You’ve finally decided that having your on-site server room isn’t a good use of resources. Aside from the expensive A/C bill and the need for on-site technicians, you’ve always been worried that maybe building security isn’t as robust as it should be. And with the tornados that seem all too common in the area, you’ll feel better moving your data, disaster recovery, and application servers to a colocation facility that can offer better stability for your IT assets. You’ve researched different options and met with different providers and finally settled on a colocation facility that offers round-the-clock monitoring and management, excellent security, and on-premise engineers to help in mission-critical issues. You can gain physical access whenever you like, even on holidays. Yes, it’s time to make the switch. The contracts are signed. You even gained approval for new hardware to install at the colocation facility to take your organization’s IT backbone into the future.
But have you bothered to stop and consider how you’re going to get your data and applications from the current environment to the new colocation environment without interrupting your business? The most common refrain is “we’ll do it over a weekend,” as if the time between Friday at 5pm and Monday morning at 8am is assured to be sufficient. From moving applications to re-imaging servers to making sure licensing is compliant, transitioning an entire IT environment from one location to another is not for the faint of heart. Even under the best conditions, there are bound to be challenges and issues that creep up from nowhere. Here are six suggestions for relocating your software, data, and applications to a colocation facility:
- Plan down to the letter. Before the first byte of data is copied over and before the first server is stood up, outline a plan for the entire transition. Simply writing out what needs to happen is useful but won’t help ensure a smooth transition. The goal of the plan is to allow everyone involved to clearly see the planned order of events for the transition. Have you calculated how much time is needed to transfer all of your data using available bandwidth? Whose responsibility is it to make sure all licenses are current and only installed on one machine at a time as required by the licensing agreement? Having an ordered list of what happens first, then what happens next, and so on and so forth, along with assignments of who is responsible for each task until the transition is complete, will provide clarity (and comfort) to those involved.
- Practice makes perfect. While not every part of the transition can be replicated, afford your team a chance to practice as much of the transition as possible. Every aspect and action in your transition from in-house to colo facility needs to include an engineer, administrator, or technician who has performed the task at hand before. Even if their practice has happened far away from a production environment, you must make sure that at no point do you hear someone say, “We’ve never done this before…” Planning and practice make perfect. If the needed transition is complex, then don’t be shy about including third-party resources to help make sure things go smoothly. For example, the licensing and database requirements for Microsoft CRM can seem complex to non-CRM experts. Rather then confuse and frustrate your IT team as they try to solve a problem outside of their expertise, find a quality partner to help you out. Both you and your team will be glad you did.
- Pick a leader. Regardless of the simplicity or complexity of the transition from in-house to colocation, there needs to be a single point-person responsible for the transition. It is imperative that there be a single point of contact for all resources and workers to know exactly where the transition is and what is happening next. If you do not have a person on your team already that is capable of managing such an undertaking then it is worth the cost to find an outside consultant with whom to contract. It can not be stressed enough: transitioning to a colocation facility isn’t necessarily hard but it can be quite complicated with disparate pieces and systems that must work together. Make sure you have someone working to control that complexity.
- Back it up. Having numerous data backups, restore points, and archived images is the safety net you need during a software and data transition. Even though your planning and practice mean you should be prepared and ready when it’s time to start the live transition, don’t be so bold and daring as to ignore common sense. Having archives of EVERY byte of data before you begin any transition is imperative. Inevitable complications will arise. Being able to roll back to a prior version or reinstall your data is far preferable to giving yourself a single chance to succeed.
- Run in tandem as long as possible. Making the official “switch” to running all applications and serving all data from the colocation facility can be a tense moment. I suggest keeping your original environment functional for as long as possible. At some point you will want to break away completely to your new colo environment, and as well you should. Just don’t be in such a hurry that you don’t give yourself and your team ample time to work out all bugs and make sure everything is working as it should in the new environment.
- All Hands on Deck. Even the most junior engineer on your team might have something useful to offer if you are making a large scale transition of services from one physical location to another. Whether you are moving a single server to the Colo facility or transitioning an entire data-center over the course of a few weeks, make sure the entire team knows what is happening and that they may be called on to help out at a moment’s notice.
With regard to hardware, moving to a colocation facility is an entirely different challenge that we will cover in depth in the near future. In the meantime, understand that an entirely different skill-set and level of expertise is required to transfer data and software applications without suffering any losses or business downtime. While each transition to a colocation facility is unique, some truths apply in all cases. Create a plan with as much detail as possible. Have a single person responsible for managing the project. Engage third-party experts if need be. Make backups and stay on your old system as long as possible to make sure any issues on the new platform are addressed. Moving to a colocation facility can pay huge dividends for your organization – from cost savings to security, from reliability to accessibility, off-site network assets can be a big advantage. Follow the tips above to make the transition as seamless and successful as possible. Click here to learn more about Mosaic NetworX colocation services!