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Data migration: 5 steps to the perfect switch-over


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If you’re thinking of rehoming your data centre infrastructure – either from an in-house facility or from a third party with whom you’re dissatisfied – you shouldn’t let concerns about disruption and downtime put you off doing it. It’s perfectly possible to migrate all your data and equipment from one facility to another with minimal hassle.

I know, because we’ve just done it – and not just with our own infrastructure and systems but with those of our customers.

In our case it was because our Goswell Road data centre in London was reaching the end of its operational life and we were moving everything to our next generation Reading data centre. Our challenge was to migrate nearly 1.5 PB of customers’ data service platforms including disk backup, virtual server hosting, managed physical servers and primary storage (i.e. live data that they use for day-to-day activities) without downtime.

And in just over a month at the beginning of this year, that’s exactly what we did.

Well OK, the project as a whole took more than a month, but over the four-week period all data was copied and synced to Reading across the different services that use shared storage. The overall migration project began in September 2011 when the project leader was assigned and by mid-March 2012, all customers’ data services and equipment had been migrated.

Top tips for successful migration
Here’s how we did it and my top tips for success.

1. Establish an owner of the project
We had a lead project manager but each service was also allocated a lead engineer.

2. Create a detailed plan
We created a plan that covered in precise detail what we were going to do and agreed it with all the stakeholders, including our customers. Our engineers focused on the intricacies of each service, identifying potential pitfalls, and creating different strategies for each service.

3. Migrate in phases
Each service’s individual part of the project was divided into week-long processes to ensure a successful switch-over to Reading and subsequent going live of the service.

4.  Ensure there’s no downtime
This is where the detailed planning really comes into its own. We were able to keep all services up and running because of the carefully planned and executed background synchronisation performed in advance of the final switch-over. This planning also meant that there was minimum customer disruption and very little intervention was required from them.

5.  Review, review, review
Once the project was underway, we didn’t just kick it off and hope it worked. We reviewed it constantly: we moved a quantity of data, checked everything was in order, then moved the next batch, checked again, and so on. After each stage, the plan was reviewed and adjusted in the light of any lessons learned.

So it’s not that migrating your data infrastructure is impossible, it’s just that you have to make sure you  put the right processes or people in place. Or better still, choose an experienced provider who can remove the burden of migration while also offering real value down the line by taking on the costs and hassle of constant upgrading and maintenance.



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