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Best practices for completing a storage migration plan

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Best practices for completing a storage migration plan

It may be necessary to change how and where an enterprise stores its data. A storage migration plan is critical in these situations.

Organizations generate an ever-increasing amount of data. Existing resources may not be able to handle storage demands. So, a proper plan takes several considerations into account.

Why a storage migration plan is important

Assuming the IT department and senior management agree that a change in storage facilities is needed, a storage migration plan is the next logical step. The plan establishes the processes and procedures needed to move data, databases and systems to a new and stronger platform.

Storage migration plans provide a framework for examining storage options, projected costs and issues associated with preparing for, launching and validating performance post-migration.

Characteristics of a storage migration plan

The high-level activities include preparation, plan development, selection of a new storage arrangement, identification of the steps in the migration, testing of the new platform and documentation of all procedures.

The following section assumes the migration is to an external service, such as a cloud storage vendor. If the migration occurs within the enterprise, such as in deploying NAS or scaling storage arrays up or out, the organization can use the following steps, with modification.

Assuming the IT department and senior management agree that a change in storage facilities is needed, a storage migration plan is the next logical step.

Preparation phase

  1. Identify and organize the data migration team.
  2. Verify the team has sufficient expertise for the migration.
  3. Brief senior management on the proposed migration.

Discovery phase

  1. Identify what the organization will migrate, including its criticality to the business and the impact of its loss.
  2. Determine storage requirements at the time of migration and into the coming months either manually or with automated tools.

Assessment phase

  1. Examine storage options, such as expanding on-site resources or moving to cloud storage or an MSP that specializes in storage.
    1. Evaluate technical capabilities and financial specifics of candidates.
    2. Evaluate data protection, data security and data privacy capabilities.
    3. Evaluate vendor experience completing storage migration projects.
  2. After identifying a new platform, perform a financial analysis of expected costs, including ongoing monthly fees, capital expenses to buy new equipment, maintenance costs, migration costs and testing costs.
  3. Secure approval from senior management on the proposed migration initiative and its associated budget.

Planning phase

  1. Determine the type of migration — online, offline or a combination of both.
  2. Analyze the components of the data, such as data sources and destinations, storage device types, network requirements and migration strategies.
  3. Prepare the migration plan, and secure its approval by management.
  4. Establish checkpoints during the migration to review progress and address any problems.
  5. Determine the tool(s) to use for the migration, either from available products or by the new storage vendor.

Pre-migration phase

  1. Identify and prepare the new location and storage platforms for the data.
  2. Regularly coordinate with the new storage vendor during all phases of the migration.
  3. Examine the data in advance to identify any anomalies.
  4. Schedule the migration, considering the impact on business operations and data center production systems.
  5. Consider setting up a test environment with the vendor to migrate selected data, databases and systems in advance of the official migration.
  6. Back up data as prescribed in the migration plan to ensure its availability.
  7. Update technology disaster recovery plans to address any unplanned events that may compromise the migration.

Migration phase

  1. Ensure the data is moved securely, using data encryption and optimized network bandwidth.
  2. At each checkpoint, check the migration’s progress, and address performance, security, networking or other issues.
  3. Test and validate that the data has successfully migrated.
  4. Refresh and reconfigure the previous storage system(s) for potential new applications.
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Post-migration phase

  1. Schedule a meeting with the IT storage team and the storage vendor team to review the migration to discuss what worked and what did not.
  2. Prepare a report that summarizes the above meeting, identifying lessons learned and actions to take going forward.
  3. Prepare and deliver a briefing to senior management on the migration and its potential value to the enterprise.
  4. Document new storage procedures, and update all policies addressing data storage and data management.

Important steps to remember

The above steps can provide a starting point for executing a storage migration initiative. Here are a few key points to remember that help ensure a successful project:

  • Do the homework upfront, such as assessing storage requirements.
  • Ensure senior management supports the project.
  • Adopt a “test and verify” mindset throughout the project.
  • Communicate regularly with the storage vendor’s team.
  • Back up data before migrating to ensure it is available if the migration fails.
  • Ensure the organization can secure data in transit and at rest.
  • Perform low-risk tests of sample data before the migration.
  • Document all phases of the migration — they can be important in future audits.
  • Update data storage, privacy, security and management policies.

Paul Kirvan is an independent consultant, IT auditor, technical writer, editor and educator. He has more than 25 years of experience in business continuity, disaster recovery, security, enterprise risk management, telecom and IT auditing.

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