the migration tool provide throughout the migration process?
  • Prepare for the move (ready, set, go). It is not surprising that there’s a strong link between successful migrations and effectively planning ahead. As a business goes through the planning process, it is important to define what data and programs will need to be moved, create a timeline of when it will be moved and notify the proper people who will be impacted by the migration. Throughout this process, transparency and frequent communication to those impacted by the migration are essential.
  • Troubleshoot and test. Before the actual migration process starts, it can be helpful to test a single instance of the migration to identify any errors early in the process. If errors are found, a business can then easily adjust and pivot before the actual migration project begins instead of having any sort of disruption in the middle of the migration.

During the actual migration process, a business should anticipate some sort of downtime and relay this to employees. However, internal delay and disruption can be minimized with preparation and efficient cutover delivery. The length of a downtime experienced during a data migration project is often related to the size of the business, the number of workloads needing to be moved and the type of migration.

  • Support and create documentation. During the migration process, it is important to ensure that Helpdesk and IT support are both accessible and engaged throughout the project. The right migration toolset will often provide migration experts from the support team to help solve project roadblocks. Certain migration tools also provide step-by-step migration guides and relevant industry articles for helpful documentation.

While navigating the uncertainty of Brexit is difficult, it is imperative for U.K. companies that house data within the EU to determine whether transferring their data to a U.K.-based cloud provider or a data centre outside the EU is the best option. Much is still being figured out as this situation develops. Taking a proactive approach will help ensure your business remains on stable ground.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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