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April 25, 2023 | Channing Lovett

Data Center Migration: A Complete Guide to Success

Data center migration can be a significant undertaking, but there are several reasons why it might be a good idea for a business. Whether you want your data centers closer to end users, need a data center with more up-to-date hardware, or are looking to move to a location less prone to extreme weather, you may want to add a data center migration to your to-do list.

Still, migrating to a new data center can be complicated. We’ll go through the planning, implementation, and factors to consider when deciding to do a data center migration.

What is a Data Center Migration?

A physical data center migration involves moving your infrastructure, data, and applications from one data center to another. How difficult this is to do will depend on how much of your own equipment you need to move, the distance from one data center to another, and how much of your data is already hosted in the cloud.

If you’re going from hosting data in your own data center, and you’re looking to relocate to a third-party provider, the process may be more complicated compared to moving from one data center that mainly works with public cloud providers to another.

What is the Purpose, and What Are the Benefits, of a Data Center Migration?

Organizations may choose to perform a data center migration for a number of reasons, including cost savings, redundancy, scalability, security, compliance, and performance.


Most third-party data centers have many redundant systems to prevent single points of failure that may not be available in on-premise settings. Such redundancies can include extra HVAC units, backup generators, telecommunications providers (in carrier-neutral facilities), uninterruptable power supply (UPS) systems. All of these systems are critical in preventing (or lessening) downtime during an unexpected disruption since they’re able to take over if the primary system fails.


This flexible, on-demand approach to infrastructure also means your organization can scale up or down as needed, especially when migrating to a public cloud hosted in a service provider’s data center. If you experience a sudden uptick in business, you can provision more space and power in moments, instead of having to worry about buying more equipment or moving everything to a bigger building.


Data center migration can be an efficient use of your budget, but it can also improve performance and increase agility. A state-of-the-art data center will allow you to be responsive to changes in the market, and improved performance will lower latency and improve user experience.


Physical security is also a key benefit for organizations performing a data center migration. A new data center can be more secure due to the expertise of the onsite staff, the security controls enacted at the building, disaster recovery measures employed at the facility, or the location of the data center itself if it is in an area less prone to natural disasters.


If your organization is subject to new regulations not met by a current data center or on-premises, it may be an easier option to migrate to a new site instead of trying to apply the regulatory standards to the current facility. Data centers complete a number of audits and examinations to demonstrate they have the necessary controls in place to protect data and/or equipment to meet compliance standards.


Moving a data center closer to end users and reducing the distance between users and where their data is being processed, can improve performance and the overall user experience.

Planning a Successful Data Center Migration

Once a business has decided that a data center migration is the right next step, they have to create a plan, which will include an assessment of the cloud & IT infrastructure, as well as a strategy for choosing the location and conducting the migration.

Infrastructure & Application Assessment

The first step in planning a data center migration is assessing the current state of things. What is in your inventory? What are your critical applications and services, the pieces you can’t do without? You’ll need to keep these, as well as a detailed list of all of the inventory you’ll be migrating, at the forefront when planning your migration. You should understand what will be required to move these applications and services, how much downtime is acceptable without sacrificing productivity and functionality, and plan for any replacements or revisions of these pieces if they cannot be migrated as-is.

During the assessment, your organization should also be identifying potential security risks, inefficiencies that can be improved post-migration, and compliance issues that will need to be addressed by the new data center. You should also benchmark performance metrics to evaluate improvements after making the move.

Data Center Migration Strategy

After understanding your baselines and needs, it’s time to build your data center migration strategy. A thorough strategy will include:

  • Goals: What do you want to accomplish by moving your data center? What changes would you like to see before and after the migration?
  • Scope: Looking at what you have now, what will be moved in the migration? Will some data, applications, or infrastructure be excluded? Take photos of your current networking, cabling, etc. to make sure it’s set up correctly in the new site and ask your vendor to create a network diagram.
  • Options: There is more than one way to perform a data center migration. Decide which method is right for your business and include that in the strategy.
  • Timeline: When should the migration be completed? Discuss the expected amount of downtime to help determine the optimal date/time.  If there’s a period of time when your business is slower or business maintenance windows, you might want to schedule the migration during that time, for example.
  • Budget: How much do you expect the migration to cost?
  • Downtime: Is there an acceptable amount of downtime you can have to keep your business running and perform a satisfactory migration? What would be the best time to move – during a long, holiday weekend, 2 in the morning on a Saturday, etc.?
  • Resources: What do you need to pull off this migration? Resources can include people, technology partners, tools, and facilities, and will also depend on budget and timeline.
  • Risks: When planning for budget, downtime, scope, and all other pieces of the migration, things don’t always go according to plan. Planning for risk includes identifying what might happen as well as how the risks can be mitigated.
  • Communication: How will you communicate this migration strategy and process to internal and external stakeholders and customers? What do people need to know during migration to keep the business rolling and keep people well-informed?

Data Center Location Strategy

When selecting a data center location, it’s not just about being close or easy to reach, it’s important to consider key factors that fall into the categories of infrastructure, geography, and security. For example, an ideal data center location strategy should consider how close the facility is to customers, the reliability of power and cooling, how at-risk the area is for extreme weather, how secure the location is, and what the telecommunications infrastructure looks like in the area.

Pinpoint Data Center Migration Challenges Beforehand

The more you are able to anticipate legacy application migration pitfalls, the smoother the data center migration process will go. Here are some common challenges organizations face when performing a data center migration

Data Center Security and Compliance

The security landscape is only becoming more complex, and data centers need to be able to keep up with cybersecurity practices that combat the risk of incoming threats. Many companies are also subject to compliance regulations that may require additional steps from the organization or the data center to satisfy.

Understanding what the current threat landscape is, as well as the regulatory requirements your organization needs to meet, will help you add the necessary measures before the migration is complete.

Minimizing Downtime

Some businesses can afford to have hours or days of downtime, while others cannot. Understanding what amount of downtime is tolerable, and working to minimize where you can, will lessen the impact the data migration has on your business operations.

You can work to minimize downtime by understanding which workloads need to move together to avoid disruption, which parts of your current infrastructure have dependencies, and what times are best to work on migrations that will be least disruptive to your organization.

Application Complexities

The data migration method you choose will be largely dependent on the complexity of your applications and what will be required to move them successfully. Understanding the amount of refactoring and retooling that will be necessary to migrate key applications will minimize complexity down the line.

Data and Application Backup

If something breaks during the migration process, you need to ensure key data and applications are backed up somewhere. When you move to a new data center, it’s likely to have redundancy and failover, but before the migration occurs, you need to have a backup in place should something go wrong.

Key Stakeholder Involvement

Say there’s an application housed in your current data center that only one team uses. If a member of that team isn’t included in the data center migration conversation, you can run the risk of excluding it and inconveniencing a subset of your organization. Bringing in key stakeholders from each department or team in your business will help you make sure you don’t miss anything important when migrating.

Hardware Compatibility

Hardware from the old data center that is not compatible with hardware at the new data center can cause problems such as data loss, performance issues, and security vulnerabilities. When planning and evaluating your inventory, you should also take into account the hardware that you will be using in the new data center to determine compatibility and account for any changes that you may need to make.

Navigating the Process of a Data Center Migration

Planning and strategy go a long way in navigating a data center migration. The next step is putting the plans into practice. After implementation, your IT team needs to test and validate the new environment, as well as continue to optimize post-migration.

Data Center Migration Checklist

Everyone’s checklist for data center migration will look different, but the basic list will consist of planning, strategy, testing, migration, cutover, and post-migration steps.

Planning & Strategy

  • Evaluate your current data center environment, including an inventory of applications, data, and infrastructure
  • Identify hardware to be moved
  • Take photos of current set-up/cabling so it can be easily replicated in new environment
  • Identify your migration goals
  • Gather necessary resources
  • Create a timeline and budget for the migration
  • Identify and mitigate potential risks
  • Address legacy applications and determine if any performance or security issues could arise after migration
  • Determine the communications plan
  • Make sure all vendors, employees, and contracts contact information is given to the data center for access on the day of the move
  • Develop test plans and final migration roadmap
  • Create a disaster recovery plan

Migration Cutover & Testing

  • In advance of migration, shut down and power up all equipment being moved to validate that process is not an issue
  • Perform a pilot migration, testing a subset of data and applications in the new environment
  • Migrate the rest of the data, applications, and infrastructure to the new environment
  • Document progress
  • Continue to test networking and applications as the migration progresses


  • Decommission the old data center and activate the new center
  • Monitor & make adjustments in the new environment
  • Continue to optimize

Creating a Data Center Migration Project Plan

Now that you’ve established the strategy goals, and desired process, it’s time to implement the migration project plan. When building out the project, think about what resources you may need to bring in from outside the organization to achieve your desired timelines and budgets – this can include human resources or additional tools and technology.

Clearly communicate with necessary parties what will happen. Everyone involved in the migration should have well-defined tasks and responsibilities. If outside team members need to know about something, such as when they should anticipate downtime, someone should be designated to relay that information, as well as anything unexpected that comes up during migration.

Develop and Test Your Data Center Migration

Before you perform a full migration, it may be in your best interest to start small. Develop a plan for the full migration that should work and test it on a subset of your data and applications to ensure things go as expected. If the tested subsection is successful, expand the process to include the rest of the data center.

Implement Data Center Migration

Once you’ve allocated resources properly and tested the process, it’s time for the full implementation. This will likely require more time and resources than the test, which should be planned for when creating the strategy and checklist. Don’t plan a data center migration during demanding times for your business, if you can avoid it. This will be an “all hands on deck” period.

Data center migration can be implemented in a few ways:

  • Lift and shift: Data and applications are moved from an existing data center to a new one without changing anything about them.
  • Re-platforming: Some changes have been made to the applications and data to harness the capabilities available at the new data center.
  • Refactoring: Significant changes are made to applications and data to take advantage of more of the features and capabilities the data center has to offer.

Each method of data center migration has its benefits and drawbacks, and the amount you change to your existing infrastructure will depend on what is critical to move, how easily pieces can be updated, how much work you want to do during migration, and the expertise you have available for the migration.

Validate Data Center Migration

After the migration, make sure everything is working properly by testing your new environment. Bringing in a group of testers who belong to different teams can help you quickly identify gaps in the migration that might otherwise be missed if only IT is involved. Collect feedback from these users and others impacted by the migration to validate that things are going as planned. If you find an error or discrepancy, communicate and fix it.

Post-Data Center Migration and Optimization

While data center migration may feel like a one-off project, it will be an ongoing responsibility at the beginning as users continue to operate in the new environment and identify issues that may not have surfaced in the planning, strategy, and early testing stages. Continue to monitor performance, collect feedback, and make improvements where necessary.

How TierPoint Can Help With Your Data Center Migration

TierPoint offers data center services and IT modernization & optimization solutions to organizations looking to scale and transform their IT infrastructure.

Our 40 state-of-the-art, interconnected data centers provide nationwide access with carrier-neutral connectivity, getting you closer to your users, while still having the freedom and flexibility to choose a direct connection to a cloud provider that’s right for you.

Migrating to TierPoint data center can be a critical step in your IT modernization journey. Refresh your IT infrastructure and move day-to-day tasks to our experts so you can focus on strategy and business growth opportunities. We can help you with every piece of data migration, from planning to post-migration optimization.

Ready to start your migration? Download our Journey to the Cloud eBook to learn how you can maximize the benefits of cloud computing while minimizing risks.


What is Lift and Shift in a Data Center Migration?

A lift and shift approach is the simplest form of data center migration, where you move data and applications from the current data center to a new one without making any changes. While it can be efficient to move, it doesn’t work for data and applications that rely heavily on the underlying infrastructure of the previous data center.

When is the Best Time to Migrate?

The best time for data migration is when there is a strong business case to migrate. This should also be done when business is slower or during a business maintenance window and when the necessary resources are available to you.

How Long Does a Data Center Migration Take?

The time a data center migration will take depends on many factors, including how big and complex the move will be, the resources on hand to do the migration, the migration method you use, the budget, and the level of testing and validation required post-migration.

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