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HomeBlogMarketing AnalyticsData Conversion vs. Data Migration: What’s The Difference?

Data Conversion vs. Data Migration: What’s The Difference?

For many small businesses and nonprofits, the mere thought of a large-scale data project is enough to make you break out in a cold sweat.

Where do you start?

What if your data is disorganized? And do you need to convert data, migrate data, or – gulp – both?

It may be tempting to just click the export button and hope for the best. But if you dive in without a strategy in place, you run the risk of turning pristine data-dreams into flat-out nightmares! These kinds of missteps can be expensive to resolve, so it’s best to get a basic understanding of how to work with data (and what you can accomplish by doing so).

Let’s begin by defining the differences between two popular ways to work with data: conversion and migration.

Data Conversion Defined

No matter where it lives, all of your data is organized into different data fields. A piece of data could hang out in an Excel document as a text field, for example, or in a CRM program as a JPG image file. Wherever it is, each data field has a specific format that can be converted into different forms if necessary.

Often you’ll need to convert data before it can be migrated to a new location. Conversion can be complex because you need to have a complete understanding of the form you’re converting from, and the form you’re converting to. If you don’t, you run the risk of compromising your data and ruining its integrity during the conversion process.

Converting numerical fields, such as customer numbers and zip codes, can be especially tricky. Some programs treat numerical fields differently than other forms of data, and may automatically drop or change numbers that start with a zero. If you don’t know this and go to convert a bunch of numerical data, you could end up with a very big mess!

In addition to insider details like these, you may need special tools to help with data conversion. While most CRM programs have some sort of conversion tool – such as the ability to save customer records as an Excel or CSV file – more sophisticated tools are often needed for large-scale data conversion projects.

Mastering Data Migration

Where data conversion deals with individual data fields, data migration is the process of moving and merging entire databases or programs. At Massa & Company, we often help clients migrate data from multiple databases into a single database, or migrate data from one CRM system to another.

Data migration may appear simple at first glance, but just like data conversion, it’s actually pretty complex! It usually involves what’s called data mapping, a strategic process that maps data from one database to another by looking at where the data lives currently, and where it will live once it’s moved.

Before migrating data, you need to be sure that the data fields in your old database exist in the new database. You also have to understand how both programs handle different types of file formats, and whether or not any data fields will be merged during the process.

As you can see, both data conversion and data migration involve a bit more than simply clicking the export button! Luckily, you don’t need a PhD in data to reap the benefits of conversion and migration – that’s what we’re here for!

If you’re interested in:

  • Organizing all your customer records into a single database
  • Changing CRM programs
  • Converting data to share it with a third party

Food for Thought: Ina’s Roasted Shrimp and Orzo

This is one of my favorite go-to dishes in the summer especially if we are headed to a picnic in the park! No mayo to worry about being kept cold. Years ago I learned from watching Ina Garten on Food Network not to boil shrimp but to roast it! It has much more flavor!

This dish is easy to put together and I try to keep the ingredients on hand in the summer. It is a favorite among my friends and family. It will make your brains fall out!

Do you need to learn more about data conversion and migration before starting your project? Let Massa & Company do the heavy lifting for you! To find out how we can help you to determine the best way to convert or migrate your data, call (312) 463-1050 or contact us now.

Bonnie Massa is Founder and President of Chicago-based Massa & Company, Inc. She works with companies and nonprofits to make the best use of their information about customers, partners, donors and sponsors. With more than 40 years of experience in marketing and predictive analytics, Bonnie is passionate about helping clients make informed, data-driven decisions to increase the value of their customer base. She strongly believes that making pasta and ice cream from scratch are worth the effort, and she spends much of her free time testing and re-testing that theory.


Since 1985, Massa & Company has helped businesses reduce their marketing costs and increase sales by turning data into actionable insights.


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