Data Center Migration Basics: Benefits, Types, Strategies, And Best Practices


Is your organization's data center currently unreliable or outdated? Does your company's data need to grow beyond what its current data center can handle? 

Are your data center's infrastructure and hardware misbehaving or fast approaching the end of their life cycle? If your answer to any of these is yes, then your organization certainly needs to consider data center migration.

Data center migration is currently helping many organizations in several ways. For instance, the move helps IT leaders to increase their return on investment and lower their operating expenses. 

Besides, data center migration also helps to minimize disruption, strengthen security, and improve resource capacity. 

In the rest of this data center-related post, you'll learn:

  • Warning signs it's time to consider data center migration for your organization
  • Benefits of migrating your current data center.
  • Different types of data center migration and how to choose the right one
  • Effective strategies worth considering for data center migration
  • Best practices for migrating your data center today.

How to know it's the right time for data center migration?

The most important factor that drives the need to consider data center upgrades today is the demand for more data. 

As more data is consumed in the organization, the need to expand the storage capacity arises. 

That said, below are a few other warning signs that show it's time to upgrade or migrate your company's data center:

1. Aging infrastructure

Aging infrastructure is certainly a clear warning sign it's time to upgrade the data center. It's pretty simple; as your organization's data center infrastructure components get close to the end of their lifecycle, they tend to become less performing and unreliable. 

Sadly, inefficient components can cause several issues, including downtime and high maintenance fees.

The average lifespan of data centers is between 15 to 20 years. However, elements within such as servers and computer systems may require upgrade sooner.

Even if your data center infrastructure components aren't yet aging, we advise that you still have a suitable migration strategy in place to avoid unforeseen issues.

2. Frequent performance issues

Have you recently been experiencing frequent performance issues with your company's data center? If yes, this could also be a warning sign you need to consider data center migration. 

This is especially true if these performance problems greatly affect business operations, productivity, or customer satisfaction.

As you already know, new (modern) data centers often pack the latest technologies and infrastructure components. These offerings alone are enough to help reduce latency and improve your company's overall productivity. 

A new data center will also eliminate the need for constant maintenance costs.

3. Capacity barriers

When we say capacity barriers, we mean your company's data center is currently short of enough storage space or cooling capacity to support your fast-growing infrastructure. 

With data center migration, you can always enjoy smooth operation and enough capacity to accommodate future growth.

4. High operating costs

Do you feel your company's current data center operating cost is too high? If yes, then this is a valid reason to consider data center migration. 

Undoubtedly, migrating to a new data center is always very expensive upfront. However, the availability of the latest technologies and infrastructure components will attract low energy and maintenance costs in the long run — this will certainly help you to reduce the overall operating costs.

5. Compliance

Certain regulations may require your organization to host its data on certain compliant systems. If you're currently experiencing this issue, data center migration could be the solution.

For instance, if you run a financial-related organization in the US, the UK, or any European country today, you need a data center that is compliant with the latest Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS 4.0)

Furthermore, HIPAA/HITECH is a standard that's specifically designed to help protect personal health data. If you run a health-related organization, you need a data center that's compliant with this standard.

If you are in the financial industry, please spare some time and go through this guide to better understand PCI DSS

How does data center migration benefit your organization?

Irrespective of the size of your organization, data center migration requires a lot of planning, investment, and effort. If properly planned, you'll certainly enjoy the following benefits, which outweigh the effort and money you put into the migration process.

  • Data center migration can always result in reduced operation costs. Unarguably, migrating to a new data center is very expensive upfront. However, as soon as you migrate successfully using the best practices we are about to discuss, you'll be able to avoid costly data redundancies and wasteful operations.
  • Data sprawl is bound to happen if your company's demand for data increases more than the data center capacity. This issue will likely lead to loss of vital data, which can be very costly. By considering data center migration, you can easily address data sprawl. Migration of data centers often brings about consolidation of data management systems, which not only increases efficiency but also lowers the cost of maintaining multiple storage systems due to data sprawl.

Types of data center migration & how to choose the right one

One key factor worth considering is the type of data center migration. Why is this important?  

Well, knowing the different types is key to understanding how to communicate with your stakeholders and clients regarding the risks, costs, and strategies associated with each type.

That said, below are the four main types of data center migration you need to know about:

1. Relocation

As the name suggests, this data center migration type involves moving the entire infrastructure from one location to another. 

In this case, your organization only needs to focus on two major data centers; the current one and the new target center.

For instance, if you currently own a physical data center, you have a couple of options to choose from if you choose this method. 

  • You can decide to go from the physical-to-physical (P2P) approach, which involves replacing the old infrastructure components with the latest models.
  • Alternatively, you can decide to go for the physical-to-virtual (P2V) approach, which involves replacing the physical hardware with virtual systems.
  • There's also the physical-to-cloud approach, which involves migrating to a suitable cloud solution, such as SaaS or PaaS.

If you currently own a virtual instance, you have two options:

  • First, you can always settle for the virtual-to-virtual (V2V) approach. This approach involves moving the organization's operating system and data from one virtual machine to a new one.
  • Alternatively, you can decide to move the virtual instance to the cloud (V2C).

2. Consolidation

As earlier mentioned, a sudden increase in the company's demand for more data when the data center capacity is limited can always lead to data sprawl.

Data sprawl means the company will have to rely on multiple smaller storage facilities to manage the workload. If this is the citation the organization is currently facing, consolidation is certainly the right data center migration type for you. 

With this approach, you get to reduce reliance on multiple data centers or systems. It simply reduces physical footprint and assists in achieving a higher level of data center capacity. 

3. Cloud migration

Opting for cloud data center migration, means you'll be moving the physical or virtual data center into a reliable cloud-based environment. 

This can also mean letting go of the current private or public cloud data center provider for a new one — a good example is choosing Azure while abandoning AWS.

Please check out this article that discusses the closely related topic of cloud migration solutions

4. Hybrid migration

As the name suggests, hybrid data center migration involves the combination of on-premise data center with cloud-based infrastructure. It doesn't end there, this type of combination also gives room for the company's data to be shared between both infrastructure.

If you will be migrating to the cloud, one of the benefits you will enjoy is cost efficiency. But this is possible when you are able to deploy the best practices for cloud cost management. Take time to go through the practices.

Data center migration strategies

To get the most out of this migration process, the right strategy must be employed.

The right data center migration strategy can help you prevent challenges such as missed deadlines, lower migration risks, and bloated budgets. 

That said, below are a few top migration strategies worth considering today:

1. Lift-and-shift / Rehost

As the name suggests, lift-and-shift is a data center migration strategy that involves «lifting» your infrastructure and «shifting» it to a new location. 

A good example is migrating the data center infrastructure to a cloud-based environment from on-premise. Many migration experts go for this strategy because it's very easy and fast to use in migrating data centers. 

Another reason this strategy is popular is because it helps to reduce the rate of migration planning, which can take up to a year on average for other migration strategies.

Many experts refer to the lift-and-shift data center migration strategy as re-hosting. While that's true, one difference between these approaches is that the latter involves slight adjustments for compatibility. 

2. Refactor

By refactoring, a developer is simply modifying an application's existing codebase to improve its performance. 

Refactoring is the perfect strategy if you only want to optimize the existing infrastructure before moving to a cloud-based environment.

3. Rebuild

Rebuild is another effective data center migration methodology that your organization can consider today. 

This strategy involves moving your data center infrastructure to the cloud by rebuilding the entire system from the scratch. During the rebuild, the latest cloud-native technologies are incorporated.

4. Replace

This strategy is recommended in a situation where your company has aging infrastructure that impacts productivity.

Here, you simply abandon older systems and replace them with modern infrastructure.

You may have noticed that there could as well be a very thin line between some strategies and methods. But there is a slight difference when you read between the lines. For example, the shift-and-lift-strategy may sound very close to the relocation type. But what we need to notice is that when relocating, you can decide to use any of the strategies. You could relocate your data center at the same time, replace the old infrastructure with a completely new one, or relocate then refactor. 

In other words is more of the methodology you will use to accomplish whichever type of migration that you choose. 

Data center migration best practices

In addition to a suitable methodology, you also need to follow the best practices for migrating data centers. 

With the best practices, which you can find below, you'll be able to lower migration complexity, reduce downtime, and get the most out of your migration strategy.

Here are the best practices:

1. How well do you understand the current environment?

The first important step to consider before migrating the data center is understanding the current environment. 

To do this, we advise that you consider taking a detailed inventory of the data center infrastructure, hardware components, software components, stored data, users, and workload.

The current data center is not the only environment that you need to understand. You also need to be well conversant with the new environment you're looking to migrate to

2. What exactly are you looking to achieve?

Clearly defining the goals and scope of the data center migration process is very important if you want to achieve the best results. 

Define and clearly communicate your goals and objectives from the beginning. This is the only way to ensure that everyone involved in this migration exercise can understand exactly what to focus their efforts on.

3. Never forget to conduct risk assessments 

Risk assessment is a critical undertaking in data center migration exercises. Any  potential issues that can render the migration useless need to be prioritized and addressed upfront.

For instance, you need to check and identify the effect of downtime on business operations. 

Risk assessment will also help you understand the potential security risks associated with the chosen migration strategy or type. It'll also help you understand whether or not your organization needs to remain in compliance with any standards while migrating the data center.

You need a smart migration plan!

A poor data center migration plan can lead to thorny issues, including not meeting deadlines, high risk of migration failure, and budget overlaps. 

You certainly don't want to encounter these issues. To avoid them, you need to take time and plan the migration process in detail. 

Any experienced migration expert will tell you that a data center migration planning is considered the foundation of this entire process. Because of the significance of planning, we have put together an insightful guide covering this subject. Please take time to go through the ultimate data center migration plan guide.

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