Data Center Relocation & Moving its Associated Hardware often leads a client to a specialty data center and server moving firm, for assistance managing and executing their relocation project.
"We are looking for data center movers and/or computer equipment movers". Seems easy enough, just need to move some servers from A to B. Moving a data center seems like it's just a matter of picking things up and putting them down. This isn't the case at all and there are many considerations often left out of the thought process leading up to physical move.
The hope is that this short guide version will help to create a required level of awareness when you are physically moving your data center.
Not every company has the resources required to relocate a data center, or to physically move servers from place to place. The resources that are in place are often times working on the software, storage, DR, migration planning, checking over planning, and trying to work out the fail over bugs.
Often times the IT side of the house is presented with the task of moving the company's data center, along with keeping the current IT infrastructure in place, all while they are running day to day operations. Typically we see a couple difference scenarios when hearing from a client. Once is that the planning and testing has been happening for a period of time and they now need to figure out how to physically relocate the data center and server equipment out of the current production environment. The other times we hear from our clients are when it's dropped on their desk and the move has to be executed with no time to spare (or yesterday).
We do notice that the physical portion of relocating a data center often does get looked over, or there is a lack of focus on this area. Oversight is understandable because the focus of resources is often times on other areas planning to get all of the computer equipment moved. When it comes time to physically move network, servers, SANS, racks and such, the IT department often stops in their tracks and pauses for a moment (just staring at the equipment).
There are several logistical items to plan into your data center relocation. When you move servers don't forget the physical logistics! It isn't often that the average IT personal relocates or moves a data center.
Here is a common list of questions we think about when we are reviewing and planning for a data center move. These questions are for the physical move of the data center.
Cable management and server equipment labeling, along with hardware labeling.
- Are all of the network, power, fiber cables pre-labeled accurately?
- Are the servers, network, SANS, and computer equipment labeled?
- Are the destination rack elevations prepared and ready to execute?
- Is there a plan to label rail sets?
Labeling is one of the most important measures to keep time loss at a minimum. Label everything, and when labeling, be sure that the label is in a secure area that is easily identified when moving (and so it doesn't fall off when being packaged). Often times with rails for example, the client will opt to not have us handle this aspect. We show up and there are 150 different rail sets or various makes and models thrown into a box. This will add considerable time and frustration to your staff at the destination.
Cage screws & nuts are also another item to consider. Sometimes the staff that originally racked the server equipment may have over tightened or stripped the hardware used to secured rails, network items, and shelves. This is often an unfortunate oversight, and can quickly lead to frustration. Plan on having the appropriate tools to swiftly remove stripped or over tightened cage screws. It would also serve as a benefit to have extra cage screws and nuts handy. Do remember server cage nuts, screws, and securing hardware come in various sizes.
The quantity of server equipment being moved can determine the best course of execution when un-mounting. With a couple of racks of server equipment you may worry less about the order in which the equipment is un-mounted. If you have a multiple of data center racks and equipment, you may want to consider removing everything in an organized manner making it easier to re-mount at the destination. Tip: Always check the warranty requirements prior to removing any warrantied equipment from server racks. It may be a requirement that the equipment under warranty be removed by the warranty holder (you do NOT want to void the warranty).
Think WET NEWSPAPER! Depending on your data center or server rooms status, some of the equipment may have been spinning for quite some time, and may never have been spun down. The goal is to have a current DR plan verified and in place. When packaging data center equipment, the way in which you package and materials used to package should protect your equipment against static, shock and humidity. Effectively preserving the data center environment while transporting your data center.
Who will have the liability for moving the servers and computer equipment (the considerations)
- This includes the physical handling of equipment
- Transportation liability (think about if the staff were to use their own vehicle or rent a truck, if an accident was involved where injuries were reported while possessing company property and on company business)
- Do you have multiple insurances that will cover the data center relocation from all liabilities? These insurances include but are not limited to workers comp., general liability, transportation, and cargo.
The Physical Handling
You need think about injury from the physical and lifting, and damage to equipment or data from dropping or accidents. If the company staff member is going to use their own car, a company vehicle or rent a truck, the thought process needs to consider if there were an accident. We would never want this to happen but if the staff member was transporting company property, and an accident occurred (depending on how severe), where would the liability fall? TIP: Be mindful that most buildings in which are involved in your data center relocation require a certificate of insurance showing the current insurance policy coverages.
Origin and destination building travel routes, and physical logistics also need to be looked at. Some considerations:
- Are there any stairs or steps involved in any of the travel routes
- Are there any stairs or steps involved in any of the travel routes?
- Are there any ramps involved in any of the travel routes?
- Are there any doors or thresholds that will impede travel?
- Are the any signs, door hardware, door handles that will impede travel
- Are there any height impediments that would cause you not to be able to "fit" equipment through a certain area height wise?
- Is there a staging area to park the transportation vehicle (off road parking or on road)
- Does the origin and destination have truck height loading docks?
- Are there truck height restrictions at the origin or destination?
- Are there certain delivery times required in order to deliver in the equipment?
Don't put all of your eggs in one basket! Consider your total inventory and split your load if you can. Our belief is that if you have a 53' trailer of packaged equipment, the load should be split into to 26' trucks. If there were to be a catastrophic event, this would help to minimize loss. Also depending on logistics, often time's 26' trucks are a bit easier to navigate in tight quarters and lift gates help as well.
Travel distance, time of year, traffic, road construction, and weather should also be considered when transporting/relocating a data center.
Security is a very important consideration when moving your data center (if not the MOST important). You must maintain a controlled chain of custody, and security protocol. The equipment is going to be leaving a secured environment, so the considerations on safe the keeping of data, assets, your company, its stock holders, and yourself need to be factored into the overall scheme of things. We factor in security from pre-planning, to the moment we step foot at the origin, and our safety protocols secure your assets and data all the way to completion of the relocation. TIP: If you subcontract out the transportation to a vendor, it is very likely that your equipment will be offloaded and on loaded from truck to truck (driver to driver). The personnel transferring your equipment will not have an understanding of what they are moving. The focus is typically to get it off and onto other trucks as soon as possible, and there is little to no chain of custody or care in process.
The hope of this shortened version and informal guide is that it has created a level of awareness and the additional requirements when physically moving your data center or server room.