Last updated:

What is migration?

Migration is a process by which information is moved from one system to another. This should be done in a manner that ensures records maintain their authenticity, integrity, reliability and useability.

Migration commonly occurs when:

  • Media, application, drives or systems are decommissioned
  • Functions are transferred between agencies


What records should be migrated to the new system?

Appraisal should be conducted on the records prior to migration. This enables migration to focus on those records that continue to be needed or are required to be maintained. For example, records identified as being permanent or requiring long term retention (i.e. retention beyond the life of the system) can be managed appropriately so they remain accessible, useable and retain their integrity.

Decisions regarding which records should be migrated across to a new system and which will continue to be managed in the current systems should be based on:

  • The value of the records currently held
  • The retention periods of the records currently held
  • The ability for the current system to export full and accurate records (including associated metadata)
  • The ability for the new system to import full and accurate records (including associated metadata)
  • Whether there are any formats that cannot be migrated and whether they need to be converted to a different format prior to migration or managed in the existing format in some way

Migration tools can be used in some instances to assist with the migration process. For example, obtaining a comparison report of what was migrated when compared with what was in the prior system can help identify any missing content.

Where the previous system is being retained as a storage database or legacy system, the capability to migrate the records and associated data into a new system must also be maintained.

PROV recommend using actively managed media when storing non-migrated digital records to ensure that records continue to be searchable, retrievable and accessible for the duration of their retention periods. Using non-searchable or unmanaged media, such as back-up tapes for the storage and recovery of non-migrated records can be expensive and take a long time to locate and retrieve records.


Migrating functions from one system to another

When functions (and their associated records) are being moved from one system to another then it is likely that the structures used for the two systems will be different. To minimise risk to the records, gain an understanding of the following:

  • The export and import functionality of both systems
  • The ways that metadata is captured and managed in both systems
  • File and object capture and management across both systems
  • Relationship management between objects, files, metadata and other record-related relationship management across both systems
  • Any information types or formats that the decommissioning system has which cannot be captured or managed by the other system


Common risks when migrating records

Information can be lost as a result of one of the systems not having the ability to import or to export the records. The information loss may be linked to specific metadata or links that provide the records with the context they need to be meaningful, or sisues with the quality of the data itself.

The integrity of data can be compromised which may make the records difficult to locate, use, or it may impact on their trustworthiness. This could be due to changes in the metadata associated with a file or object being changed as a result of the migration in a way that changes its context. For example, a common occurrence when migrating records is the creation date of the records or files being replaced with the migration date.

The information may not display properly or the system may not be able to process the information correctly due to differences in the way the systems handle data. Tolerance differences for the structure or quality of the data may result in the records being displayed or processed differently in the importing system. Dates can be a common area where such issues occur as there are different ways that dates can be structured (just year, month and year, day month and year, and so on). These differences may cause the importing system to default to an inaccurate date if the information is incomplete. For best results, conduct data quality improvements and amendments prior to migration.

Locating accurate information may be difficult due to business processes and procedures not being updated to reflect the new system. This can lead to broken links in documentation and confusion regarding who is responsible for maintaining what information.

Migrating email

When changing email platforms there are a number of things to consider that effect migration:

  • Store high value, high risk email records, such as those containing personal and private or business in confidence information, in another line-of-business system so they are managed offline
  • Appraise and sentence email records in line with the function and activity the email is associated with so they can be managed in a readable, accessible format for the duration of their retention periods (which may be 50 years or more)
  • Do not rely on back-up tapes for the recovery of non-migrated emails as locating and retrieving email from back-up tapes can be expensive and take a long time unless the tape is searchable. Back-up tapes are often not kept beyond seven years and the email they contain may need to be retained for much longer
  • Be careful when using proprietary formats for email platforms as they often do not match those required for the new email platform, which can make migration difficult or not possible
  • Be aware that it is not always possible to differentiate between important business email and ephemeral email without user intervention. Confirming that email chains are unaffected is also problematic as it usually follows a method that requires users to manually check and confirm that the emails have been unaffected and remain intact. Users may not have sufficient knowledge or skills to appropriately classify which emails are important business emails that need to be retained
  • If email has been encrypted, determine the most effective mechanism for decrypting it prior to migration
  • Be aware that links in email to EDRMS or ECMS will likely be broken as a result of the migration and require manual intervention to fix
  • Automated appraisal classification is complicated and currently only partially successful.

Material in the Public Record Office Victoria archival collection contains words and descriptions that reflect attitudes and government policies at different times which may be insensitive and upsetting

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples should be aware the collection and website may contain images, voices and names of deceased persons.

PROV provides advice to researchers wishing to access, publish or re-use records about Aboriginal Peoples