Performing a server migration is a complex job, one which is likely to fill you with some apprehension and of course there are quite a few hurdles and potential issues to take into consideration before commencing a job such as this. However, planned out carefully, a server migration can be done without any downtime and with minimum disruption to your end users and can also be an opportunity to build a more robust architecture for future improvements and scalability. The simplest server migration is where you migrate from one dedicated server to another, however there are also scenarios where you may be performing a server migration from one, single, dedicated server to a clustered architecture which would provide redundancy to your network.
This article will discuss the main points when faced with a server migration, but will not go into the detailed technical steps in any great depth.
Server Migration – Main Points
Server Migration Planning – The planning stage of a server migration is ultimately the most important part of the project, failure to identify an important service or role at this stage can lead to issues on completion of the project which can then take time to identify, unravel and put right and ultimately prove disruptive to your end users. The planning stage of a server migration should include identification of all the services and roles that the current server provides to the network and users, a list of data shares and all their associated security settings and a plan for when each service will be migrated. Once this initial review is complete, it’s time to prepare the new server.
Migration Steps – The first stage of the install process is normally configuration of the server’s hard disc drives; these should be configured in a way that provide redundancy should any of them fail (this is known as a RAID array). The server’s operating system should then be installed. After installing the operating system, any required updates and any other required applications, any roles that the new server will supply to the network should then be installed. If the new server is a domain controller, these typically include roles such as DNS, DHCP, File Sharing and Printing roles but other server types may also include things such as remote access roles and features. Once all the roles are installed and configured, setting up any file shares that the current server provides to users can then be tackled. This would typically involve using the info gleaned at the planning stage where you identified the shares and what security permissions they have, to create the same share structure on the new server. The files contained within those shares can then be copied over using a file copying utility such as Robocopy – this allows you to copy of the data in a staged manner with no disruption to anyone using the current shares. If the new server will be used to share out any printers, these should be installed at this stage and shared out in preparation for migration. Happy that you have everything in place and tested, a date for the “cut-over” to the new server should then be agreed with the client. On cut-over day, a final data copy of the file shares will then be done, users logon-scripts amended and some work will be required to ensure the new printer shares are available to the users.
Completing the Server Migration Project – With migration complete its time to think about what you do with the old server. As part of the decommissioning process, a process of moving any remaining services onto the new server is required and a process of removing and/or demoting the old server is needed. Once this is complete, the old server can then be disposed of professionally using a decommissioning service which will use various tools to destroy the data on the hard disc drives, or can perhaps be stored safely on your premises with the view to using this server for another role within your network in future.
In summary when a server migration is to be carried out, a carefully thought-out plan is required and should be documented before commencing the migration. The plan should then be followed to complete the migration steps in a controlled manner. If your plan is sound and you follow it to the letter, a complex and challenging job such as a server migration can be carried out with the minimum of stress and with no down-time to your end users. Failure to plan out this type of job can result in a stressful situation for all involved in the project and the end result of unhappy and unproductive end users!