However, data center moves can be fraught with career-ending failures. No IT professional wants to be on the receiving end of memos and discussions describing lost orders, missed deadlines or customer dissatisfaction that occurred because some mission-critical business process was disrupted by a data center move that didnt run smoothly.
In most relocation projects, there are four critical mistakes to avoid:
Ignoring the data - While IT professions give plenty of thought to the infrastructure involved in a data center relocation, moving the data itself can be just as taxing. Sometimes even more so. It is easy to lose sight of the data as many firms have adopted the model that business group leaders own their data, Marketing owns the prospect data base, Operations owns inventory data, and so on. Yet the reality is that the data and its underlying infrastructure must be considered as part of an interconnected holistic system -- not elements that can be taken apart and easily reassembled at will.
The smart IT pro will reach out to business owners before the move to identify information that may be affected and reach agreement on such items as data access, compatibility with new systems, application migration and others. Cleansing data prior to the move may be worthwhile, but definitely not during the move.
Killing two birds with one stone - With all the planning that goes into moving a data center, many IT professionals attempt to combine other projects -- often guided by the CFOs visions of cost savings.
This is probably the biggest mistake a firm can make.
One of our clients recently attempted to combine multiple projects into a garden-variety data center move and wound up making the project so complex that the timelines slipped out past all available slack in the plan. The firm was subject to significant financial penalties by failing to vacate the old facility on time.
Moving a data center is a major project in and of itself. It is not the time to take on virtualization of the computing environment, or incorporation of a new tiered storage philosophy. Move your data center first. If your operations or finance teams insist on trying to combine projects, work with your vendor or reseller on a quote for sequential projects; the fees should not be significantly more. Finally, calculate potential costs associated with the increased complexity of combined projects. Paying an extra months rent or failure-to-vacate penalties may wipe out any projected savings from the combined projects.
Incomplete planning - Some IT pro dont take the time or effort to prepare a comprehensive plan or complete documentation of their existing data center environments. They either go from memory about which applications run on which servers, or make incorrect assumptions on equipment that may or may not be in use. Relying on memory practically guarantees that a key server or application wont get moved correctly.
Smart project managers take a comprehensive approach to planning; not only working a baseline best case plan to accomplish the project goals, but putting significant upfront time into risk management planning. Most failures are due to a lack of foresight -- nobody thought the disaster that just hit your datacenter move could happen; therefore, you didnt plan for it.
Spend the time and meet with business owners across the organization and your IT team. Identify some of the worst-case scenarios that could occur in your data center move. When you think youve identified them all, brainstorm some more. Assess the likelihood of each scenario and the potential business impact and make contingency plans. Disasters may not happen, but youll be in a far better place if they do.
Forgetting to create a complete inventory - It goes without saying that any IT professionals worth their credentials will have developed strong project plans, with plenty of slack time. However, dont forget to develop a comprehensive inventory of every server, application, networking connection, storage array and everything else in your data center before you start to move.
Work with business leaders across the enterprise to make sure you include everything. And be certain to have a well-documented list of everything in the current data center before planning for a new one.
Being lax or unprepared in moving data could have devastating results. While company expectations are high for improved performance from a new infrastructure environment, data quality may suffer if it is quickly moved as an afterthought. At best, critical data may be temporarily unavailable. At worst, records could be permanently lost. For companies that increasingly rely on data, the ramifications range from abandoned ecommerce shopping carts and immediate loss of sales to long-term damage to customer relationships and company reputations.
Develop plans to relocate data with as much care as you put into hardware and building projects. And make sure you work with data owners across the enterprise. By following these recommendations, youll wish you could move more often.
Irwin Teodoro is director of Systems Integration for Laurus Technologies, a leading Midwest IT consulting and systems integration firm. He is responsible for assessment services, integration of multi-vendor solutions, and coordination of professional service projects. Teodoro can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.