IT Tips & Tricks

Part 3 of a 3-part Series

Published 3 February 2015

Updated 8 March 2022

Why do Links Really Matter in a Data Migration?


Okay, now we’ve gone over what a link really is (in part 1 of this series) and how a link really works (part 2). And I think by this point we all have some inkling of why we really care about all this. But, here’s the doozy: Why does this matter when we’re talking about data migration? And how much does it really matter?


Ed Clark, LinkTek COO

Well, broadly and briefly stated, a data migration is a planned transfer of data from one physical storage system to another. While there are several types of migrations, many involve the moving and/or renaming of files and folders (sometimes even drives), which is often problematic (more on this below).

This very broad definition covers everything from moving all the data on a certain network drive (or drives) from one set of hardware to another such as when upgrading to a new server, moving to a data center, moving data into “the cloud” or migrating data to a storage area network (SAN); to implementing a document management system (DMS) or an enterprise content management system (ECM) such as SharePoint or OpenText; upgrading from a Novell operating system to Windows, and everything in between.

Data migration also includes things like implementing a distributed file system (DFS) or just plain old restructuring a portion of your data for improved efficiency.

For that matter, you are even doing a form of data migration when you upgrade from one version of an ECM to another, such as going from SharePoint 2016 On-Premise to the latest version of SharePoint Online, or when you simply need to remap the file path for a bunch of files. The fact that it is planned means there is some coordination. The team doing the migration charts the course, ideally laying it all out so you are ready to roll beforehand.

The Sneaky Trouble with Links

Data migrations often involve thousands (sometimes millions) of files. Often, those doing it forget to carefully plan for all the links contained in those files. And here’s the kicker, frequently even files that are, themselves, not part of a data migration are nonetheless impacted by that migration due to that sneaky culprit called “broken links”.

Further, even if links are planned for, do you really want to have to manually fix thousands or even millions of links?

No, thank you.

Broken links mean lost data.

Broken links can be almost as much trouble for your network as… well… users.

IT professionals are pretty bright (well, most of them anyway); but even the brightest don’t tend to be mind readers.

Now, there’s another problem with all this: It is often not easy for an end-user to determine where a certain child file ended up after a migration. This is complicated by the fact that users often don’t even know precisely what child file a missing pie chart or some such linked item came from in the first place! If they don’t know (or don’t precisely remember) from where a certain data item was being fetched by the link, then you get into a lot of groping around with you and the user trying to find something the company desperately needs.


Even remapping file paths can be considered a migration.

Oh, and we haven’t even gotten into those unplanned data migrations yet. You know, that’s when someone (a user) just unthinkingly goes onto the network and moves or renames a bunch of files or folders. After all the moving and renaming, links that reside in the parent files will be pointing to the old location (now the incorrect location) for the child files. And the end-user, when he tries to use the migrated files, may not know exactly which files are the child files that contained his data.

And, usually, the IT guys, who are burdened with fixing this problem, don’t know this either, because they rarely know the content of all the files that an organization’s employees use. IT professionals are pretty bright (well, most of them anyway); but even the brightest don’t tend to be mind readers.

You might wonder, “well how wouldn’t the end-user of the files know?” It’s actually very common that he or she wouldn’t know. In many cases, some or all of the end users of a given set of files were not the ones who set up the links in the first place. And that’s just one possibility. Even if someone there was the one who created these links (or the process by which they are created), it may have been so long ago or there may be so many of them, that he or she doesn’t remember. Maybe the company has a policy where they document such things. Fine. But even that could be long out of date. And so on. So you end up having to spend the time and effort to figure out which of the moved or renamed files are the applicable child files that go with certain parent files.

Oh, but it gets worse. Once you figure all that out, you still have to either 1) go in and manually open each link in each parent file and fix the instructions so that it points to the child file again, or 2) find or write some search & replace script and then manually enter a bunch of renaming rules that you hope catches a majority of the problem links but almost never actually does. Thus, even in a best-case scenario where the organization had carefully documented how and where the child files were moved and/or renamed, someone, probably you, still has a daunting, time-consuming task.

Potentially even worse is the downtime for some of your end-users during the weeks (or months) it could take to complete the re-linking task.

Ah, but there is good news.

It can prepare your files and links in advance of your migration project, so that once the migration is done, it can automatically re-link everything for you.

How to Prevent the Problem in the First Place

As you may already know — and here comes the shameless plug — there’s an automatic and fast solution to all this: LinkFixer Advanced.

No need to worry about the tedium of fixing all those links manually, or having end-users delayed on their own production due to their links being broken (no matter who broke them, or how). LinkFixer Advanced can automatically fix broken links in most file types.

LinkFixer Advanced can fix your broken links and can do so in batches of thousands at a time. But more importantly, it can prepare your files and links in advance of your migration project, so that once the migration is done, it can automatically re-link everything for you. Technically, this is a miracle (and it’s patented). If you use it in this way, you don’t have to know where the files were or where they are after the migration. (No “search and replace” required.) LinkFixer Advanced handles all that for you. End of shameless plug.

This concludes our series here — at least until I think of something else to write. So, actually, it probably doesn’t conclude our series. Nonetheless, even if you are not one of our customers, I do hope that you found the series informative and helpful.

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