Migrating a data center is not something that can be done overnight. It takes planning, effort, and skill. Most organizations regardless of their industry will at one in point in time face a situation where they will need to relocate their data center due to multiple reasons including an increased need for storage space or limited physical space.
Data center protocols are also changing rapidly which even produces a greater need for data center modernization, which may in turn; require you to migrate your data center. Regardless of the reason for the migration, one thing to remember before beginning the actual migration is the need for careful planning. We mentioned planning in the introductory paragraph and we are mentioning it now because your success or failure hinges upon careful planning.
If you want to ensure your data center migration process is successful, there are 11 steps to follow. Here are the steps described in full detail.
1. Define Your Goals
The first step to a successful data migration process is clearly defining your goals. From the steps, this step can be regarded as the most important for one reason. Defining your goals from the onset of the project will give you a clear mental image of what you hope to achieve from your data center migration project. Managing such a project is not child’s play; there are many details that require your attention. If you don’t have clear set Key Performance Indicators for the whole project, it becomes easy for you to get lost in the details.
You have to set clear benchmarks, milestones, and key performance indicators that you will use to track your progress as the project goes along.
2. Develop a Migration Plan
After having your migration goals defined and KPI’s set, you have to look at and work on your migration plan. Enterprise data often contains sensitive information. You need a plan that encompasses everything from security to risk management (backups) and human resource management. If you are going to be engaging other stakeholders, which may include IT companies, their role should be encompassed in your plan as well.
Moreover, for a smooth relocation, all specialized stakeholders must be coordinated with efficiency. All the specified tasks must be done in a coordinated manner. One other thing your plan must cover is how to minimize downtime. In addition, the best way to minimize downtime is to do complete the whole process as short as you possibly can, doing that takes careful planning.
3. Assess the Existing Environment
Now that you have the goals and migration plan defined, you will now have to start the process for moving your data. The first thing you need to do before moving your data is assessing your current environment. Unlike two decades ago, data centers nowadays are complex, there are many dependencies involved, which make migration a pain if you ignore them.
The quickest and easiest way to assess your existing environment is to update the CMDB, known as the Configuration Management Database. This database tracks all your assets giving you insights on what data you have in the data center infrastructure. Besides the infrastructure, the CMDB will also give you insights on the applications, connectivity, and security of the data center including how they are interlinked together which in turn makes it easy for you to manage the whole process thus making a smooth transition possible.
4. Design the New Environment
This step won’t be possible if you didn’t carry out the previous step. Step 3 would have given you insights on what you need for your data center, insights that would be valuable in designing the new data center environment. Your new environment, depending on your needs will likely be similar to the old one with some minor changes. If you were having problems with the old data center, you should address these problems during the steps.
Think through those problems. If the problems were related to your cooling systems, find out how you can improve the systems for them to work more efficiently. The same applies for cabling, storage, and other key essentials of your data center. Your design should focus on minimizing costs whilst increasing overall efficiency.
5. Engage the Right Partner
The key to the success of any data center migration is having the right partner to work with. This step is important and can be applied way before you think of beginning your data center operation. The importance of great partners cannot be overemphasized. The right partners can hold your hand in every step and help you out with everything you may need from the Environment assessment to the environment design to resource allocation and finally, testing.
Partners are invaluable but not easy to find. Yes, a Google Search can help with recommendations to give you a head start. You will have to do some extra digging in to find the one that will work best for you. To make the right decision for your partner, the key metric to look at is experience. Nothing beats experience when it comes to data management. Preferably, the partner you decide to settle on must have successfully completed two data center migration project without any hiccups.
In an information economy, you shouldn’t take any chances with your data.
6. Fine-tune the Plan
The first plan on step 2 focused on strategy and the basics of the steps you need to take for your project. On this step, however, the plan you will be making can also be referred to the plan within the plan. The second step’s plan focused on the ‘what’ of your project. This plan focused on the how of your project. For example, if you had a step to Migrate Your Infrastructure from the first plan, on the second plan, you will be looking at how you will do that, the transportation partners you will use, how you will pay all the partners.
You will be paying more attention to all the tactical steps necessary to get your project done and completed with ease. This plan pays more attention to milestones. There are some big aspects of your project that can’t be fully completed in one-step, in such cases, it’s wiser to use milestones to measure the progress of a single task on a systematic basis.
7. Resource Allocation
It’s important to realize that your project will be managed by humans. Humans are not machines and in any given day, they can only do so much. Be realistic when allocating the workloads to each of the teams that will be working on your project. If you over allocate the workloads, chances are your project will drag on because people will get discouraged by the sheer amount of work to be done before they even begin working.
The key thing in this step is to be realistic. It starts with setting realistic timelines then allocating the necessary resources in terms of money, equipment, people, and time to help your teams and their manager do whatever needs to be done efficiently within the designated timelines.
If you have partners, consult them, ask them what they need, let them propose their own timelines and resources and find a compromise convenient for both parties.
8. Migrate infrastructure
If you carried out the previous steps with precision, this step should go on smoothly. However, if you neglected any of the above steps, then the results of this step may be a total catastrophe. One thing to remember, when you begin the actual migration is that no matter how carefully you plan, there will be unforeseen challenges. When those challenges come up, the key thing is to not panic. You have to think through every challenge, find out how it relates to the other steps, or if it will affect any other thing in any way and change your plan on the fly if need be.
As the team leader, you have to be involved in every step of the way on a strategic level. Use a god’s eye view when assessing the whole project. Try to find any mistakes that the teams may be making and where possible, correct those mistakes.
9. Test and Validate
Bugs, we all hate them right? Before you open up your data center for your clients and other stakeholders, you have to test each feature to make sure that the center is ready for use. When testing, try to compare the new data center with your previous one, check the RTO’s (Recovery Time Objectives) to make sure that the new center is faster.
During the migration process, if you made any improvements or introduced new features, you should test those as well. Check to see how the new features relate to the previous features already on the systems.
Besides that, you will need to maintain your datacenter making failover testing very important.
When testing, the team doing the testing should also try to exploit the data center for any security loopholes. Plug them and make your data airtight for hackers. Do not leave any avenue that can be exploited open. Do what is necessary to ensure that the data center is as secure as possible.
10. Launch Operation
When the new migration state is available, you can launch your new operation in the newly migrated data center. One thing to remember is to not launch the new data center when you haven’t completed step 9 at least twice.
As your organization starts using the new datacenter, some issues may arise. If they do, do not wait until it’s too late. Even if your data center is working perfectly, if you see any type of error on the runtime logs, you have to contact your vendors or migration partners to come and look at it.
11. Post-Migration Analysis and Report
The last thing needed is the post-migration analysis and report. Once the migration is done, you have to continually assess how effectively the new data center runs whilst making reports detailing the reliability, ease of operation and cost – effectiveness of the new data center.
To conclude, as we emphasized, the success of your data center migration hinges on the amount of time and resources you allocate to planning the whole project from the onset. Take the required time to carefully plan your project before it begins. Do not do the planning alone, where possible; ask for opinions from other experts within your organization. Keep refining your plan until you believe it’s ready and then get started with the project.