Making a Move: Best Practices for Server Migration


Are you contemplating server migration, but not sure exactly what it entails? Considerations may vary depending on the type of servers involved and the desired migration path. The following are some guidelines and best practices for carrying out a successful server migration, no matter which scenario is at hand.

Why Migrate?

There are several reasons for migrating your server's data from one server to another. In some cases, upgrading or downsizing your server hosting plan will require you to physically move your data from the old to new servers. In other cases, you may want to change the underlying system type. For example, you may want to move your platform from Linux to Windows or vice versa. Finally, in some unfortunate cases, server migrations are necessary following a hack or data breach. In some of these situations, in order to be completely secure, it is necessary to start over with a new server.

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Server Migration Tools

Many server and file server migration tools are available to make your job easy. For example, Plesk Migration Manager makes migrating web content a trivial affair. Application-specific migration tools also exist, such as the Microsoft SharePoint Migration Tool, which is a utility for migrating SharePoint sites from one server to another. For entire server and file server migrations, you can choose from a number of operating system-specific tools.

Server Migration Tools for Windows Servers

Microsoft's File Server Migration Toolkit is indispensable for migrating a file server from previous versions of Windows to Windows Server 2012. For complete server migrations, the Windows server migration tool can significantly speed up the migration process, with better results.

Server Migration Tools for Linux Servers

Many free open-source migration tools for Linux servers exist. For example, Filesystem Archiver is a popular Linux file system backup and restore utility. Many native Linux packages can be useful for migrations as well. Samba, for instance, is a powerful Linux migration tool for onboarding Windows-based systems.

Pre-Migration Tips

A few precautionary measures can go a long way towards ensuring a successful migration. As an initial step, purge the current server of any extraneous user accounts and associated files or documents, as well as unused packages and applications. Archive and then remove from your system non-critical data that you would nonetheless like to preserve for potential future use. Lightening the load on your current server allows for a fast and error-free migration.

Perform Server Backup

Before initiating a file server migration, take a server inventory and perform a complete server backup. By making a list of the server's contents and state — accounts, installed applications, software versions, and more — you will have a point of reference to ensure that post-migration, everything went smoothly. And by backing up the existing system, you create a fallback mechanism in the event that the migration fails and data loss occurs.

Notify Users

If mission-critical servers are involved in the migration, ensure that you notify the server users of the planned downtime ahead of time. Inform them of the reason for the backup, impacted systems or software, downtime window, and planned date and time of server restoration. This will give users ample warning to back up critical files, save work, and plan around service disruptions and unavailability.

Whenever you plan to migrate your servers, and for whatever reason, use the tips and advice above to ensure it will go as smoothly as possible. 

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