Dynamics 365 data migration projects aren’t easy for many organizations because they are nervous — with good reason — about the security and integrity of their data. This is always a significant part of the conversation with have with association partners as we prepare to move them to a new AMS platform.

But it’s not just scary to get all the data moved over securely. Data migrations from on-premises CRM solutions to cloud-based CRM systems like Microsoft Dynamics 365 can be very complex.

In this post I’ll touch on the most common mistakes teams make with Dynamics 365 data migration projects (spoiler alert: it’s almost always about how you deal with old data).

If you’d like a little more on the challenges and opportunities that come with migrating, check out this 10-minute interview on PartnerTalks with Microsoft MVP Rick McCutcheon. Rick talks with Cobalt CEO Russ Inman about some of the priorities you should be working through in this transition.

Let’s take a quick look at what will be most important for your team’s Dynamics CRM Data Migration project.

Dynamics 365 Data Migration: How Much Data Do You Need?

Cobalt has been deep in the weeds and details of AMS and CRM data migration with hundreds of associations and certification organizations over the years. When companies in our core industries come to us for cloud migration services or one of our Dynamics 365 implementation packages, there are some CRM data migration questions that always come up.

And the biggest one is: how much data do you need to move online?

A prevalent mistake companies make is opting for a blanket approach to data migration, transferring all accumulated data without proper evaluation. This approach often leads to several drawbacks, including documentation discrepancies, increased project complexity, and soaring costs. By adopting a more selective approach and migrating only essential data, organizations can streamline the migration process and mitigate associated risks.

There are always exceptions, obviously, and there isn’t a single answer for every organization. But there is one trusted principle we come back to time and again as we advise our clients: only take the data you actually use.

The most common temptation (and pitfall) for associations is to just move everything they have from their on-premises system to their cloud-based CRM. All that data was hard-won, expensive to accumulate, and valuable (at least when you gathered it). And after all, you just never know if we might need it later …

That’s how the rationalization for a massive migration of everything you’ve ever collected often goes. There are three significant drawbacks to this approach.

3 Drawbacks of a Massive CRM Data Migration


It’s rare — very rare — that we meet an association team that has diligently, meticulously, and consistently kept up with all the changes they’ve made to their on-premises instance of Dynamics CRM. You almost certainly have third-party solutions, custom code, incomplete lists of fields and entities, and ad hoc alterations to the data relationships.

The good news is that all of these things are easier or just aren’t an issue once your CRM is in the cloud. The bad news facing you now … is that all of these changes and the missing documentation could be a very big deal.

The older the data, the more likely that the documentation is lost or impossible to retrieve. Being more selective about the data you migrate — and only bringing what you need today — reduces the amount of leg work you or a vendor needs to do to try and gather documentation in this process.


One of the primary concerns organizations face during Dynamics 365 data migration is the complexity involved in securely transferring data from legacy systems to cloud environments.

This drawback is fairly straight forward: bigger migrations often bloat the complexity of your CRM data migration project and increase the likelihood that you’ll need some highly specialized migration assistance. While the prospect of migrating data to a more agile and scalable platform is enticing, it’s essential to navigate potential pitfalls effectively.

We’ll touch on the cost factor(s) in a moment, but for now, consider the extra time and involvement from your team and then ask how much that old, unused data is really worth today, or next year. Sometimes just framing it that way is a helpful guide in deciding what to keep and what to leave.


CRM data migration projects can become very costly as the complexity grows, the timeline extends, and the amount of custom mapping expands. All of that quickly runs up the cost of your CRM data migration on the frontend. But that’s not all, unfortunately.

CRM data storage comes at a cost in the cloud, as well. This means that moving huge amounts of legacy data “just in case” could bloat your ongoing monthly costs for your cloud-based CRM over time, as well.

Moving to Dynamics 365 online is almost always a better move from a cost perspective. But the cost savings you’re likely to see could evaporate quickly if your online data storage costs skyrocket with huge amounts of non-essential data.

It’s a related topic for another post — but let’s quickly mention that new D365 online users should probably take the time to rethink what kinds of files, attachments, and other items really fit into the “essential” category. Considering your Dynamics 365 data migration and storage costs is a great incentive to take that seriously.

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The Hidden Opportunity in Your Dynamics 365 Data Migration Project

Data Security Best Practices for Dynamics 365 Data Migrations

As organizations embark on the journey of a Dynamics 365 data migration, ensuring the security of their valuable data assets becomes paramount. In today’s digital landscape, where data breaches and cyber threats loom large, incorporating robust security measures into the migration process is non-negotiable. Let’s delve deeper into why prioritizing data security is crucial and how organizations can bolster their defenses during the migration to Dynamics 365.

Understanding the Risks

The transition to Dynamics 365 involves the transfer of vast amounts of sensitive information, including customer data, financial records, and proprietary business insights. Any compromise in data security during the migration process can have severe repercussions, ranging from financial losses to reputational damage. Therefore, identifying and mitigating potential risks is essential to safeguarding data integrity and privacy.

Implementing Robust Security Measures

To mitigate the risk of data breaches and unauthorized access, organizations must implement robust security measures throughout the migration process. Encryption protocols play a pivotal role in securing data in transit and at rest, ensuring that sensitive information remains protected from prying eyes. Additionally, access controls should be enforced to restrict unauthorized users from accessing confidential data, thereby reducing the likelihood of security incidents.

Compliance Requirements and Best Practices

Compliance with regulatory standards such as GDPR, HIPAA, and CCPA is a critical aspect of data security for your Dynamics 365 migration. Organizations must adhere to stringent compliance requirements and implement best practices to ensure the lawful processing and protection of personal data. By aligning with industry-specific regulations and guidelines, organizations can demonstrate their commitment to data privacy and mitigate the risk of non-compliance penalties.

Integrating Security into the Migration Checklist

Integrating security into the migration checklist is essential to maintaining data security and integrity throughout the migration process. Organizations should conduct comprehensive security assessments to identify vulnerabilities and gaps in their existing infrastructure. Subsequently, security controls and protocols should be implemented to address these vulnerabilities and mitigate potential risks effectively.

Ensuring Data Integrity and Privacy

Preserving data integrity and privacy is paramount during Dynamics 365 data migrations. Organizations should employ data validation techniques and integrity checks to ensure the accuracy and consistency of migrated data. Additionally, data anonymization and masking techniques can be utilized to protect sensitive information while maintaining data utility and integrity.

Continuous Monitoring and Compliance Audits

Data security is an ongoing process that requires continuous monitoring and compliance audits to identify and address emerging threats and vulnerabilities. Organizations should establish robust monitoring mechanisms to detect suspicious activities and unauthorized access attempts promptly. Regular compliance audits should also be conducted to assess adherence to security policies and regulatory requirements.

Cleaning Your CRM Data

If you’re still running Dynamics CRM on-premises, you’ve almost certainly been weighing the benefits of moving to Dynamics 365 Online for a while and delaying a project like this for good reasons. The challenges are real, but let’s highlight one additional benefit related to Dynamics CRM data migration on your way to the cloud now.

Why haven’t you prioritized cleaning your CRM data? If you’re like virtually every other organization out there … it’s because there’s never a good time to stop and clean your CRM data.

But, it turns out, a CRM data migration on your way to the cloud is the perfect time to tackle that essential housekeeping. A crucial aspect often overlooked in a Dynamics 365 data migration is data cleanup.

Dynamics 365 online unlocks enormous value for your team with all the integrations that are now possible, instant updates, highly advanced, additional tools through the Power Platform, and on and on.

Don’t overlook the prime opportunity to take a careful look at your CRM data, make sure you’re keeping and looking at the right pieces of the picture, and let go of what you don’t need.

Even better, we’ve got a brand new post that will walk your team through some very practical ways clean CRM Data Management: Clean Data for Better Member Engagement.

Empowering Your Dynamics 365 Data Migration Journey

Navigating the complexities of Dynamics 365 data migration requires careful planning, execution, and collaboration. By adopting a strategic approach and leveraging best practices, organizations can overcome challenges and unlock the full potential of Dynamics 365. As you embark on your Dynamics 365 data migration journey, remember to prioritize data integrity, performance optimization, and security to achieve long-term success in the cloud.

Dynamics CRM Data Migration Expertise

I hope these considerations about how you handle your Dynamics CRM data migration plan are helpful to you.

Choosing the right partner for your Dynamics 365 data migration is pivotal to project success. Organizations should assess potential partners based on their expertise, experience, and track record in delivering seamless migrations. Partnering with a trusted provider offers invaluable support and guidance throughout the migration process, ensuring a smooth transition to Dynamics 365.

Here are some other related CRM migration resources from our team at Cobalt that has pulled off 200+ seamless, secure migrations with zero downtime.

If you’re weighing the pros and cons of attempting a Dynamics CRM data migration project as an in-house project, it’s definitely doable, but there are some serious hidden pitfalls along the way. Read about the four most common ones in our CRM Migration Guide for Dynamics 365 now.

Our guide also distills three of the biggest reasons Cobalt’s clients choose us for a Dynamics 365 CRM data migration partner:

  1. our fixed-cost pricing
  2. the iterative process we’ve refined
  3. the no-hassle free evaluation to start the project

Connect with a Data Migration Expert

We understand the needs of associations and organizations considering a move a new CRM or AMS. Let’s connect for a quick intro call about your CRM data migration questions or an initial product showcase of Cobalt’s association and certification software at a time that works for you!

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A photo of Varun Kaushik, director of consulting services at Cobalt, who leads Cobalt's data migration team.