Heroku Postgres databases are powerful tools for managing and analyzing data. You can run large-scale data processes for your business off of Heroku Postgres. While management is made much simpler with Heroku, the insight of a skilled developer and data analyst when manipulating databases makes a big difference in the outcomes. This is especially true when migrating a database. Here are five things you need to know about migrating Heroku Postgres databases.

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Table of Contents

  1. Why Migrate a Database?
  2. Problems With Database Migration
  3. Tip #1: Backup Your Data First
  4. Tip #2: Fork Your Database to Test the Migration
  5. Tip #3: Use Transactions When Possible
  6. Tip #4: Use the Advisory Lock
  7. Tip #5: Use An Automation Tool
  8. How Integrate.io Can Help

Why Migrate a Database?

Migrating a database moves it to a different location or platform. Your company may need to migrate a database if you are changing software platforms or servers. It is easy to forget that all the data that companies manage have a physical location. Even cloud services move your data to a physical place for storage. 

To improve security, servers are sectioned off from each other. This is why you need to migrate a database if you change cloud services providers or software platforms. Your database needs to move to a server that the platform you use can access. This can even happen with in-house company assets. For example, a company that is upgrading servers may need to transfer the database to the new server before removing the old one. 

Problems With Database Migration

Moving a database can be a complicated process. The file size needed for a transfer is often so large that it is not possible to download the database and re-upload it to a new location. A direct transfer between servers is usually required. This is where problems begin to arise.

Regardless of the reason for migrating a database, it is important to understand how the process works. There are problems that develop when a database migration is mismanaged. You could lose all the data in your database, corrupt it, or send it to the wrong place. Without a backup, this can ruin your data. It can also interrupt business operations if you rely on a database to support your operations. Before taking any action with your databases, make sure that they are backed up. 

Tip #1: Backup Your Data First

The most important step that you can take to reduce the risk to your database is to back up the database first. If anything goes wrong, you will have a copy of the database to restore from. It may not be entirely up-to-date if you use your database for real-time applications, but it is a much better position to be in than losing your entire database. 

Anytime you need to make a substantial change to your databases, make backup copies first. Losing an important database can bring business to a standstill. Major companies have gone out of business because they lost all of their business data when a database was erased. It is better to take the time to create a recovery plan than it is to take a risk with your only active database.

Your backup does not have to be perfectly synced with your production database, although it is possible to sync the two. As long as you have a relatively recent copy that can be used to get operations running again, then you should be able to keep your business running. 

There are plenty of ways to create backups of your data. Cloud services, like Heroku, have systems in place to make this easy. Take advantage of the backup features in your platform to create backups regularly. 

Tip #2: Fork Your Database to Test the Migration

If something goes wrong during a database migration, your data is at stake. Reduce the risk to your database by using Heroku’s tools to secure your data.

Using a cloud-based platform like Heroku means that your database is already in the cloud. This creates the distinct advantage of being able to clone your database quickly. This clone is called a “fork,” and it makes an exact copy of your database for you to use.

The fork takes a snapshot of your database at a given time, then creates an accurate copy of it in a separate location. Other than the name of that location, the databases are exactly the same. Since you now have a copy that you can experiment with, use this fork to test the migration without putting your main database at risk. 

When you fork a database, the clone is fully functional. This means you can use it just like your main database. Setup your database migration using this clone. You can practice the migration from start to finish to identify any potential problems along the way. That way, you can resolve issues before trying to use your primary database. 

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Tip #3: Use Transactions When Possible

The process of transferring data from one place to another is where migration problems happen. Data loss during transmission can corrupt a database or cause other unintentional issues. Heroku does have a way of addressing this: transactions.

When setting up a script to manage a database transfer, use transactions to prevent problems compiling data on the other end. Transactions are a way of sending data from one place to another and verifying that the data reaches its destination. 

When a transaction sends data, that data is received at the other end. Before that data is integrated into the database, Heroku checks that everything is in place. Then it commits the information. If data is lost during transmission, then Heroku can stop the transfer from committing data and damaging the database. 

Tip #4: Use the Advisory Lock

For all the features that make Postgres and SQL great, there are some potential issues if used in the wrong way. Based on how Postgres and SQL work, it is possible to perform multiple high-level functions at the same time. If this happens during the data migration process, it can cause serious issues. 

It is possible to trigger a data migration, then trigger another one while the first is running. You would be moving the same database to the same location twice at the same time. Needless to say, this creates issues. To prevent this, use the advisory lock feature.

Advisory locks are designed to help you stop functions that conflict with each other from running at the same time. When applied, you can start the data migration and not worry about triggering it again. If you try, the system will force the second migration to immediately fail, protecting your first attempt. 

How you trigger the advisory lock also changes how it works. Advisory locks can be triggered manually or within a transaction. If you set one up manually, you also have to manually release it when the transfer completes. Your database may not be usable if you do not. 

If you package the advisory lock inside the transaction that triggers the data migration, then it will automatically start and end with the migration. This may be preferable if you want to automate the process as much as possible. 

Tip #5: Use an Automation Tool

Perhaps the best way to avoid all the potential problems is to use a tool that can automate the process for you. There are tools for Heroku that can take over the migration process, put security features in place, and ensure that your database transfers seamlessly. The biggest benefit of using such a tool is that it is easy to use and does not require complex knowledge of Heroku, SQL, or Postgres. Integrate.io can help you with this. 

How Integrate.io Can Help

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Integrate.io can help by giving you the tools that you need to manage databases without extensive knowledge of IT systems. It makes managing data easier and more accessible to companies without large IT teams. Contact Integrate.io to schedule a demo to see exactly how we can help you manage your databases more efficiently.