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A natural migration


Article Type: Feature          Published: 05-2016         Views: 1869      

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Bill Strain, CTO at iomart, describes some common sense considerations for any business looking at a data migration exercise.

Let's face it, any data migration can bring on headache. Whether it's a large or small project, moving data around often involves stress for your IT team, and time - often more time than you've actually been given to complete the migration.

There are many reasons for migration. You might need to upgrade legacy hardware, you're moving to a new data centre, you're using new applications, departments or authorities are merging, or you might be need to cut costs by using a less expensive storage.

Many storage environments are complex, with 'hot' data you need to access frequently and 'cold' data you need to hang on to for legal reasons. The applications and processes involved, let alone the disks, tapes, routers and switches used, mean that serious planning is required to ensure any migration, no matter how big or small, is a success.

Whatever the reasons for the migration, here's what you need to consider to make sure it goes to plan:

DISCOVERY
It's important to carry out a discovery of the existing environment so you understand your data as well as the relationships, both human and technological, that support it. This will help you map out how it will all translate into the new environment. Knowing where your data is stored, who it's used by and why - as well as what form it's in currently and what it will look like when it arrives in the new environment - will allow you to determine a clear pathway.

There might be storage appliances you're not aware of or a specific order in which applications and databases need to boot. Understanding the interactions between your hosts and the arrays they use and how they might change on migration will give you an overview of any potential issues that might crop up, as will highlighting the levels of responsibility within your IT teams and the participating departments.

DATA CLEANSING
Migration projects give you the perfect opportunity to cleanse your data and improve its quality. Highlight any errors, omissions and issues and consider what format you want the migrated data to be in. This might mean re-formatting the data and agreeing new naming conventions before it's moved. Enforce the new policies.

TIMING
Storage migration can have a significant impact on your system performance. This is where knowledge of the capacity of your SAN, the patch levels and the network loads you routinely carry is vital. Overloading a network with storage traffic can reduce availability not only of the data being moved but also of all the data on your network. This is why it's often best to do migrations outside normal business hours.

Make sure you agree the acceptable level of downtime, the amount of bandwidth being offered and the time of the day at which the migration will take place, with all stakeholders before the migration goes ahead.

VIRTUAL VS. PHYSICAL
The prospect of migrating live virtual machines (VMs) as well as physical servers can be scary; but there are tools to help. VMware's VMotion for instance ensures the VMs can access the resources they need during a live migration. Ask questions of the vendors you are working with to make sure the tools you are using don't require changes you are not aware of.

SECURITY
During migration data must not be left vulnerable. Permissions and security can get lost, leaving data exposed. The choice here will be between block-level or file-level migration. Block-level migration can affect your thin provisioning, while file-level can leave data more vulnerable because of the wider information it exposes. A deep dive into what information is being copied and the vendors' capabilities means the best decision can be made on the type of data migration to be used, although Microsoft Active Directory for instance is able to maintain security settings during a file-based migration.

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