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In CMS Fundamentals, James Williamson defines content management systems (CMSs) and explains their role in web site development. The course demonstrates the different CMS solutions available today, including WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla; reviews CMS terminology and best practices; and shows how to develop a content management strategy. Guidelines are also included for evaluating a potential CMS, whether hosted or self-hosted, open source or proprietary, and choosing a CMS based on a specific need or focus.
I'll be honest, it's really hard to quantify all the steps required for a proper CMS migration, because every site, site content, and CMS are different, and they have different technical challenges that are unique to that specific migration. However, I do want to go over some of the general steps that you want to keep in mind if you decide to manage the migration yourself. First, determine what a successful migration is, and by that, I mean what will constitute an acceptable migration, taking into account that business logic, processes, template structure, and workflows are changing.
It's really easy to have unrealistic expectations. The best thing you can do is to set realistic goals for your migration at the very start. Next, what type of migration are you performing? Are you just moving data, or you moving page structure as well. Well, you need to strip out metadata and replace it with new metadata? If you plan on automating some of the processes, will it do everything that you need regarding structure or metadata? Now once you have expectations and migration type down, you need to perform a site inventory. All assets, content, functionality, and paid structures that should be maintained, should be quantified, including internal links content relationships and navigation.
During this process finding any orphans or stale content that can be distorted this will make life easier. If you have rules in place to guide what side of content needs to migrate and then what can be left behind, you can reduce a significant amount of time with this step. And speaking of rules, make sure you define rules for breaking up content and how they should be mapped to the new system. Make sure that you anticipate as many decisions in this process as you can, so the team members are making consistent choices when breaking up content, deciding not to migrate something, or maintaining content relationships.
At this point, your content can then be mapped to a new CMS based on its requirements. The content's target location within the new CMS, it's tagging requirements, user ownership, information and lifecycle policies all should be decided upon prior to the actual migration. One thing that you need to think of prior to the actual migration is, what happens if target requirements are not met? For example, if an article doesn't have an author associated with it or publishing date, what happens? If you're automating the process, you could autogenerate generic values or tag the content for a later manual transfer where values could be inserted by hand.
If you're performing a manual transfer, make sure that policies are in place to deal with these so that they're handled consistently. Now after initial transfers, compare the results against your expectations or definition of success. If you're not where you need to be, consider modifying your transfer policies to make up for any shortcomings that you found. As always, there's some things you want to a stay focused on when considering a migration. For one, be sure to fight scope creep. Make sure you clearly defined your goals and what results are acceptable to you and then stick with them.
Also--and very importantly--don't change the target requirements of the new CMS to match your older source content. Believe it or not, many people will do just this to make sure content migrates easier. Doing that, however, goes against the reason for switching to a new system in the first place. Also, if you're going to automate portions of your migration, test them on small batches of data first and compare the results to what you've define as a successful transfer to see if you're getting what you expect.
Finally, if you're migrating from one CMS to another, do a Google search such as migrating from Y to Z. You should find several articles offering advice, tools, or even scripts you can use to assist your migration, especially for open-source systems. At the same time, carefully examine the export capabilities of your old CMS and compare them to the import capabilities for your new one. You're likely to find ways to make the process a little bit easier. Now there's no way to suddenly wave a magic wand and have your content seamlessly import into another system.
However, with a little diligence, realistic expectations, and a lot of patience, you're going to be able to manage your migrations successfully.
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