One might be tempted to conclude, based on all the tools that are available to the motivated webmaster or server administrator, that content and data migration are a simple matter of flipping a few switches and performing a couple of uploads. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The complexity of modern websites, the combination of data-driven applications, cloud-based services and the interconnection between various application programming interfaces and general services on the web practically demand that content and data migration be performed with the utmost of care. The alternative is delay, expense and potential damage to irreplaceable digital assets. Consider that armoire the moving company wrapped nine layers of blankets around. How much easier is it to wipe out a database?
If you are moving your data or your content from one server to the next, you need a plan. Here are some of the biggest pitfalls to try and avoid.
If you’re in a hurry, you’re doomed. Migrating a server is like neurosurgery, pregnancy or parking a cruise liner. It can’t be rushed. You need to get started way in advance and make absolutely certain you have considered every alternative and every contingency. If you get stuck halfway through, the money clock will start draining your patience and money until you run out of both.
Most of your initial schedule should be spent planning. If you have the facilities, you should practice the process once or twice to make sure your new server is up and running properly and is properly tested before you make any attempt to migrate the live data.
The first step is the most important step. Time and planning are everything in a major content migration operation. If you fail to acquire enough of both, it is better to postpone the task until you aren’t rushed.
At no other time in your server’s existence will your data be at more risk than when you move it to a new server. It is for this reason you should spend some of the time you set aside for planning to perform a complete backup of every file and every database on your server. Then make a backup of your backup. Store them in different physical locations.
As any experienced systems administrator will tell you, wiping out a file system with the wrong command, accidentally uploading data to nowhere, losing a connection at the wrong time, an operating system crash, power outage, someone tripping over the hardware, etc. are all incidents which can annihilate years or even decades of work in an instant.
Back up your data.
Order Your Integration
The rule for application integration is data first, code second, buttons third. The “buttons” in this rule apply to user interfaces. If possible, you should use this model to migrate content and data from one server to another. Not only does this give you the opportunity to build in the right direction, it also gives you the option of testing your integration starting with the data, which drives everything else on the server.
While for very small servers this isn’t really as important, for large operations it is vital to make certain your data is properly migrated and your database software is functioning properly before you attempt to integrate code, content management systems, web server directives or anything else that might change based on what data is being served at the time. Since most everything on a modern website has some connection to a database, this makes the rule both applicable and simple to remember.
Most websites are now served through secure connections using a secure sockets layer. You should do your best to make sure your SSL certificate is installed and working properly for your domain long before you start moving anything to the new machine. While this won’t be a disaster, necessarily, it will break just about everything on your site if your server can’t deliver SSL encrypted connections with appropriate URLs.
If you are pressed for time, you might be tempted to just switch to regular connections which will break everything the lack of an SSL certificate didn’t. It is much better to get all the infrastructure built and tested before you start letting drivers on the freeway, as it were.
The key to a good migration that actually improves your content and data is planning and proper time management. The actual work is fairly simple, provided it is done in exactly the right order and you have enough time to perform the necessary integration testing.
There is also something to be said for automating as much of the process as you can if you are tasked with moving a number of installs from one server to another. There are numerous commercial platforms available to do automated integration testing, and with the right logic, it would be as easy to do basic server infrastructure installs as it is to do operating system installs.
In either event, time and planning are what matters. Get those right, and you’ll have a much easier time with everything else.
Guest Post Written By:
In addition to being the editor at designrfix and writing about tech, web and graphic design among other subjects, I love “unplug” and be outdoors hiking and enjoying nature. If you can’t reach me, it’s probably because where I am at doesn’t have cell phone reception.