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Overcoming the Challenges of Legacy Data Migration

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June 29, 2018

What is Data Migration?

Data migration is the process of transferring data from a legacy system to a LIMS. A Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) is a tool that helps laboratories manage their data seamlessly and automate laboratory workflows. By adopting a LIMS, you can automate data transfer by integrating with instruments, follow regulatory compliance such as 21 CFR Part 11, audit trail, and intertwine disparate, disconnected data silos by bringing entire laboratory data under a central data repository. The sole purpose of a LIMS is to enhance laboratory efficiency, reduce turnaround times, avoid inaccuracies and typological errors by reducing manual intervention, maintain data integrity, and enrich clients’ experience by offering better and faster services. An outdated paper or spreadsheet based data management system is a significant barrier to laboratory efficiency and in turn, innovation. Hence, it is important to adopt a new LIMS to cater to evolving laboratory data management needs.

Need of Data Migration

Data is an invaluable asset to any laboratory. Modern laboratories generate massive amount of data on a day-to-day basis. The laboratory data can be static or dynamic and refers to any data related to samples, sample sources, tests and test results, studies being performed, inventory such as reagents, kits, test tubes, client information, etc. It is imperative to migrate legacy data quickly to a LIMS without loss of any critical data so that the laboratory operations are not disrupted.

Many a time, regulatory agencies ask for dated records, for example, test results generated years ago. Hence, legacy data must be properly migrated from the source LIMS to the target LIMS so that the data can be quickly searched and reproduced whenever required.

Data Migration Challenges and Measures to Overcome Them

One of the main challenges of transitioning to a LIMS is legacy data migration. Data migration involves numerous challenges that are proportional to the size and complexity of the legacy data. Some of the challenges are dealing with the existing configurations and customization, besides resource allocation for validation and testing. Validation is required to ensure that the data is migrated to the correct location or modules, the correct number of records are migrated, and the test results and reports are same. Migrating legacy data manually to a new LIMS is error-prone, time-consuming, and resource intensive. Some of the data migration risks are:

1) Risk of Data Loss: If any legacy data is not available in the target LIMS after completion of migration, it is termed as data loss. The target LIMS often has a new database structure or even a different database technology compared to the source LIMS. Hence, there are considerable chances of data loss.

2) Compromise of Data Integrity: During data migration, there are chances that data integrity might be jeopardized due to manual errors, redundant or duplicate data, and other anomalies.

3) Semantics Risk: An attribute in the legacy LIMS (for example, sample amount) may have the same meaning as another attribute in the new LIMS (for example sample quantity); however, the units of measurement may be different. Due to this, the data may be incorrect, despite successful data migration.

The challenges of data migration can be overcome through proper upfront planning and configuration of the LIMS to accommodate existing laboratory workflows. Besides, the LIMS must-have features to directly import legacy data by automatic mapping of legacy attributes with the attributes in the LIMS, saving time and resources. The LIMS should also be capable of identifying duplicate data and prevent its importing to avoid redundancy, maintaining data integrity. The LIMS vendor must either have their own data migration tools or have mechanisms to facilitate importing of legacy data seamlessly.

Conclusion

Migration of data from a legacy LIMS to a new LIMS is a tedious, time-consuming, and resource-intensive task. There are several risks and challenges associated with data migration such as data loss, compromise of data integrity, manual errors, etc. The risks and challenges associated with data migration can be overcome through proper planning and assistance of the LIMS provider. The new LIMS should be easily configurable so that the existing configuration or laboratory workflows can be easily accommodated in the new LIMS. Some LIMS providers offer data migration as a complimentary service. Their team of experts can configure the LIMS to match the existing workflows and can migrate legacy data using their tool or in-built data import features in the LIMS, helping save time, resources and achieve operational efficiency.

Also, read the blog: Important Factors in LIMS Selection