Contributed by Vicki Patten
If you’re relocating your office space, moving can be tricky business. Beyond the basics, you probably have valuable equipment, stacks of supplies and even digital assets to protect, like customer data and billing records.
If you’ve got an internal data center going with you, then you’ve exponentially increased the complexity of your move.
But even if your office is staying in one place, a time may come when you need to move your infrastructure from one data center to another, or even from your office space to a third-party location.
This is no small feat and requires careful and strategic planning coupled with expert execution to ensure the integrity of both your equipment and the invaluable data housed there.
Whether you manage an eCommerce solution, SaaS application or intranet environment, the servers, hard drives, backup devices and other equipment that make up the heart of your infrastructure is essential to your business.
You can’t afford to take chances with something so inherently tied to productivity and revenue. That’s why you must choose a moving company wisely.
Not every moving company is equipped with the specialized knowledge and experience to execute a successful data center move. While there are superbly qualified companies that may be the perfect fit for moving everything from your office computers to your most delicate China, a data center move is another animal entirely.
A strong partner will spend time planning with you and preparing a strategy that takes into account things like timing, facility preparation, business continuity needs and more.
Perhaps most importantly, a strong partner understands the world of IT so they’ll be aware of the pitfalls and nuances of moving your most valuable assets. Your answer may not be a moving company, but a Professional Services company that works along side movers.
These are some of the most vital components that go into planning a successful data center move and the mistakes that can result from a poor strategy.
Given how vital your hardware and software is to your business, no move can be successful without firstunderstanding your business.
Your services company should assign a project manager to your job who will be responsible for asking the right questions and getting to the bottom of some crucial decisions, including: How long can you afford to be down during the move? During what times are you able to be down? If you’re running an eCommerce application, can you afford any down time at all? And if not, what is the continuity plan to keep your systems up and running, whether that is a backup or alternate data center?
These are just a few of the questions that should be answered so that your move does not disrupt your business operations or affect revenue.
Each business is unique in its ability and willingness to tolerate risk. You likely already have a sense of yours but your services company can also help you to understand risks and to take steps to mitigate them.
Part of risk assessment includes understanding what can go wrong and planning for a worst-case scenario so you’re not left scrambling in the event of anything from a minor glitch to a major catastrophe.
Another part of risk assessment is dealing with the business requirements mentioned previously. If you can’t afford down time or if your window for down time is specific or small, a good moving plan must accommodate those needs and determine a backup plan to keep the project on track whatever the circumstances.
This goes hand in hand with risk assessment and ensures that even in a worst-case scenario you can recover effectively.
A strategic move should include plans to mitigate equipment damage and loss. Anyone who has been around technology for five minutes knows the temperamental nature of even the most premium equipment. Sometimes servers don’t restart. Or cables go bad.
If you should find yourself in this situation, what happens next?
Sometimes disaster strikes in other ways. It’s not something anyone likes to think about but accidents happen and you can’t ignore the possibility when your business continuity is at risk. If there is a major traffic accident and your equipment is damaged in transit, what happens next?
Other times, disaster can arise in the most banal of circumstances. Your project team may arrive at the new data center location only to find that servers don’t fit into rails or the space in not suitable. Even if your equipment arrives safely, your business is still out of commission until the situation is resolved – what happens next?
As you may be beginning to see, all of these questions must be answered and the appropriate implementation plans and contingency plans put into place long before a single cable is disconnected.
Many unpleasant scenarios can be prevented before they occur. For example, knowing that your new facility can accommodate your needs is important before you arrive to find that cables, rails, space or other parts of the environment are not suitable.
Depending on your needs, the space can be pre-built ahead of time to ensure a smooth fit when you’re ready to make the move.
Other considerations include ensuring that there is power in the building, circuits are installed and live, and that the appropriate COs are in place. This may sound obvious, but in a new facility especially, never assume anything. Always prepare and be sure.
A common mistake in data center moves is failing to take the layout of the new space into account. Unless it’s identical to your current space, you may be overlooking something as simple yet as crucial as the length of the cable connecting your equipment to its power source.
Good planning can help ensure that layout and cabling needs are considered in new environments.
If you’re moving to a colocation space, you’ll want to plan and prep racks and take space into account. Depending on the size of your equipment, you may find yourself with limited maneuverability, which can make racking difficult or even impossible. But with a proper plan, you can avoid unpleasant surprises.
You may also want to consider what kind of backup equipment you need on site. This goes back to risk assessment and damage control – stocking your new facility with key backup equipment, spare parts and cabling can go a long way to preventing problems mid-move.
In some instances, moving your equipment may result in voiding the warranty. That doesn’t mean it can’t be moved – it just means that you’ll need another planning step.
Understanding the stipulations of your warranties will help you avoid making mistakes.
Some OEMs require that you involve them in any move during which you wish to maintain a warranty. Your services company should understand this and be able to communicate with and involve the appropriate OEMs.
Moving a data center from one part of the country to another is entirely different than moving it to a different country. When moving internationally, you must follow import/export procedures and be in compliance with local laws.
There are specific international shipping requirements that you may not be aware of, but that your services company should be able to inform you about. Choose a company with a specialist that can guide you through the process and make your move run smoothly.
You already know how important your digital assets and data are, and the value of the hardware that provides you access and keeps the gears of your business spinning. But consider the practical consequences of poor planning for a moment…
Unexpected downtime. Lost data. Delays. Voided warranties. Budget overruns. Unanticipated costs. Lost revenue. You probably don’t need more than that to keep you up at night, fretting over whether your business is headed for disaster.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. The right services company, one with the experience and knowledge in IT to guide you through planning, strategy and execution, will eliminate much of the stress you may feel about such a major undertaking.
Now that you know some of the dangers and risks of poor planning, how can you find a company that will help you put the right plans in place?
Start by asking about experience, not just in moving, but with moving IT infrastructure specifically. Be sure your chosen company understands the world of IT and has hands-on data center experience, with everything from disaster recovery to cabling.
Ask about the physical move and how your equipment will be protected. It may sound counterintuitive, but wrapping your equipment in the folds of soft blankets can actually be harmful. Instead, anti-static materials should be used to prevent shorts in the electronics.
True IT professionals will understand everything from how to protect equipment to how to transport and handle it.
Ask whether you will be assigned a dedicated project manager. Planning doesn’t happen by accident – it’s the result of questioning, understanding and careful consideration. Be sure you will have a team that is dedicated to you and your move, not distracted with other jobs or catastrophes.
Finally, ask whether IT relocation is your chosen company’s primary business. IT moves are intensive and require a specialized skill set. It’s a good idea to look for that specialist, who knows what questions to ask, what issues to consider, and is intimately familiar with the scenarios you may encounter.
They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure – and that’s multiplied a hundredfold when it comes to data center moves, so plan accordingly, choose the right partner and protect your business. Risk can’t be removed entirely, but with the right plan you’ll dramatically reduce risk, avoid negative consequences and be able to cope with any challenges that do arise.
If you’d like to learn more about how we can make your data center move stress-free, contact us and we’ll be happy to answer your questions.