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10 Data Center Migration Best Practices

By: Ernest Sampera on August 19, 2019

As an organization grows, it eventually reaches a point where its existing data solution is no longer able to accommodate its needs. Whether it’s to increase capacity to launch new applications or gain access to a wider range of connectivity options, something triggers the company to consider moving its IT infrastructure into a new data center environment. Their data center business plan will need to be adjusted. Many organizations turn to the benefits of colocation, such as interconnectivity, enhanced security, and scalability, to level up their IT infrastructure.

Once it decides that a data center relocation is necessary, the next challenge is making it happen. There are a number of factors a company might consider when choosing a colocation data center, but after it finds a partner capable of meeting its needs for commercial flexibility, it can begin to plan for how it will migrate its equipment into a colocation environment. Here are a few data center migration best practices to keep in mind for a successful transition.

10 Data Center Migration Best Practices


1. Put a project management plan in place.

Any successful migration begins with a project management plan. This plan establishes a thorough and comprehensive process that will take every factor and risk into consideration before a single piece of equipment is unplugged. Once an organization commits to migration, it should identify a project manager and establish migration team roles to ensure that the project management plan is developed and executed in an orderly fashion.

2. Determine budget and success criteria.

According to Gartner, more than half of data center migrations end up exceeding their budget, often due to poor planning and risk assessment. Organizations can avoid this outcome by being realistic about their application needs and expectations before migration begins. They need to make sure their new data center provider has everything in place to accommodate their IT infrastructure so there are no surprises when they move into the facility. When the migration is completed, applications need to function as good or better than they did before the move.

3. Establish a project timeline and critical-path milestones.

A data center relocation is far more complicated than simply unplugging the servers and driving them to a new location. Every step needs to be completed in sequence to ensure that the equipment will function properly in the new location and that no data will be lost in the shuffle. A setback in one area could create significant delays down the line and contribute to higher migration costs. Establishing a clear timeline with specific milestones helps to keep the migration project on schedule and focused on critical tasks.

4. Consider which, if any, data needs to be replicated.

Managing data during a data center migration can be a major challenge, especially if critical applications need to be able to access that data throughout the migration process. There’s also the risk that some data could be lost or damaged during the migration, so establishing a backup strategy is critical. A temporary “parallel” or “swing” environment may need to be set up to facilitate data availability during the move. If data needs to be replicated and transferred, additional connectivity may need to be provisioned to facilitate the transfer.

5. Identify who will handle equipment deinstall and transport.

Moving computing equipment isn’t as simple as unplugging a server and loading it into a truck. If not deinstalled and transported properly, hardware components can be seriously damaged by electrostatic discharge, exposure to magnetic fields, and physical abuse. A third-party contractor who specializes in equipment migration can help ensure that all IT hardware arrives at the new location in the best possible condition, allowing their customers to enjoy the benefits of colocation without having to replace equipment.

6. Verify equipment needs at the new site.

Moving into a new IT environment is a major shift for an organization’s data center business plan. Equipment needs that have long been taken for granted may require special accommodations when moved to a new location. The migration team should make sure that the physical configurations of all equipment are in alignment with the provider’s infrastructure. If additional components need to be deployed for a successful installation, it’s better to secure them long before the hardware arrives at the new facility.

7. Make sure equipment is thoroughly cataloged.

While it should go without saying that every piece of equipment needs to be documented and accounted for, thorough cataloging should go beyond a simple hardware checklist. That means not just documenting which servers will be moved, but also what cables, power supplies, and fuses are involved in their operation. Failing to account for a single fuse could create massive headaches when trying to get systems online within the new data center infrastructure.

8. Consider the provider’s equipment recommendations.

Colocation data centers have seen their share of successful and troubled migrations alike over the years. Data center personnel know their infrastructure inside and out, and they also know what equipment works best. When it comes to provisioning power strips, cabling, and other equipment, colocation providers can offer advice on what the most successful data center migrations have utilized.

9. Provision new network services in advance before disconnecting existing services.

Internet connectivity and cloud providers often take several weeks to implement new network services for their customers. The last thing a company wants is to move into a new colocation environment only to discover that their network won’t be up and running for several days. While this may involve paying for parallel services, the cost is often worthwhile if it avoids unnecessary downtime and facilitates a seamless data center relocation. The migration budget and timetable should account for when services are provisioned and disconnected.

10. Don’t make assumptions.

No aspect of a data center migration should be taken for granted. Making assumptions can result in miscommunication and delays at best and costly downtime or damaged equipment at worst. Organizations should work with their new data center provider every step of the way to confirm migration details and identify potential pitfalls. Function and service availability for both long-haul and local connectivity, for instance, should be verified long before a single piece of equipment is moved. Once hardware is on-site, all power ports and configurations should be tested prior to installation. After so much planning and budgeting, nothing should be taken to chance.

Making the move to a new data center environment is a challenging task for an organization, but one that can help it to grow and become more successful in the future. When the time comes for a data center relocation, companies need to approach the task with a detail-oriented process that assesses risk appropriately and sets realistic expectations for the move. With a good project management plan in place and a comprehensive data center migration checklist, they can set the wheels in motion to migrate with confidence.

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