There's no denying that the world is driven by data. And that data usually lives in a database. As enterprises like yours increasingly look to extract maximum value and insights from data through big data analytics, they're finding that sometimes it's necessary to move their data from one database to another. This process is called, appropriately, database migration.

Database migration tools allow you to literally move data from one type of database to another or to another destination like a data warehouse or data lake. Migrating databases - say, from on-premise to the cloud - can help reduce costs, improve business agility with more flexible systems, and centralize enterprise data to create a single source of truth.

But migrating databases requires careful planning to ensure that all your data is properly accounted for, transported, and protected. And those plans can only be properly executed with the right database migration tools.

Available Database Migration Tools

Database migration tools are typically categorized as on-premise, open source, or cloud-based. Which type of tool you'll need depends heavily on the size of the database, how many schemas and tables you are going to migrate, and whether or not there are large objects (LOBs) that need migrating as well. Here's what that means for you:

On-Premise Database Migration Tools

As a general rule, on-premise solutions are designed to migrate databases within a large or medium enterprise without moving data to the cloud, which is why some companies with specific security restrictions prefer them. These tools are ideal for changing data warehouses or moving the location of your primary data store, or if you are simply bringing together data from disparate sources on-premise because they're capable of managing the broadest range of data integration initiatives as a single platform.

Open Source Database Migration Tools

Likewise, open source tools are developed by communities of database pros and are made available for free or at a very low cost. These tools are designed to be universal across databases, allowing you to migrate data from and to any database using standard filters and can run in real-time or in batches.

However, because they're universal, they aren't at all specific. So, it may require some custom development of plugins or other features to align with your company's specific needs which means spending on skilled staff or bringing on consulting developers to fill those needs.

Cloud-Based Database Migration Tools

Moving big, critical data sets - entire databases - requires the latest-generation cloud-based migration tools. Known for their power and flexibility, cloud-based migration tools can handle large amounts and various types of data and applications with ease, offering enhanced security capabilities and greater agility than other types of tools.

Cloud-based database migration tools can integrate well with both the source and the target systems, enabling you to migrate databases using various database engines with minimal effort or overhead. The best tools make it easy to set up and migrate data by eliminating time wasted restructuring database design and re-coding.

How to Select the Right Database Migration Tool

Database migration comes with significant challenges around locating previously siloed data, protecting against data corruption, and securing data during transit. Each should play a pivotal role in selecting a database migration tool. Here are some other considerations to keep in mind:

  • Type. Determine if you'll need a framework/language-dependent tool or an independent tool. Framework and language-dependent tools are common if you use a popular language or framework such as Ruby, PHP, Python, or Django. If you don't want to be locked into a particular language or framework, look for an independent tool that acts as a source control for your database.
  • Cost. If long-view cost management is a chief concern, cloud-based tools are your best bet since they will save you money in the long run on both physical infrastructure and human resources. On the other hand, you can get the most bang for little to no money from open source tools, allowing you to focus unused resources elsewhere. But remember that you'll need the right expertise in-house to set up and configure them.
  • Security. If the databases you're migrating are mission-critical or otherwise highly sensitive (perhaps due to compliance requirements), cloud-based tools come out on top as they rank high for security and are usually compliance-certified. On-premise tools can also be very secure, but only to the extent that your on-premise infrastructure is secure.
  • Data model. The schema is a blueprint of how the database is structured, and it varies based on the rules of a given database. When you move data from one system to another, look for a tool that aligns with the new database.
  • Data transformation. One of the most critical elements of database migration is transforming the data. Look for a solution that can normalize your data, remove duplicate information, and detect errors while moving your data to the target database.