The Essential Steps for Planning and Executing a Data Center Migration

Whether you're just moving a select set of assets or undertaking a wholesale relocation of your IT estate, you'll find tips below to keep the process efficient and affordable.

Christopher Tozzi, Technology Analyst

April 1, 2024

4 Min Read
man checking a data center server on his tablet

No data center lives forever – which is why, sooner or later, most businesses find themselves having to undertake a data center migration.

With that reality in mind, here's a guide to planning and executing a data center migration. Whether you're just moving a select set of assets from one facility to another or undertaking a wholesale relocation of your entire IT estate between data centers, you'll find tips below to keep the process efficient, predictable and affordable.

What is a Data Center Migration?

A data center migration is the transfer of IT assets hosted in one data center to a different facility.

Data center migrations come in many forms. They can be as simple as relocating a few servers from one data center to another. Or, they can entail a complete migration of all servers and other IT equipment to a new data center.

The types of facilities at stake when performing data center migration can also vary. In some cases, a business might move assets from one private data center to another. But a migration could also entail moving from a private data center into the public cloud.

Steps for Planning a Data Center Migration

Regardless of the nature of a given data center migration, you'll want to perform the following key steps during the planning stage.

Related:5 Considerations for Migrating Data to the Cloud

1. Identify Migration Goals

Start by determining what your goals for data center migration are. In other words, define the why of your migration.

For example, are you moving between facilities because your current data center lacks access to renewable energy? Are you trying to lower operating costs? Do you want to move to a facility with better physical security?

Figuring out upfront what you're trying to achieve is critical for making strategic decisions later on that will allow you to attain your goals.

2. Identify Assets to Migrate

Another key early step is determining exactly which servers, data infrastructure, networking equipment and other IT assets you will migrate. This is easy if you're relocating an entire data center, in which case you know that every item inside the facility needs to move. But it can be more complex in situations where you are planning a partial migration.

3. Assess Optimization Opportunities

Once you know what you'll move and why you're moving it, evaluate whether you can optimize any of your assets during the migration process.

For example, can you consolidate some servers to reduce your infrastructure footprint? Is there any unused data that you can discard to lower storage costs?

A data center migration is a great time to undertake initiatives like these.

Related:Streamlining Data Center Relocation: A Checklist for Success

4. Determine a Migration Path

After determining which, if any, changes you'll make to your infrastructure as part of the migration, you're in a position to figure out how you'll actually migrate.

If you're dealing only with physical infrastructure, migration is typically as straightforward as packing up servers in one data center, moving them to a new one and setting them up there. But if you have virtual infrastructure in the mix, or if you use solutions like colocated IaaS, you may also need to think about migrating virtual assets between platforms, as well as ensuring that your configurations post-migration support your workloads' needs.

5. Evaluate Downtime Implications

Once you know how you'll migrate, the last major step in the data center migration planning process is to determine how much downtime to expect.

Predicting downtime can be tricky because you may not know exactly how long it will take to move and reconfigure assets. But do your best to set reasonable expectations. Performing some test migrations (by, for example, moving a non-essential server from one data center to another) can be a helpful way to get more informed insight into how long migration should take.

Managing a Data Center Migration

After you've fully fleshed out a data center migration plan, the next step is to execute it.

At this point, you'll want to be sure to cover the following bases:

1. Make sure all stakeholders (including customers impacted by downtime) are aware of the migration and know what it means for them.

2. Have a process in place for tracking the progress of your migration.

3. Be ready to adjust migration plans if you run into unexpected difficulties, like servers that take longer than expected to reconfigure in the new data center.

4. Before considering your migration complete, run tests to verify that all infrastructure and workloads that you migrated are performing as expected.


Data center migration is an inherently complex process. But by planning ahead, as well as managing migration operations systematically, you can reduce the risk that your migration will go sideways, cost more than you expected or fail to deliver the goals that motivated the migration in the first place.

About the Author(s)

Christopher Tozzi

Technology Analyst, Fixate.IO

Christopher Tozzi is a technology analyst with subject matter expertise in cloud computing, application development, open source software, virtualization, containers and more. He also lectures at a major university in the Albany, New York, area. His book, “For Fun and Profit: A History of the Free and Open Source Software Revolution,” was published by MIT Press.

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