Data Centre Migration
Step-By-Step Checklist

Moving from one data centre to another is a complex and critical task for any business, involving careful planning and consideration to ensure a smooth transition and minimal disruption.

At Host-IT we have helped hundreds of customers move their IT equipment into our data centres and have compiled a 13 step checklist on how to manage the migration with minimal risk. Whilst there are companies who specialise in the organisation and moving of IT equipment between sites, if you plan to do-it-yourself then here are the key factors to consider.

Host-IT Data Centre Migration Step-By-Step Checklist

1Create a Comprehensive Migration Plan

The plan should cover every aspect of the move, from initial backup to the final switch-over.

Create a detailed migration plan that includes:

  • Responsibilities and resource assessment
  • Procedures
  • Audit all hardware
  • Backups
  • Infrastructure
  • Scope, timelines and projected cost

Key Tips:

  1. Don't try to rush the process and test every assumption you may make before the day
  2. Map out the topology of the equipment
  3. Label existing ports and cables
  4. Take photos of the current installation prior to move!
  5. Also consider if you need extra help on the day to install the equipment as it can be heavy especially if installing at the top of a rack

2Risk Assessment

Evaluate potential risks associated with the move and create a comprehensive risk mitigation plan that covers areas including:

  • Technical:
    • Data loss and/or corruption: Whether this be as a result of hardware failure or damage during migration
    • Downtime: Ensure adequate backup and recovery mechanisms are in place to minimise data loss and downtime
    • Data sensitivity and compliance: Assess the sensitivity of the data being migrated and ensure compliance with relevant regulations (e.g., GDPR, HIPAA). Identify any potential legal or regulatory risks associated with data handling during migration
  • Operational:
    • Resource availability:
      • Hardware resources: The availability of hardware resources such as servers, storage arrays, networking equipment, and power infrastructure is crucial for a successful migration. Delays in procuring or configuring these resources can lead to project setbacks
      • Skilled personnel: Adequate staffing with the necessary skills and expertise in data centre operations, networking, system administration, and project management is essential. Shortages in skilled personnel can slow down migration activities and increase the likelihood of errors
      • Third-party services: Dependencies on third-party vendors for services such as cloud hosting, network connectivity, or data migration tools can introduce risks if these services are not readily available or fail to meet expectations
    • Scheduling conflicts:
      • Business operations: Data centre migrations often need to be scheduled around business operations to minimise disruption. Conflicts may arise if migration activities coincide with peak business hours, critical deadlines, or other scheduled events
    • Maintenance windows: Co-ordinating downtime for maintenance tasks, data transfers, and system cutover activities requires careful planning to avoid conflicts with other planned maintenance activities or service windows
    • Resource constraints: Limited availability of resources such as network bandwidth, server capacity, or personnel can lead to scheduling conflicts if multiple migration activities need to be executed simultaneously
  • Business:
  • Financial impact:
    • Direct costs: Migrations often incur direct costs such as hardware and software purchases, licensing fees, professional services and project management costs.
      Delays, scope changes or unforeseen issues can lead to additional costs outside of the scoped budget
    • Operational disruption: Downtime during migration can lead to a potential revenue loss and increased support costs
    • Investment in redundancy: To mitigate risks during migration, investment into redundant infrastructure, backup systems and planning time may well be required and lead to increased CAPEX and OPEX expenses
    • Hardware damage: You may need to take out additional insurance to mitigate the risk of equipment being damaged in transit
  • Reputation damage:
    • Customer perception: If any downtime or service interruptions are experienced, this can have a drastic impact on customer trust and confidence
    • Brand image: A poorly managed migration may lead to long term reputational damage and social media backlash
    • Regulatory compliance: Any compliance failures or data breaches during a migration can lead to fines, legal liabilities and again, further reputational damage

3Create and Test Data Backups

Ensuring comprehensive data backups before a data centre migration is crucial to mitigate risks and safeguard against data loss or corruption.

  • Scope: Identify all critical data, applications, configurations, and system settings that need to be backed up before migration. Create a detailed audit trail for compliance, reporting and troubleshooting purposes
  • Frequency: Determine the frequency of backups based on data volatility, update frequency, and business requirements
  • Retention: Establish retention policies to retain backups for a sufficient duration before and after the migration to facilitate rollback, recovery, or data validation
  • Mapping: Document backup dependences and integration points with migration workflows to facilitate smooth execution and rollback options
  • Test: Ensure data consistency and integrity across backups by verifying the completeness and accuracy of backup sets. Conduct recovery drills and restoration test to simulate migration scenarios and assess the readiness of backup systems and procedures
  • Storage: Consider using cloud storage or an external storage device to protect against data loss during the migration

4Infrastructure and Resource Assessment

Assess the new data centre’s infrastructure to ensure it meets your current and future needs in terms of power, cooling, space, and security.

For example:

  • If the new data centre has hot aisle or cold aisle containment make sure the equipment is installed in the right direction to take advantage of this
  • Identify whether the racks are the right size for the equipment – think about depth not just width
  • Check whether the equipment is rack mountable and come with rails or whether you need shelving
  • Evaluate the need for new hardware or upgrades
  • Consider the logistics of moving existing hardware – does its age make it more vulnerable? It is worth buying new hard drives as this component is more susceptible to failure?

5Connectivity and Network Configuration

Review the network architecture of the new data centre to ensure it supports your connectivity requirements.

This should include:

  • Internet access
  • VPN connections
  • Direct connect services

Things to consider:

  • Are you going to be using fibre hand offs at the new site?
  • Is your router compatible?

Key Tips:

  • Test the connectivity before the move by installing a firewall in advance of any server move and ensure you position it at the top of the rack as this tends to run hotter than switches or servers
  • Plan the network migration carefully to maintain IP addressing schemes and prepare for changes if necessary
  • New IP allocations should be issued in advance of any move so you can pre-configure equipment prior to the move which will save time on the day

6Compliance and Security

Ensure the new data centre complies with relevant industry standards and regulations, such as :

  • ISO/IEC 27001 for information security management
  • GDPR for data protection

Assess the security features of the new data centre, including:

  • Physical security measures
  • Fire detection and suppression systems
  • Cybersecurity protocols

7Downtime Management

Eliminating downtime entirely during a data centre migration is challenging but minimising it to an acceptable level is feasible with careful planning, preparation, and execution.

  1. Schedule the migration carefully to minimise downtime and its impact on operations
  2. Communicate any expected downtime to stakeholders and plan for contingencies
  3. Over specify the time needed for the move to avoid rushing on the day
  4. Consider a phased migration, if possible, to reduce the risk of prolonged downtime
  5. Prioritise less critical or non-essential systems for early migration to minimise disruption to core business operations
  6. Implement rollback mechanisms and contingency plans for each migration phase to mitigate risks and minimise downtime
  7. Maintain hybrid or parallel operations between the old and new data centre environments during migration
  8. Implement load balancing, failover, or traffic management mechanisms to distribute workloads efficiently and ensure continuity of service
  9. Perform dry runs and rehearsal migrations to simulate migration scenarios, identify potential issues, and refine procedures before executing the actual migration.
  10. Establish communication channels, escalation procedures, and support mechanisms to address issues promptly and minimise disruptions

8Vendor & Service Provider Coordination

Coordinate with all relevant vendors and service providers to ensure a smooth transition.

This includes:

  • ISPs
  • Hardware vendors
  • Managed services providers

Review and renegotiate contracts as needed to ensure they meet your requirements in the new location.

9Testing and Validation

Plan for comprehensive testing of the following in the new data centre before going live:

  • Systems
  • Applications
  • Connectivity

Validate the performance, security, and resilience of the new environment to ensure it meets all operational requirements.

10Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity

Update your disaster recovery (DR) and business continuity (BC) plans to reflect the new data centre environment. This should include areas such as:

  1. Change assessment:
    1. Evaluate changes in infrastructure, network topology, data storage and system configurations as a result of the migration
    2. Assess any potential new risks, vulnerabilities or dependencies introduced as a result of the migration process
  2. Risk assessment: Refer to section 2 above
  3. Data replication and backup strategies: Refer to section 3 above
  4. Failover and redundancy planning: Update failover procedures, strategies and testing protocols to account for infrastructure and network topology changes
  5. Stakeholder communication: Any changes to DR and BC plans must be communicated to key stakeholders including IT teams, business units and senior management
  6. Training: Provide training sessions for staff that will be affected by these changes to ensure they are familiarised with updates
  7. Continuous monitoring and review: Implement mechanisms for continuous monitoring and conduct drills post-migration to ensure they are effective

11Communication Plan

Develop a communication plan to keep all stakeholders informed throughout the migration process, including IT staff, employees, and customers. This should include:

  1. Stakeholder identification
  2. The top level plan
  3. Key timings
  4. Potential implications for them and their team
  5. Feedback mechanisms
  6. Contingency plans
  7. Training

12Budget and Costs

Accurately estimate the costs associated with the move that incorporate CAPEX and OPEX expenses such as:

  • CAPEX:
    • Infrastructure procurement: This includes the purchasing of new hardware as well as any construction, renovation or lease agreements for physical space
    • External expertise: The hiring of consultants, migration experts or third-party vendors to assist with planning, execution and validation of the migration process
    • Training and education: Training could include workshops, certifications and the purchase of education resources to upskill staff and possibly end-users
    • Contingency and risk mitigation: Additional budget should be put aside for contingency planning, risk mitigation strategies and insurance to cover unforeseen challenges
    • Transportation: The safe and secure transport of the physical hardware between data centres
  • OPEX:
    • Data centre operations: Running and managing the facility including rents, utilities, maintenance, security, facilities etc. If running two centres simultaneously during the migration, this needs to be factored in
    • Staffing: This includes salaries for IT, network engineers, system admins and support staff
    • Software licences and subscriptions: This may be for software such as operating systems, virtualisation platforms and management tools
    • Backup and disaster recovery: Costs associated with backup storage, data replication, data recovery services and cloud-based backup
    • Monitoring and management tools: Ongoing subscription fees or service charges for tools used to monitor performance, troubleshoot issues and optimise the efficiency of the data centre infrastructure
    • Ongoing training and support: Costs for IT staff and end-users to maintain proficiency in the new environment

13Post Migration Review

After the migration, conduct a thorough review of the process to identify any issues and lessons learned. This can help optimise future migrations and IT projects. Steps include:

  1. Validation and testing: Review and thoroughly test the integrity, functionality and performance of systems, workflows, applications and data in the new environment
  2. Incident management: Analyse any incidents and update incident management processes and procedures accordingly
  3. Documentation updates: Ensure all key documentation is updated with accurate system configurations, network diagrams, procedures and support documentation
  4. Optimisation: Fine-tune systems to align with best practices that address performance issues
  5. 'Washup': Conduct a post-migration retrospective to evaluate the strengths and areas for improvement for any future migrations

Considering these factors will help ensure that your data centre migration is successful, therefore minimising the risks and disruptions to your business operations. As the old adage says, ‘Failing to plan is planning to fail’.

Please contact us if you need any further advice at

"Please note that this is just a guide for what Organisations should consider when relocating their server equipment and should not be viewed as a definitive list. Host-IT are not liable for any issues that arise as a result of following the guide. Each organisation will have its own unique system/set-up and professional IT assistance/advice should be sought if there is any uncertainty on any aspect of a potential move, prior to it being made."