Data Center & Server Relocation Planning and Execution

Until recently, most companies considered data center relocation to be a once in a lifetime event. As infrastructure demands and technology advances continue to expand, current forecasts predict 3-5 moves, with 53% percent of companies expecting to do so within the next few years. What is your company blueprint for a successful data center and server relocation planning and execution?

Data center movers and server movers have experience in the complexities required for a successful relocation. Working hand in hand with your IT team ensures a minimum of down-time, as well as maximizing performance before, during, and after the move. Selecting a partner with the knowledge of the intricacies encountered during a move can make the difference between a smooth transition and a potential nightmare.
Comprehensive Planning

Proper planning is crucial for companies that are planning to relocate their data centers and servers. Team coordination, both within the company, as well as with the data center movers and server movers who have been chosen to perform the move, is essential for a successful data center relocation, as illustrated by mistakes that plagued the State of Oregon relocation.

Hoping to upgrade and move their data bases into a single facility, the state spent $20 million building a new site, and finished the move of 11 of the projected 12 agencies into their new facility, at a cost of $43 million. Unfortunately, the 55-watt per square foot did not meet the requirements of the Department of the Department of Consumer and Business Services, forcing them to return to the original site. Data security concerns kept the Department of Education from ever moving into the new facility. Other issues were also noted, including the lack of a solid disaster-recovery plan.

Protecting your company from similar issues and meeting the strategic objectives that precipitated the move will make the difference between a smooth successful transition, and one that is not. Proper planning is essential, and is greatly impacted by the team you choose for your data center relocation.

Wiring, space, and cooling capacity are just a few of the issues that must be addressed when addressing hardware issues pertaining to a data center relocation. Although this may seem to be the ideal time to implement upgrades, many experts recommend implementing them slowly, especially when they pertain to software.

Strategic long-term planning should be the first step. Moore’s Law, which he stated in 1965, predicted essentially that computer technology would double every two years. This rule has basically held true, however it is currently projected to double approximately every 12-18 months. This translates into the need to forecast possible upgrades sooner than in the past. Since your company is expecting to move, this is a great time to address the issue, and create a long-range plan.

Data Center and Server Relocation planning and execution relies heavily on the skills of professional server movers and data movers working alongside the IT team to perform a seamless transition with a minimum of downtime.

The Key to Success

The key element to a successful data center relocation project is choosing the correct team coordinator. Most companies do not have someone with this experience on staff, as it is a specialized industry, with unique challenges. Selecting an internal coordinator to work with the data center movers and server movers is also key to a successful relocation project.

The external coordinator you choose must be able to provide an adaptive plan, based on your company’s individual needs and resources. Their role will include creating a timeline and milestones for the move, pre-planning, and identifying risks and impact of the move. Additionally, they will create an execution plan that includes shut-down times, wiring requirements for the new location, cooling requirements, as well as many other often-overlooked crucial items.

Data Center Relocation Planning Documentation

The required documentation should provide a detailed overview of the plan. Items that should be listed include:

  • A comprehensively organized and detailed list, including diagrams of everything currently in use. Hardware, software, wiring, inventory lists, application dependencies, support processes, and interactions should all be thoroughly documented. This provides an opportunity to determine what should be retained and what should be replaced. Although this appears to be the best time to physically replace outdated technology, there are a few reasons not to do so. More on that later.
  • Envision your ideal working environment. Anticipate which processes will make the relocation successful. Documentation at this stage will include details of the move, whether servers will require updates, changes in virtualization, and upgrades.
  • A relocation blueprint should be developed at stage three that will detail the process of advancing from where your company currently stands to where you want to be in the future. Budgeting, prerequisites, detailed shut-down and restart timelines, identification of known risks, creation of a contingency plan, and a statement of impact for the client are a few of the items that should be included in the blueprint.
  • The coordinator should include a detailed implementation plan. At this point, each department will have been interviewed in order to identify and rate the processes used, and their order of importance. It is essential to conduct the relocation with a minimum of negative impact, including down-time. An hourly schedule that outlines what will be shut down and moved during relocation will alleviate inconvenience and concerns that employees may have regarding the move.
  • It may seem obvious, but hiring a team that has a crew of sufficient size to actually physically perform the move is imperative for success. Logistics specialists who have the experience required to to identify, pack, relocate, unpack, and setup the system is a crucial. This team must include skilled technicians who are able to properly reinstall the system.
  • Don’t underestimate the complexity of the move. Your company will most likely need to provide internal specialists to a certain degree, as they know your software and environment. The amount of help you hire can vary depending on individual needs. Discuss this with the vendor when choosing server movers and data center movers.
  • Put together a strong in-house group of trusted staff to work with the professionals. This team should include not only IT, but also management. It is important for everyone to be on board and to fully understand all the aspects and potential impact of the move.

While the above plan may make a data center relocation seem relatively simple and to the point, there are pitfalls that can plague even the best plan. Pinpointing potential problems before they occur can help reduce the problems your team will encounter. While each relocation and situation is individually tailored, it is a good idea to identify pitfalls.

Problems Data Center Movers and Server Movers Want You to Avoid

  1. Although this problem is easily avoided, Poor Planning tops the list. One of the most important functions the team can perform is communication. By talking to the IT department, the relocation team can learn about the inter-dependencies that occur within the company network. This will alleviate accidental shutdowns on moving day, and get everything up and running again in the correct order. Double-checking the hardware lists, and correctly estimating server requirements and hardware is equally important to a successful move.
  2. As shown in the State of Oregon fiasco, wiring and electrical demands are crucial. Obtain a realistic figure of the amount of electricity currently consumed, as well as what the upgrades require. IT may not be the department with these figures. Costs often exceed what is projected in this area. It is essential to have real figures. This is also a time to scrutinize whether the relocation property will be purchased or leased, and who is responsible for future wiring upgrades if they are required.
  3. Identify your current baseline costs and operation prior to the move. In this way, you will have a point of comparison for the future. This can negate many internal problems after a move.
  4. Many specialists believe they encountered fewer problems by upgrading after the move. If everything is in place for a planned upgrade, but the system is delayed until after the relocation, users are able to retain continuity in their work. There are exceptions to this however, including networking gear, and re-IP, as they do not have a great impact on the software and easier to perform during the move.
  5. Choose and experienced professional for the move. Each department is specialized, and while you may assume IT fully understand the system, they may not have all the knowledge required to successful move and reinstall it.

By avoiding these common pitfalls, you are more likely to create a smooth transition. Planning for future expansion should be considered prior to the move.

Cooling Processors

With today’s high speed processors, proper cooling is essential. Whether you are building a new facility or leasing space, project managers need to assess the cooling capacity and compare them to what is required for your equipment. Identify a member of the team to thoroughly research and be responsible for this portion of the move. Cooling costs can be a notable portion of the day-to-day operation expenses, but without adequate cooling, the entire operation can be at risk.

The Nuts and Bolts Required of Server Movers

While there is an irony to physically moving a virtual machine, it is very important too do so correctly. Professional server movers know the importance of the machinery, and that it must be transported with care. Yes, there are people/movers who throw it on a flatbed, break rack legs, or just set it in the building and walk away; so we must be mindful of this.

Once your company has reached this point, in-house IT and the server movers your company has hired are probably on a first name basis. Specify someone from each team to address the following points, to alleviate problems with the move.

  • Cables that lead to nowhere are often left on servers over the years. Well prior to the move, ask IT to identify and remove any unnecessary cables. This will simplify and speed up the process on moving day.
  • Check with the team in charge of efficiency prior to moving, to ensure that all cooling, power, and space issues are aligned with any planned changes.
  • Check dependencies using the configuration design software that was used to setup the system, prior to removing anything.
  • Label, chart, and diagram everything. Each piece of equipment and every cable must be reinserted into the correct slot in order to work after the move. Keep the diagram and list in a safe place.
  • Mirror power requirements when changing cabinets.
  • List the exact location piece of equipment within the cabinet.
  • Mounting rails should be labeled. Hardware can thus be labeled with corresponding rails to ensure exact placement after the move.
  • Use a certified infrastructure handling solution specifically designed for data centers to remove equipment from racks.
  • Only move empty racks and cupboards. This prevents damage to the rack as well as to invaluable server equipment.
  • Clean and repair everything prior to reloading the racks.

Take the time to do it right. Moving full racks and cabinets can be a disaster, leading to excess downtime, and the extra cost cost required to replace damaged equipment. At this stage of the game you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but don’t take shortcuts. This is the event that everyone has been waiting for and you want it to be a success.

The final step for server movers is recommissioning and testing the equipment to ensure it is all operating as smoothly as it was prior to relocation.
Expectation Checklist for Data Center Movers

Although they are technically two different projects, coordinating your data center movers and server movers will help ensure a smooth data center relocation project. Just as with changing software systems, this is not the time to cleanse the data base. We suggest doing so either well before relocation, or after everything is reinstalled, up and running well. The following checklist provides a short overview of issues and expectations that should be addressed by the team.

  1. While the physical relocation of hardware often seems to be the primary focus in a relocation project, the database is the crux of most companies. It is crucial to not overlook the data, and to plan for its move. Whether your company assigns ownership of databases to individual teams, or considers it as a whole, it remains an interconnected system. Application interaction after relocation is a consideration point, as well as identifying what data access may be affected by the move.
  2. While data center and server relocation can go hand-in-hand, this is a major project that will ideally be tackled on its own. Tacking on additional changes, i.e., tiered storage, etc., can add significantly to the cost and increase downtime.
  3. Brainstorm with colleagues, IT, and the data center movers to create contingency plan and worst case scenarios. With proper planning, they should not be a problem, but identifying them and addressing concerns in advance, can make the difference between a successful relocation and a disaster.
  4. Inventory, document, and diagram everything possible. The loss of records, even if they are short-term can have a devastating impact on a company. Negative ramifications resulting from lost databases can wreak havoc on orders, potentially leading to customer loss, and a negative impact on your financial base.

Tips for Successful Data Center and Server Relocation Planning and Execution

There will be down time during the execution of the data center and server relocation. As illustrated above, a well laid out plan is invaluable for a successful transition. The process can seem overwhelming, but with proper planning, it can also run smoothly.

We have identified a few tips that can be beneficial when planning to relocate your server and/or data center.

  • Begin with a standard plan. While all moves must be customized, based on the needs of your company, there are standard best practices that will make relocation easier. Professional data center movers and server movers know these plans and are able to adapt them to your unique circumstances.
  • Contact clients a few weeks prior to relocation with a projected downtime so they are not frustrated when attempting to contact you during the relocation.
  • Plan your move well in advance. Depending on the size of your operation and what is being relocated, the entire project may take a minimum of several months.
  • Don’t overload your current staff. IT may well have their hands full maintaining the current system, and they are often required to be on call to consult with the movers as well. Take time to discuss the importance of their role and to arrange a convenient time for them to work with the movers.
  • Plan around application managers. Development and applications will come to a standstill during the back end move, and they will require adequate advance notice and a timeline.
  • Address issues your company may have experienced during a previous move. Discuss concerns and create a contingency plan if there are fears that the experience may be repeated.
  • Set current baselines as a point of comparison for after the relocation.
  • Plan down to the hour, if not in smaller increments.
  • Discuss who will be responsible for anything that must be replaced and if the movers have parts on hand. These items can be as minor as screws or cables.

Execution of the Plan

Once moving day has arrived, it is time to begin the process of tearing down, transporting, and setting everything back up. Experienced data center movers and server movers will employ a proven methodology to do perform relocation in a timely manner. You should be able to expect:

  1. Technicians who are experienced in every aspect and detail of the move. They should have copies of the timelines and diagrams.
  2. Packing materials and trucks designed to transport without damaging hardware.
  3. Communication as required throughout the move.
  4. The project manager should be on hand to oversee the entire project as well as addressing any concerns.

Designate someone to sign-off once the move has been successfully achieved.

Communication is crucial to data center and server relocation planning and execution. Choose movers who have experience and who you can trust. They will become an integral part of your team before and during the move.