Planning a move from on-premises IT to a third-party data centre? If so, congratulations! There’s a good chance you’re about to discover that a purpose-built colocation facility can be a major asset for a B2B tech business – and a whole lot less troublesome than the on-site server rooms most of us started out with.
That said, it’s also possible you’ll discover something else: that migrating to a colocation data centre can be a bumpy ride without the right preparation. Unless you plan every aspect of the move to the letter, there’s scope for mistakes to be made and loose ends left untied – resulting in service disruption for both staff and customers.
With that in mind, here are three of the things you may want to consider before pushing on with your data centre migration.
1. Technical requirements
As obvious as it may sound, it’s important to establish that you and your colocation provider are on exactly the same page when it comes to your technical requirements well ahead of your moving-in day. This means taking nothing for granted – in addition to factors like rack space, you’ll want to discuss your requirements around power consumption and configuration (such as the need for dual feeds), your ability to connect with different network providers (you may have preferred providers, and the best data centres offer a wide range of options), how the environment will affect and cope with the temperature of your equipment, and so on.
It also pays to do a full inventory of everything you plan on moving, and recording cable references and associated server, switch and router connections – making reassembly much quicker and easier.
A large part of migrating to a colocation data centre is, of course, the process of moving your IT equipment from one place to another and all that entails. In order to deliver the minimum possible downtime and disruption, it’s important to have an end-to-end plan in place to describe what you’ll move and when, who’ll be involved in the transport and installation, and what the whole process will look like to the end user.
For some organisations, it makes most sense to migrate in stages, and keep their on-premises IT live for as long as possible before switching over to the new environment (possibly even on a server-by-server or application-by-application basis). For others, it may be a better option to carry out the entire move in a single weekend. Either method can be successful with the right preparation, although it’s advisable to involve your colocation provider in the planning thereof.
From the outset, your colocation provider should listen to your migration needs and pay attention to them. Some data centres may be able to offer flexible commercial terms to ease the cost of moving from one location to another – and, if they aren’t interested in doing this (within reason), it may raise a few red flags for the relationship going forward. After all, you’re going to be doing business with them in the long term.
Note that data centre security can be a very different proposition in a colocation facility than in an on-site server room, so plan ahead to ensure the right people have access to the building at the right time – and no-one loses half an hour or more of their time because they don’t have security clearance.
Also, take time to understand the route from the data centre loading bay through to where your servers are located. This may be separate from the normal data centre access doors, and may have different requirements when it comes to security authorisation (and possibly supervision).
3. Testing and troubleshooting
Finally, remember that even the best-laid schemes of mice and men go awry, and put aside some time in your data centre migration plan for testing and troubleshooting. Keep enough backups so that, if the worst happens, it’s not too much work to restore your environment as it was before the move.
If there’s a lot of scope for problems (say if you’re moving a legacy application that isn’t supported or even well-documented, might be incompatible with modern hardware, and might have issues like hard-coded IP addresses), your best option may be to migrate in stages so those problems can be caught and fixed before they have a major impact on your business.
Oh, and one last thing – even if you’ve never handled a data centre migration before, your colocation provider almost certainly will have! Chose a partner whose knowledge and expertise you can draw from, and there’s every chance you’ll make your move a great success.