Article

Avoid data centre relocation failure: Top five pitfalls

Mark Teter, Contributor
Every data centre relocation is different, yet most seem to trip over at least one common pitfall. The mistakes can be trivial or substantial, but the results are the same: delays, increased cost and increased disruption to the business. However, companies can avoid and even predict most problems.

For example, in a recent data centre move, an Internet commerce organisation found incorrect electrical outlets installed at the new location. The company should have specified the proper electrical outlets early in the design. This critical issue stopped the weekend move until the company could find electricians (at time-and-a-half) to change the outlets.

In another case, a company improperly labeled fiber optic cables -- a sloppy execution that ultimately led to incorrect wiring of the relocated devices. It also hindered subsequent problem troubleshooting.

In yet another case, an inexperienced lift operator dropped a device. This mistake led to a mad scramble to identify and replace the damaged components.

As these examples suggest, it's no wonder that many data centre relocations fail. Eventually companies do move data centres, but the relocations may cost more and disrupt the business for longer than planned.

To minimize relocation problems, organisations should make an effort to avoid five common mistakes that can hinder data centre relocations.

  1. Failure to inventory equipment completely: Companies don't know what they're starting from or what they're

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  1. moving.
  2. Lack of a relocation design: Organisations assume the space is right and everything will fit into place.
  3. Failure to develop a complete data center migration plan: Organisations do not create detailed plans, designate responsibility or assign tasks.
  4. Failure to identify key risks and initiate an appropriate risk management plan: Organisations should assume things will go wrong and create contingency plans.
  5. Poor execution of the relocation plan: People simply don't execute properly, often because they're relying on inexperienced advisors and movers.

Data centre relocations fail for many reasons, but most are avoidable. One thing is always certain: Data centre relocations pose a serious threat of data loss or disruption to operations that can jeopardise crucial business functions and relationships.

The solution is straightforward: Follow a relocation methodology that anticipates the five pitfalls noted above and initiate best practices to avoid them. Only then can managers guarantee successful data centre relocations.

  • Know where you're starting from. Begin preparations with a comprehensive review and survey of the current data centre environment. This assessment should identify and document the organisation's technical and business requirements and priorities. Ultimately, you want to determine the key services the data centre provides, establish business priorities and identify any planning and budgeting constraints for the data centre relocation.
  • Design the move strategy. Prioritize business services, establish acceptable downtime parameters, and determine the hardware, application, and technology requirements for a non-disruptive move. During this stage the organisation also should assess potential risks and prepare contingency plans to mitigate possible problems. Advanced Systems Group, a relocation service provider, prefers to identify at least three migration options, just in case. Additionally, the relocation team should alert the power and telecom utilities of the pending move and bring them into the planning process.
  • Plan the data centre migration. Translate the relocation design into an action plan. This includes a complete in-depth risk analysis, detailed floor layouts and rack diagrams. It also specifies the exact tasks to complete and assigns responsibility for each. Finally, you should chart a matrix of the migration priorities and map interdependencies between business-critical applications and assets. Also, incorporate the input from the telecom and power providers, the various technology vendors, and outside specialists, such as equipment movers, electricians, and HVAC.
  • Perform risk mitigation. Pull together all previously identified risks and then assess, classify, and prioritize them for the purposes of mitigation. You may deem some risks minor or not worth the cost of mitigation. Other risks will require a full mitigation program with contingency planning. Some risks may even raise insurance considerations.
  • Execute the relocation plan. People need to take charge of the tasks they have been assigned. Technical experts and professional systems movers should be brought in. Coordinate the efforts of the IT team, vendors, outside experts and utilities.

Few organisations willingly undertake data centre relocation entirely on their own. For one thing, they have to keep the existing data centre operating as usual -- which usually requires full-staff attention -- until the day of the move. Technical experts, consultants and service providers can help with various aspects of the relocation process.

Relocating a data centre is too important to the success of businesses to leave to chance. If companies follow the five steps outlined above, they can avoid the common pitfalls of failed data center relocations.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mark Teter is Chief Technology Officer of Advanced Systems Group (ASG), a data centre design consulting firm and VAR.