From Legacy to Leading Edge: A Guide to Data Center Migration

As businesses and organizations scale, they eventually outgrow their existing data infrastructure. Growth is a good thing. It means that a company has deployed the right data infrastructure to expand. Whether it's because they're looking to extend their connectivity options, launch new applications, strengthen security systems, and so forth – a trigger for data center migration will eventually occur.

Here's the hard truth:

  • Your aging data center infrastructure isn't efficient
  • Legacy data center systems don't have the power necessary for big data processing or storage
  • Customer relations struggle due to a lack of productivity and agility

What is Data Center Migration?

What is Data Center Migration?

Data center migration is the strategic relocation of existing data center resources, including hardware, software, applications, and data – from one location to another. This includes physically moving equipment, virtualization, and even migrating to cloud-based systems.


So, eventually you'll need to think about migrating your data center. 

Don't get us wrong, this is no easy task and involves a significant amount of systematic planning, logistics, moving, and most importantly – expertise.

A successful data center migration requires a few key elements:

  • A new facility or infrastructure that meets (preferably exceeds) the expected load
  • Compatibility with current (and future) applications and solutions
  • Comprehensive migration testing to ensure successful relocation and business continuity

Of course, these are not the only indicators of a successful migration. We'll cover these in Data Center Migration Steps.

What is Data Center Migration

9 Motivators for Data Center Migration

1. Cost

In evaluating the practicality of establishing or maintaining an internal data center, a comprehensive cost analysis is imperative. Private facilities may appeal to organizations prioritizing proximity, specific security needs, or in-house technology management. However, the financial implications warrant careful consideration.

Key Considerations for Internal Data Centers:

  • Heating
  • Cooling
  • Power
  • Equipment
  • Physical security technology
  • Building permits
  • Taxes
  • Construction
  • Staffing

Financial Realities: Running an internal data center involves substantial costs, encompassing the aforementioned factors. For many businesses, this proves economically impractical.

A Strategic Alternative: Opting for colocation, cloud, or hybrid environments offers a viable solution by significantly mitigating financial burdens. Monthly colocation payments reduce capital expenses while simplifying future expansion issues and eliminating the economic pressures of building or managing an in-house data center.

2. Security

Physical Security Dynamics: Security poses a significant challenge for internal data centers, encompassing both physical and logical realms. The physical security aspect demands a nuanced strategy, often intertwining with compliance standards dictated by industry, customer base, and data components.

Let's start with the physical. Numerous tactics contribute to a robust physical security strategy, aligning with compliance requirements:

  • Surveillance cameras
  • Biometric scanning
  • Multi-factor authentication
  • Entry and exit monitoring
  • Thick concrete walls

Logical Security Challenges: Logical security, spanning various practice areas from network to information security, presents its own set of challenges. Technical debt, an often underestimated risk in on-premises data centers, arises from vulnerabilities in older systems and legacy applications, posing potential threats to data integrity.

Mitigating Risks with Reliable Partners: Collaborating with a trusted partner, whether for colocation space, cloud services, or a hybrid approach, proves instrumental in risk reduction. However, the level of responsibility assumed by data center vendors varies. It is crucial to conduct a thorough evaluation to understand the included or purchasable physical and logical controls.

Ownership of Data Security: Despite a provider's security offerings, it's imperative to recognize that the business retains 100% responsibility for its data at all times—a common misconception among data center customers. Evaluating external support requires a meticulous assessment by security personnel to ascertain the extent of controls available or offered as a service.

3. Expertise & Technical Skills

Managing a data center environment is no simple feat. With intersecting IT practice areas, expensive engineering talent, and complex data ecosystems – it's no wonder 54% of data center respondents reported staffing and organization as their top concern. 

Data center migrations to a dedicated provider mitigate these issues, as they house technical experts, diverse ranges of IT professionals, and data center specialists. Additionally, you'll no longer have to spend time and resources sourcing specialized engineers and facility staff for monitoring data storage. Data Center as a Service, or DCaaS, offers these advantages. Check out this article on DCaaS to learn more

4. Compliance

Throughout the data center migration planning phase, compliance should be top-of-mind. The list of standards, guidelines, and regulatory bodies is exhaustive – not to mention critical. 

Typically, healthcare organizations, financial institutions, and tech companies face the most rigorous compliance standards. Let's explore which compliance standards these industries will face. 

SSAE 18 (Statement on Standards for Attestation Engagements)

SSAE 18, governing internal controls over financial reporting, ensures transparency in business and compliance interactions. Particularly vital for service organizations, it is typically reviewed as part of a SOC 1 report.

SOC Reports

Service Organization Control (SOC) is a prevalent measure of data center security controls. There are two forms of SOC audits, Type I refers to the effectiveness of security controls at a specific point in time. Type II audits will evaluate the effectiveness of security controls over a set period of time (typically 6-12 months). 

  • SOC 1: This assessment evaluates the effectiveness of a service organization's internal controls concerning financial reporting, aiming to safeguard client data.
  • SOC 2: Conducted through an audit, SOC 2 scrutinizes internal controls pertaining to security, covering aspects such as data availability, confidentiality, privacy, and processing integrity.
  • SOC 3: Resembling SOC 2, SOC 3 verifies the adequacy of internal security controls. However, it differs by providing a report that doesn't disclose specific details about the organization's systems. Unlike SOC 1 and SOC 2, SOC 3 reports are public-facing, serving as a means for potential customers to gauge compliance without divulging mission-critical or proprietary information. Notably, SOC 3 reports do not have designated Type I or Type II classifications.

ISO/IEC 27001: 2013 (International Organization for Standardization/International Electrotechnical Commission)

Integral to risk management involving private and sensitive data, ISO/IEC 27001 assesses how well an organization identifies risks, addresses access and authentication vulnerabilities, and provides ongoing training to ensure customer information security.

HIPAA/HITECH (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act/Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act)

Designed to protect personal health data, HIPAA/HITECH is crucial for the digitized healthcare industry, covering PII and ePHI. Specific attestation for this compliance standard is AT-C 105 & 205.

PCI DSS 4.0 (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard)

Imposing strict controls on handling personal financial data in electronically processed credit card payments, PCI DSS 4.0 is essential for any entity processing credit card payments or storing financial data electronically.

GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation)

As a comprehensive data privacy and security law, GDPR has been impacting organizations conducting business with EU and UK citizens since 2018. It grants EU citizens the right to control their data handling, including notification when data is collected and the "right to be forgotten." Data centers must facilitate access to data for EU citizens and adhere to data security requirements globally.

The consequences of regulatory non-compliance are incredibly steep, even post-GDPR. Look no further than the costly repercussions of these breaches

  • Amazon: $877 million GDPR fine
  • Zoom: $85 million settlement 
  • Netherlands Tax & Customs Administration: $4 million GDPR fine 
  • WhatsApp: $244 million in combined fines from GDPR and the Irish Data Protection Commission 

5. Reliability

Perhaps the most predictable aspect of any network infrastructure is the unforeseen disruptions. From natural disasters and inclement weather to power outages, human error, or tech failures – data centers can't afford downtime. According to Uptime Institute, over 60% of failures resulted in $100K or more in total losses, with 11-15% of outages causing upwards of $1M. 

And these aren't isolated incidences, with well over 80% of data center managers stating that they've experienced some sort of outage in the last three years. Why would this affect data center migration strategies? Well, choosing a data center location that's immune to natural disasters eliminates that risk. However, choosing a qualified data center migration destination with existing infrastructure, compliance certifications, redundant systems, and diverse power/network systems is a surefire way to protect your data storage. 

6. Managed Services

Piggybacking off the Expertise & Technical Skills section, access to managed services and even remote hands is another contributing factor for data center migration. Migrating to a new data center means access to new IT assets, improved racking and stacking equipment for firewall maintenance, proper expertise, and scalable infrastructure

Even if during the data center migration process, colocation, cloud, or even hybrid cloud options become a realitymanaged data center services are typically attached. The trajectory of data centers is to offer a more holistic solution. 

7. Wasted Real Estate

Businesses grow, which means data centers should too, right? Eventually, organizations reach this conclusion one of two ways. Either they're outgrowing their existing physical infrastructure or it's become abundantly clear that their data center real estate could be better utilized for core functions. These could include expanding accommodations or resources for existing and new staff or expanding business-related critical infrastructure. 

Less vital assets can be offloaded through colocation, while primary data migration can move to a dedicated data center. Off-site data centers offer incredible flexibility, customization, and resources to prevent overextension and optimize existing real estate. 

8. Energy Efficiency

For many organizations, energy efficiency is a green initiative or an afterthought. For data center managers, it's a massive motivator for data center migrations

Power efficiency considerations vary across businesses, with distinct needs for a data closet versus a comprehensive data center facility. Whether procuring fans for server room cooling or implementing overhead power and cooling systems, the intersection of power efficiency and cost becomes a pivotal concern.

The intricacies of modern HVAC technologies demand specialized skills for effective management. The complexity escalates with a more sophisticated physical environment, necessitating increased equipment and expertise.

In the contemporary landscape, businesses seek to consolidate environments while upholding stringent SLAs and cost-effectiveness. Achieving power-related objectives proves challenging when constructing and operating an in-house data center.

Top-tier data center facilities seamlessly incorporate power and cooling solutions into their offerings, aligning with IT budget constraints. Many providers are at the forefront of integrating innovative, high-efficiency technologies to deliver additional cost savings to customers – a major motivator for data center migrations. 

9. Future-Proofing

Data center maintenance is one thing, but ensuring that your data center is equipped for tomorrow is another. Updating an existing data center is incredibly time-consuming, resource-exhaustive, and expensive. 

The truth is that it doesn't make sense for the majority of organizations to house data, especially when there are reliable providers ready with data center migration plan opportunities, physical data centers, and future-forward infrastructure. 

We've all heard the term digital transformation time and time again, and for good reason. No company can hope to excel in the modern environment without embracing this truth. It's all about agility, preparedness, and digital strategies. This is a tough ask for companies with in-house data centers, as they can be a vacuum for IT resources.

Which Type of Data Center Migration is Right for You? 

Depending on your data center migration strategy, there are several routes for you to choose from. Each is tailored to a specific goal. Let's take a look: 

PurposeCommon TriggersObjective
1. Consolidation MigrationReduction of physical data centers or serversAcquisitions, mergers, cost-cutting initiatives, or adoption of virtualization solutionsStreamlining infrastructure for enhanced efficiency
2. Colocation or Relocation MigrationMovement of infrastructure between data centersEvolving business needs, technology upgrades, or strategic realignmentAchieving optimal resource placement and operational efficiency
3. Cloud MigrationTransitioning applications, infrastructure, and workloads to the cloudEmbracing cloud benefits, scalability requirements, or technological modernizationEnhancing flexibility, scalability, and cost-effectiveness
4. Hybrid MigrationIntegrating on-premise and off-premise infrastructure and softwareDiverse infrastructure needs, evolving technology landscapes, or regulatory complianceAugmenting resilience, business continuity, and resource optimization

If you simply want to know if it’s worth using external data center services at all, check out this guide

Step-By-Step Guide to Data Center Migration

Data center migration planning is a massive undertaking. As long as you have an IDEO of what you need to do, you'll be on the right track. 

Step-By-Step Guide to Data Center Migration

Data Center Migration Steps

Step 1: Insight 

During the discovery phase, you'll partner with an organization's data center team to gain a clearer understanding of the entire data center infrastructure. In order to begin the data center migration process, you'll need a clear picture of the current landscape you occupy. 

The Scope: A potential data migration partner will evaluate existing hardware, software, OS, network configurations, storage layers, maintenance health, patching, operational models, licensing, compliance needs, escalation management processes, and more. 

The Objective: The discovery phase is an opportunity to gain detailed insights into relevant resources and assets of your current data center. During this phase, you'll encounter resource grouping classification to align in later steps for migration wave planning and dependency mapping. 

Key Milestones

  • Shared data center inventory footprints
  • Initial foundations design and centralized concepts
  • Cross-functional discussions with internal business units and IT departments 

Step 2: Design

The Insight Step will lay the groundwork for the design and planning phase. Here, you'll be able to leverage what you've discovered to map out resources in migration waves of resources to realistically and sequentially deploy in production (and non-production) environments. 

A tip from the pros: We suggest starting with non-production migration waves. 

Here are some questions you should consider during the design stage:

  • What are your timelines? 
  • How are your migration waves organized? (By production, by function, etc.)
  • What is the cadence of code releases? (Plan for upcoming code releases). 
  • How long will you have to deploy infrastructure and post-migration testing? 
  • What are your application dependencies? 
  • What is your overall migration risk and complexity?
  • How will the migration process impact IT organizational structures? 
  • Should you implement DevOps and SRE practices? 
  • Is now the right time to make key adjustments to best practices, code integrations, pipelines, incident management processes,
  • and other key functionalities? 

Data Center Migration Steps

Step 3: Execution

You have your blueprint and the plan, now it's time to put it into practice. To simplify the execution process, it's important for leaders in the data migration process to be mindful of the exact steps and configurations implemented. Primarily, this is because you'll end up doing them for both the production and non-production migration waves. 

How you handle execution will depend entirely on what you've outlined in the design phase. With that being said, you will certainly execute on infrastructure needs like networking, firewall rules, Service Accounts, and IAM. 

You'll also make sure that configurations are operational and correct, applications are tested, and logging/monitoring is implemented. From there, its all about streamlining the testing and debugging processes, resolving blockers, and taking any steps needed to achieve goals laid out in the Insight Step. 

Data Center Migration Steps

Step 4: Optimize 

Last, but certainly not least, is optimization. Once you've undergone a successful migration, it's all about putting together periodic reviews and optimization planning. As we've helped several organizations undergo massive data center migrations, we have some tips for the optimization stage. 

  • Enhance automation to minimize operational burdens 
  • Boost integration with logging, monitoring, alerting, and data center migration tools 
  • Take advantage of your provider's managed services to reduce operational costs and streamline processes 
  • Identify virtual machines you no longer use or need 

Data Center Migration Steps 4

Challenges You May Face Throughout the Data Center Migration Process 

Challenges of the Data Center Migration Process

1. Unrealistic TimelinesFailure to set realistic time expectations for migration.Conduct a Test Migration to estimate the process duration, accounting for longer production migration times.
2. Post-Migration TestingChallenges in post-data center migration testing.Engage with a partner to gather operational insights. Pre-migration performance tests can guide post-relocation assessments
3. Hidden ComplexitiesUnaccounted-for complexities, especially with legacy applications.Initiate a detailed inventory with partner (and employees), documenting everything on a comprehensive database.
4. Work Schedule DisruptionsExpected downtime during migration disrupts regular work schedules.Have a plan to inform support teams and end-users in advance, involving them in Q&A sessions. Extensive planning is crucial due to the lengthy schedule.
5. Application Delivery Optimization (ADO) ChallengesManaging migration through optimizers or load balancers can be complex.Understand configuration layers and anticipate additional investments or expertise for optimizers.
6. Interdependencies of Infrastructure ComponentsFailure to recognize interdependencies when upgrading infrastructure.Highlight planned updates and their interdependencies during the planning stages.
7. Inadequate Stakeholder EngagementFailure to engage all relevant stakeholders during planning.Ensure the involvement of business stakeholders to prevent unforeseen changes or additional requirements.
8. Internal PoliticsLack of consistent communication leading to inconsistencies.Employ an impartial party to facilitate smooth and swift communication, preventing issues stemming from internal politics.
9. Data and Application BackupFailure to back up data and applications before migration.Adhere to the general rule of maintaining secured backups for disaster recovery and immediate restoration in case of system failures, cyber-attacks, or natural disasters during the data center migration process.



Concluding the Data Center Migration Journey 

As organizations navigate the complexities of data center migration, they must consider key factors such as:

  • Cost analysis
  • Security measures
  • Technical expertise
  • Compliance standards
  • Reliability
  • Managed services
  • Real estate utilization
  • Energy efficiency
  • Future-proofing.

Whether opting for consolidation, colocation, cloud, or a hybrid approach, a strategic and meticulous approach is vital for success. 

Whew, you made it.

While it has been a long journey through our guide to data center migration, planning is crucial. The journey from legacy to leading-edge data center infrastructure is a critical undertaking for businesses seeking growth and adaptability in an evolving digital landscape. The inefficiencies of aging data centers can impede progress, affecting everything from cost and security to reliability and energy efficiency. 

We hope that this step-by-step guide, encompassing insight, design, execution, and optimization, provides an effective roadmap for a smooth and effective data center migration process. Challenges may arise, but with careful planning, stakeholder engagement, and adherence to best practices, businesses can achieve a seamless transition to a data infrastructure that not only meets current needs but also sets the stage for future growth and innovation

In embracing this transformative journey, organizations position themselves at the forefront of technological advancement, ready to capitalize on the opportunities of the digital age. So, use this guide as a data center migration checklist of sorts, and start planning your data migration today



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