Data migration is the process of moving data stored in older programs to newer formats. For example, you may have failed to upgrade your genealogy software and are still using an older version of some program. The data created by that older program is at risk because the newer versions may not always be able to read the old files. Suppose your old computer finally dies and you have to buy a new computer. You have been diligent in backing up all your files and think you have nothing to worry about. Except for one thing, the old version of your genealogy program no longer runs on the new operating system of the new computer. So, you buy a copy of the latest version of your genealogy program and find out that the new version does not read your old files.
This scenario seems to happen more frequently with people who only use their computer occasionally for genealogy. Those of us who are immersed in the online computer world have hopefully learned to keep up with the updates. In fact, as I write this post, my laptop is downloading yet another Microsoft update.
There is a cycle to the updates to the various programs. Genealogy programs are no exception. The computer chip manufacturers are constantly developing newer, faster and smaller chips to run the computers. New chips generally require new operating systems. New operating systems further require the various developers to upgrade their programs. These upgrades are different from the ones the companies do to correct bugs in the programs and add new features. But regardless of the reason, there is a constant pressure to upgrade programs. When you buy a computer and start using it, you, in essence, buy into this stream of upgrades.
Many people resent the fact that they have to upgrade their programs constantly. They view computers as a one-time static investment. In fact, computers are more like paying rent. There are constant costs associated with ownership and use of a computer. These charges have increased with the advent of the Internet and subscription software services. With many programs, you have to pay a periodic fee (subscription price) to use the program. In this case, the company usually supplies the upgrades as part of the subscription price. For example, this is how I currently use all of my Adobe.com products such as Photoshop. I pay a monthly fee for access to all the programs and the upgrades come automatically with no added cost. This is essentially the same as using an online genealogy database such as Ancestry.com or MyHeritage.com. The benefit is I get to use the programs without worrying about paying for upgrades because I am already paying.
If you have stored away copies of your old files on floppy disks or CDs or some other media, you may find that the hardware has changed and the old media is no longer recognizable. This turns out to be one of the more common problems. I finally threw away all my old boxes of floppy disks. There is a slight chance that I lost some data in the process, but because I was constantly moving my files to new devices and computers, I am pretty confident that everything is still on my computer and hard drives today.
Data migration is not just a personal issue. It is the subject of major concern to libraries, archives and anyone stores data from computer programs.