Choose Your Data Migration Tool Wisely

By Patricia Fusco | Posted January 23, 2004

So you finally bought that shiny new notebook — aren't you proactive and portable? Now if you could only find a way to get all your old, familiar files, folders, bookmarks and network settings to magically appear on that new notebook, you might actually be productive again, too.

It's not easy to put a familiar face on a new computer. You've spent years getting everything just so — you found the perfect wallpaper, organized your bookmarks, prioritized your files, and maintained filters for your e-mail. Do you really want to start with a blank slate on a new PC?

There are software programs available — relatively inexpensive programs — that can help you migrate pertinent details from your old PC to your new notebook.

Important details like application settings for Microsoft Office, Outlook and Internet Explorer, desktop settings for shortcuts, taskbars, printer and dialup connections, and data files and folders can be easily transferred from one PC to another — if you have to have the right tool for the job.

Miramar's Desktop DNA
Based in Santa Barbara, Calif., Miramar has been making PC migration tools for enterprises since 1998. In order to transform its award-winning program, Desktop DNA, into a product that smaller businesses could use, the company took a couple of years to determine what information smaller businesses needed — and didn't need — in order to build a Professional Edition of Desktop DNA.

"We've been very successful in the enterprise market," said Mike Walker, marketing director for Miramar. "We took that three or four years of PC migration experience and applied it to small businesses, providing the same level of powerful programming available to larger enterprises. We smoothed out the user interface to allow small businesses with little or no IT staff to put Desktop DNA to work for them."

In a real-world case study with Intel, Desktop DNA ending up saving the chip-making giant $75 million on a massive PC migration project. Intel saved $750 per machine while moving 100,000 PCs from Windows 98 to Windows 2000. Additionally, employee downtime was reduced from 4 or 5 hours to 40 minutes per machine.

Now your small business might not rival Intel anytime soon, but you probably can afford to invest in a new operating system (O/S) or buy a couple of new notebooks. You can't afford to have your employees standing around waiting to get back to work for a couple of days while their computers are being replaced.

"In a small business with just 10 employees, it might take one person to reset the wallpaper or printer settings while the other person waits for access to their PC," Walker said. "If this small business eliminates the day-to-day productivity for even one employee during a PC migration, that's 10 percent of the workforce not working. That can cripple a small business for days."

Calling in an expert to take care of a data migration project might save you some time, but it won't save you some money. According to Miramar, the minimum manual migration costs about $226 per PC — and it will take about several hours to complete.

"Without proper planning, a small business that tries to do a PC migration without a program like Desktop DNA usually ends up calling an IT consultant or value-added reseller to fix the computing crisis," Walker said. "That just adds to the expense of the PC migration. Some small businesses hang on to their old PCs, fearful about having left pertinent data behind. If the small business is leasing the equipment, that's another cost — now they're paying double for the computer."

Effectively planning and executing a PC migration is not that difficult — if you have the right tools around the shop. But it can be a rude awakening because there are a lot of things that go into maintaining and moving data from one PC to another. This is where Desktop DNA comes into the picture — it's got an entire migration plan built into it.

"Nearly anyone who can read has the ability to work their way through Desktop DNA's user-friendly interface," Walker said. "Simply load it, read it, and click a mouse, then let the programs default settings do the rest."

Miramar offers three different versions of its Desktop DNA Professional software. A single $39 license can be used to migrate data between two desktop computers, and it can also be used as a backup and recovery system, too.

Most small businesses go for the $49 edition of Desktop DNA Professional that comes with a crossover cable that links up the computers. By the end of this month, a $59 version will be available that comes with a universal serial bus (USB) 2.0 cable. This type of cable comes in handy when transferring data from an older computer system to a networked environment.

It doesn't matter if you're replacing one defunct computer or 50 PCs in a major hardware refresh, Miramar's Desktop DNA can increase employee productivity, reduce associated programming costs, and help you leverage your existing computer assets.

IBM's System Migration Assistant
If you happen to be replacing old PCs with new IBM ThinkPad notebooks or ThinkCentre desktops, IBM's System Migration Assistant (SMA) version 4.1 is a highly efficient migration tool that can also save IT resources, time and money.

IBM SMA version 4.1 makes light work of migrating the old computer's data and settings to a new computer or operating system. By duplicating the source system on a single file, the tool enables users to easily transfer specific data and settings for applications, printers, network connections and personal preferences.

SMA is part of IBM's Think Vantage Technology (TVT) program — an umbrella that also covers IBM's Rapid Restore data backup service and Secure Data disposal program, among others. Andrew Culver, IBM TVT marketing manager, said IBM's Think Vantage program encapsulates the entire lifecycle of a PC.

"We start with the hardware first — ThinkPad notebooks and ThinkCentre desktops. But you have to remember that 80 percent of the total cost of ownership is wrapped around management of that hardware" Culver said. "Our TVT programs cover the lifecycle of a PC and include a full spectrum of tools that help small businesses take control of their hardware management costs."

IBM SMA version 4.1 is a peer-to-peer (P2P) transfer tool that works with a crossover cable for individual PC migrations using an external USB hard drive. There are two different SMA modules — a batch mode and a customized mode. For a batch migration, an IT consultant creates a template of all the details that will be passed from one PC to another. The customized mode allows users to sift through their applications and settings for a more flexible data transfer.

IBM's customers are already seeing the benefit. "Migrating data from old PCs to new ones is an everyday task that can create delays and deplete resources. A tool like IBM System Migration Assistant helps our team to focus on creative IT solutions, rather than everyday chores that just occupy our time," said Cynthia Perry, Associate Chief Information Officer, University of Virginia Health System.

SMA version 4.1 is available as a download for free with the purchase of an IBM ThinkPad notebook, ThinkCentre desktop, xSeries server or IntelliStation workstation from IBM's business partners. SMA is also available for a fee for non-IBM client systems. The media plus single client license costs $39; additional licenses are available for $10 each.

Eisenworld's AlohaBob PC Relocator
Eisenworld's AlohaBob PC Relocator offers yet another way to make PC migrations a little easier.

AlohaBob PC Relocator consists of a package of software and cables. Two versions of the program are available — a $30 version that automatically moves most programs, personal settings and data files from one PC to another over a parallel cable connection, and the $70 PC Relocator Ultra Control edition that allows users to select and move specific programs, data and settings.

AlohaBob PC Relocator transfers almost everything, including most common applications along with the associated registry entries. It's sort of a smash and grab series of data rules that selects the latest versions of applications to be retained on a new PC.

AlohaBob PC Relocator Ultra Control is a self-service product specifically designed to preserve computer personalities — including applications and games — when upgrading to a new computer. The user selects how data is migrated and highlights specific items for transfer.

In Dec. 2003, Eisenworld released a 2004 version of AlohaBob PC Relocator Ultra Control. The program is said to feature a new user interface and faster data transfer technology. Upon releasing the product, Zee Aganovic, Eisenworld president and chief executive officer, said the program removes the stress involved with data transfers.

"With the Ultra Control 2004 Edition we've improved the relocation process even further," Aganovic said. "Now, users have maximum control and better information with which to complete their migrations."

Chief among AlohaBob's 2004 improvements is a redesigned user interface, which features a new process overview. AlohaBob users should find the Ultra Control 2004 Edition more descriptive and easier to navigate. Multi-tasking techniques also improved the performance of the software. Now, AlohaBob scans disk drives in the background while users continue their work. Once the scanning process is complete, items can be searched, selected, and reviewed for relocation from the "Review and Selection" screen.

Both versions of AlohaBob work with machines running Windows 95 and later — though the migration must be to the same version OS or higher. Both versions are popular among the consumers and home office users, or the real do-it-yourself-type in a smaller business.

Parting Thoughts
Analysts at IDC expect PC unit sales to surge 11.4 percent to $169.9 million in 2004. Small business owners will continue to be cautious buyers in order to maximize their return on new computers, carefully managing their PC spending. With every new PC purchased, small businesses will need to build a plan for quick, accurate and cost effective ways to migrate old data new PCs and notebooks. Choose your data migration tool wisely and look forward to a more productive new year.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!

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