How not to migrate to a new system

What happens when your old system gets hacked just before your new system’s ready to go live? Well, in our client’s case, luckily not complete data loss, but still three days lost business, reputational damage and a wobbly few days of getting the new system live in a rush! If you suspect cyber security is a ruse to get you to spend more on IT services, here’s a bit of a cautionary tail.

This particular client was referred to us by our friends at OwenIT a couple of years ago. OwenIT had taken over their IT support and fixed a whole load of red flags on their network, but the one that remained outstanding was an old database system running on a 20 year old version of Windows Server. It had taken the client well over a year to finally commission us to build a replacement on top of our CRM product, and we were just doing final fixes and looking at the data on this old server that we needed to transfer over.

That’s when disaster struck. Essentially, hackers got in and infected this old machine with ransomware, which went and encrypted everything useful on it. This included the old database system. This then suddenly stopped working. They were pretty sure they’d lost 19 years worth of business data, including all of their current projects.

But, here’s what saved them. You know when you try to delete a file you’ve already got open, it won’t let you? Well basically, because the two big files that make up the database were open, it couldn’t touch them. So we were able to get a copy of the database up and running on our machines.

Now, data migration is never a totally simple exercise because different systems structure their data differently. Also, it really should be tested first and not run against a live system that people are trying to work on! We didn’t quite have that luxury though. We had to load the data in piecemeal, getting the high priority bits in first to enable our client to service their clients. Also, we were still in a test phase. We ironed out all of the inevitable glitches yet, so these have been done in a hurry over the last week as well!

The final outcome is that the client has migrated successfully over to the new system we built for them. It just happened in a rather more stressful and rushed way than anyone would have liked. And the moral of the story? If your IT company tells you that your business critical database is seriously out of date and unsupported, listen to them. And then come talk to us about replacing it!