Five Essential Keys to Success When Relocating a Data Center

Bruce Cardos is a principal consultant at Datalink, a publicly-held data center IT solutions and services provider. Bruce is a PMI-certified project management professional who specializes in data center relocations. Bruce has planned and managed nearly 100 data center openings, closing, consolidations, and relocations. His experience also includes managing several data centers, as well as positions in data center network design and implementation.


A data center relocation (DCR) is not just about moving servers and plugging them in at their new locale.

In reality, DCR can be one of a company’s most complex and challenging endeavors. With mission critical information and high-stakes money on the line, the failure of any key steps in the process can have potentially devastating repercussions. Valuable data can be lost. Expensive IT equipment can be damaged. Critical systems may remain offline for hours, days or even weeks as problems are resolved. Such issues can end up costing a company thousands–or even millions–of dollars in lost productivity and lost revenue.

To ensure your company’s future data center relocation is successful, we offer five essential keys–all steps which occur before the first server is ever uninstalled and moved to the new location.

Key #1: Recognize DCR Needs Special Management Skills

Assigning a knowledgeable, experienced project manager (PM) is key to any successful data center relocation. While many companies have competent, professional project managers on staff, a data center relocation presents a different challenge. This requires a project manager with prior DCR experience. DCR project management involves identifying and pre-planning unique DCR issues that will impact creation of timelines. It involves managing associated people, budgets, and DCR risks. It also requires defining and executing the DCR’s critical macro and micro milestones while overseeing the production of key DCR planning documents.

If you don’t have a knowledgeable and experienced PM on staff with deep expertise in data center moves, try finding a DCR partner with this skill set. Even if you appoint an internal PM (which we also highly recommend), you will want an experienced DCR professional to lead the project and transfer knowledge to your team.

Key #2: Equate Good Planning with Good Documentation

Complete and detailed planning is as important as the need for good quality DCR documentation. This documentation emphasis may surprise technical teams who’ve grown accustomed to having critical details ‘in their heads’. When it comes to DCR, however, this informal practice creates a guaranteed, single point of failure. While there is no cookie-cutter approach to data center relocation, certain documents are necessary for every successful data center move.

The Big Four: Your DCR’s ‘Must-Have’ Docs

At a minimum, DCR project information should appear in four main documents:

  • Where You Are Now: The Present Method of Operation (PMO). The PMO comprehensively documents what will be moved. It should include diagrams and detailed lists describing everything in the existing environment–from all hardware and software components to storage requirements, any logical or physical interactions, application dependencies, network connections, inventory lists and any support processes currently in use.
  • Where You Hope to Be: The Desired Future State (DFS). The DFS details the desired successful outcome of the relocation. This includes defining project attributes, success conditions, and details associated with the new placement of all moving components. As part of the DFS’ expected end state, you should include enough detail to resume various service management processes, such as change management, incident management and configuration management. The DFS should also define any anticipated updates or IT changes (i.e., virtualization, enhanced storage, technology uplift for some or all servers, network upgrades, etc.).
  • Your Roadmap to Get There: The Design Plan. The completion of the first two documents defines the end of the ‘Requirements Process’. After this process is approved, the Design Plan begins. This is the ‘roadmap’ for getting from the PMO to the DFS. It should convey a good understanding of overall processes needed to complete the relocation while defining any incremental budgets needed to acquire necessary components. Included in the design plan: Details on the various move groups, any new hardware and/or software needs, pre-requisite steps, known risks and their contingencies, a high level timeline, communication plan and the impact of client processes on the design.
  • Who Will Do What, When and Where: The Implementation Plan. The Implementation Plan is derived from the Design Plan. This includes all steps, dates, and responsible parties for the tasks to be accomplished in their proper order and with all the appropriate interactions and linkages defined. Included here is a Day of Move Plan which documents the hour-by- hour details for the move event(s) to be completed during the data center relocation. An updated project schedule is also included.

Continue for the next keys!

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