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A Top-10 Guide to Heavy Lifting and Data-center Migration

Data-center Migration


Gerry Gosselin

Gerry Gosselin

“OK, twist to your left. No, your other left! … wait, sorry, you were right the first time. Now I’ll go higher. Stop, stop! Put her down for a moment.” And so it went until the couch finally squeezed through the front door.

This is how my team and I felt maneuvering a 500-pound UPS package off a short pickup truck, onto a loading dock, in the rain. “Next time we’ll check for a height difference — have someone with a big umbrella,” I noted.

Planning a data-center migration is one of the most time-consuming and underappreciated aspects of the job, and as those of us who have performed dozens of these exercises over the years know all too well, the planning can’t just wait until the last minute.

The Packet Pushers podcast ( recently ran a wonderful 90-minute show on data-center migration. Guest Chris Church contributed an outstanding outline to the podcast’s show notes that brought so many of those simple but integral tasks into focus. Here is a collection of his (and our) 10 overlooked items that you might want to add to your data-center-migration checklist.

1. I can do this, right? Don’t let the inspector test the big red button after you’ve gone live in production. If you just built your own datacenter, get your permits and inspections scheduled far ahead of time. Municipal inspectors operate at 56k-modem speed.

2. Put your print on it. If you’re moving into a high-tech, collocated facility, make sure everyone has proper access to the data center. This may be as simple as the correct name on a list, or as advanced as biometrics. Packet Pushers even relayed a story of their moving truck breaking down and the new truck not being allowed up to the data center’s loading dock because it didn’t match the original make and model.

3. Don’t touch that.  Single-phase, 3-phase, 220, 110. The right time to learn what that means is before you hear a pop (ask me how I know). Make sure you humbly chat with facilities folks about power.

4. More inter-tubes. If you can, order new circuits for your new data center and pay the extra cost (rather than cutting over from your old data center to the new during the move). This gives you an opportunity to test and configure well in advance. As a veteran in the ISP space, trust me when I say that you do not want to get in touch with your ISP’s provisioning department at 3 a.m. Saturday morning.

5. We’re live in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Remember to adjust your external DNS TTLs a week in advance. The lower you can set your TTLs, the faster the world will find your new data center. You simply can’t do this on a moment’s notice.

6. Fifteen minutes could save you 1,500%. If you are moving gear yourself, ask your company if it has adequate insurance. Are you legally able to move gear yourself? Some equipment leases can be moved only by the vendor.

7. Anyone have a camera? Simple snapshots of the monitoring systems before the move assure that, afterward, all the proper services are back in the same state they were before you started. Your team doesn’t need to be troubleshooting an application that was broken eight months before the migration even took place.

8. Where’s the boss? Stakeholders should be available after the migration to test all of their systems and give the thumbs up before your team leaves the site.

9. Snacks, sleeping bags, and essentials. This will be a long, tiring night or weekend. Everyone will perform best when they’re well-fed, have a place to grab a quick power nap, and thoroughly know their tasks, how to validate when their task is complete, and who to check in with along the way.

10. Go team! Data-center migration is a team sport. It’s best to ensure some non-technical folks are on your team who can objectively deal with timelines, coordination, and communication with the executives who may be waiting at home for an update. Your team should also include folks outside of your organization (vendors, consultants, or VARs). You may do this type of migration only once every decade, but your consultant does it several times a year. Pick up the phone.

With every data-center migration, there will be a couch-twisting-in-the-doorway moment. Time spent working on a great plan can facilitate a smooth migration and keep your door jambs intact.

Gerry Gosselin is director of Technical Operations for VertitechIT, a rapidly growing healthcare and business IT consultancy. He is a nationally known expert in systems programming, automated network monitoring and management, as well as network engineering and administration; (413) 268-1621; [email protected]

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