Server migration can be stressful. Potential downtime and data loss are risks you take when moving your server from one data center to another one. As part of my Linux server support work, I’ve been doing server migrations for more than a decade, and I’ve developed a few tips I pass out to our clients, so I thought I would share these server migration tips with you too.
Pick the Right Server Provider
Before moving your web server, you need somewhere to move to. Take the opportunity to review your hosting requirements. Perhaps your site is busier and could benefit from a content delivery network. Does your current dedicated server company provide one? If not, now may be the time to move to a new provider.
Today it is just as easy to move a dedicated server between companies as within a company. So don’t let the fear of changing providers prevent you from making the most of your sever migration.
Size the New Server Correctly
Few people like change in IT. So if you are going to move your server, you want to assure problems get fixed.
When you move your server, you will want to get the new server sized correctly. You will also want to consider any business requirement changes. For example, perhaps as your company has grown your tolerance for downtime has decreased. So maybe while redundancy was not required a couple of years ago, you may need it now.
You cannot simply describe your application to a sales rep and have them make a meaningful recommend. To size a server, you need to base your decisions on analysis of your current environment. If you do not know how to do this, get someone to help you.
I find business and technical needs vary too much to take a one size fits most approach, so do some analysis and make the most of your new dedicated server.
Plan for Downtime
Server migrations almost always involve some amount of downtime. While some server management companies will tout zero downtime migrations, I find it rare that the value is actually zero. If you have a database driven application, collect blog comments, forum posts or other user generated data, you will need to plan for some downtime.
While there are methods to reduce downtime, you have to see if they are worth it. For example, rackAID has a procedure to reduce downtime to minutes, even for more complex migrations. This however requires a lot more time and effort on our side, and the added uptime may not justify the expense.
When planning a migration, consider how much downtime you can afford. Look at it from a loss of revenue or cost to your business. Once you have a number in mind, be sure that your migration plan can meet these downtime goals.
With any server migration, plan for downtime. If you keep your clients and staff informed of the event, they (hopefully) will be more tolerant of the service interruptions.
Make a Plan
Server migrations must be planned. If you have not moved a server before, you may find it challenging to know of all of the issues you face. There are a lot of items to consider: data consistency, database changes, DNS, email accounts, IP issues, SSL certificates, software version changes, OS changes, control panel changes, document root changes, and the list continues.
I have seen many migrations fail due to a lack of planning. If you plan appropriately, server migrations will go smoothly.
Get Server Migration Help
This is a bit of a self serving plug, but I cannot tell you how many people have come to rackAID in the midst of a botched server migration. If you do not have a solid grasp on DNS, Apache, database, and hosting control panel systems, I do not recommend trying to migrate a server yourself. While you may handle day to day operations with ease, server migrations may require many issues to be fixed quickly. This is where experience pays off.
A good server management company can also help you plan appropriately so the entire job goes smoothly. If they do a lot of migrations, they will know what quirks your particular migration may encounter and be ready to fix them.
Getting help moving your server could actually save you time and money. Server migrations are not difficult, but you certainly benefit by having experience.
Do you have any tips on moving servers? I know these are very general but I see many small businesses fail to consider these hopefully helpful bits of advice.
Also, if you have a server migration nightmare that happened because you ignored any of these, that may be fun to hear (well, at least fun for the rest of us).
Don’t forget to check out my blog series on how to plan for a server migration.