Data centre migration: how to mitigate risk

Steve Evans

Friday 29 July 2016

A data centre migration is one of the most complex projects an IT department can undertake. However, there are steps that can be taken to mitigate the risk and ensure a smooth migration that benefits the whole business.

There has been a lot of discussion recently about the future of the data centre. Data centres are undergoing a huge change at the moment, from the amount of data that’s being created and stored, to the increase in the number of mobile users and the need to keep data secure.

These changes mean data centres are under tremendous pressure to deliver the capacity, reliability, performance and security that customers require. Many of the world’s biggest companies are building new data centre facilities. For example, Amazon announced its first UK data centre late last year, while Facebook revealed plans to build a US$220 million data centre in Ireland this January.

Plan ahead

However, migrating to a new data centre is no easy task. As with any big project, the planning stage is vital. Map out the reasons for the migration, what steps need to be taken and what resources are required to make it happen. Include an inventory of all existing components – both physical and software – that will have to be migrated.

Establish a budget and timeline too. But be flexible – things will undoubtedly change during the process, so having the flexibility to adapt to these changes will help the project run more smoothly.

This stage of planning is where you can set out your vision for the future of the data centre, not just the present. Forecast what your requirements may be 10 or 15 years from now, so that capacity growth can be accommodated.

Keep the lights on

Extended or unplanned downtime can be one of the most frustrating parts of a data centre migration for an IT team and users. It can also result in costs adding up. While it’s inevitable that there will be downtime, good planning will keep the disruption to a minimum.

IT can and should discuss with the various heads of department to find the most convenient time for their systems to go offline while the migration happens. The sales team probably won’t appreciate being offline at the end of their sales cycle, and taking the payroll system offline around payday will not win you any friends.

Ensure any data that has to be transferred is fully backed up first. Put in place safeguards, so that sensitive and important data reaches its new destination and all is not lost if something does go wrong during the migration.

Finally, if the data centre migration involves new hardware, make sure you arrange for the secure wiping and disposal of the old equipment. Leaving sensitive data on defunct equipment is a security nightmare.

Data centre migrations are costly, complex and frustrating. But they are also vital if companies are to face up to modern computing challenges. Meticulous planning and lots of flexibility can help reduce risks and ensure that the migration project goes as smoothly as possible.

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