Planning your server upgrades

There are plenty documentation on the Net on the technical side of upgrading your server environment but very little on the actual processes that should be followed, things to consider and what to look out for. So we thought we will give you a brief run down on this. You can download the detailed process document here.

As with most projects you need to focus on the following 4 phases:

  1. Site analysis
  2. Preparation
  3. Execution
  4. Testing and problem solving







1. Site Analysis

This is a very important phase and is crucial to the success of your project. This phase is many times neglected as it can be time consuming when done properly.

  • Firstly, you would need to do a proper information gathering of what software, roles and services are being used on the servers, how they are configured and how they connect to the network (Both LAN and WAN).
  • You need to identify any problems that are currently on the servers and resolve them before you start with the execution phase.
  • Identify any compatibility issues. Make sure the software that you will be installing on the new servers are compatible with the operation system (Eg. MS Server 2008 64bit). Should you be installing the 64bit version of Windows or make use of virtualization technology, make sure that your hardware supports this.
  • Identify all risks related to the project. This includes anything that may prevent a successful execution of the project.

  2. Preparation

Preferably you would like to do as many tasks as possible as part of your preparation phase to ensure that you have everything ready before you start with the execution phase.

  • Images and Backups. This is crucial and should never be overlooked. It is recommended to make images alongside your daily backups before the project. With images you can usually get your system back to a certain state much quicker than with conventional backups.
  • Prepare your hardware. Check and test all hardware, make sure that the server has the correct specs and create your RAID.
  • Prepare your software. Make sure you have all the software and license keys for the necessary installations. This includes installation disks that might be needed to decommission certain servers / services. Contact 3rd Party vendors and arrange with them for the necessary installations.
  • Communication. Communicate expected downtime to the users as well as any changes the users might experience after the new servers are implemented.
  • Get all the necessary technical documentation that you migth need.

  3. Execution

Most of the time the execution phase can only start when you have network downtime (Users no longer working on the system). Remember to make a final backup before you start with the execution phase. This can be an incremental backup to save time. Do this as soon as you have network downtime and ensure that there are no users working on the system.

You will now install and configure your new servers. We recommend that you follow Microsft best practises to install and configure your servers – See our Best Practises section for detailed information on this.

It is very important to plan your time frames correctly. Start tasks that require the most time first (Data copy, mailbox moves etc.). Document all the settings that you configured (Passwords, account details etc.). Allow enought time for the 3rd party vendors to install their software.

It is often a good idea to try and keep the computer name the same if you are replacing servers. It elimanates a lot of workstation work and additional configuration changes that might need to be made.

  4. Testing and problem solving

Once you have completed your execution phase be sure to test all relevant services. Allocate enought time for this so that you can resolve any problems that might arise. Be sure to test the services both internally and externally and from all necessary devices.\

After you have done all the testing and you are sure that all is working you can decommission your old servers. You might need the original installation disks to do this (Exchange 2003, SBS2003 etc.)

You can download the accompanying Project Workflow and Site Analysis Checklist which you can modify according to your requirements.







Planning the IT side of an office move

Office moves can be quite a head ache for anyone if it’s not planned properly and seeing as we have done close to 20 office moves over the last 2 years I thought I would give you some insight into the planning and execution of an office move as well as things to look out for.

Note: At the bottom of the article I’ve included downloadable documents to assist with planning and execution of your office move.

To achieve a successful office move you need to focus on 4 important areas:

  1. Site Analysis
  2. Planning
  3. Execution
  4. Testing & Problem Resolution

I will now break down these 4 areas in more detail:

1. Site Analysis

Site Analysis is your first important step in completing an office move. You will generally collect the following information at the current site:

  • Dimensions of all the IT equipment
  • Make note of what your power requirements are going to be
  • Check if backups are in place
  • Determine Internet lines and contact details for service providers
  • Check Mail Server for Domains in use and also check with client if any other domains are in use.
  • See if you might need any  special tools to unscrew or remove the hardware
  • Determine the size of all the Server Hard Drives
  • DNS Addresses used by remote users and services.
  • If any public IP addresses are used by External users this need to be recorded and changed preferably to DNS addresses.
  • backups of the switch and router configurations
  • Log on to the Firewall/NAT Device to give you an idea of what services are published to the internet.
  • 3rd Parties will also have to be contacted to find out if the move will have an impact on the software they are using.
  • You will also need a list of people that can help you test their respective applications once everything is up and running.
  • Check what hard drive configuration and space usage is in place on the servers.
  • Record the IP addresses of all the servers & networking equipment

After this you will go to the new site and make sure of the following things:

  • Will the IT equipment fit in the designated server room?
  • Has provision been made for proper cooling?
  • Are there enough power outlets for all the equipment?
  • Does the building have a generator if yes how do you connect to it?
  • If your UPS is anything over 15 AMPS you will need to install  a 3PIN 2P+E Blue Plug (see picture)  
  •  Have all the required network cables been installed and routed to the server room. The Cabling Company should leave the Ethernet cables already connected to a patch panel and the Fibre should be spliced and connectors attached.
  • NB: Have all the internet lines been installed and tested? This is probably one of the only complete show stoppers if you’ve moved all the equipment and then realise that the internet is not working.

2. Planning

 Internet connections – The chances are very likely that your public IP addresses will change. On some occasions your service provider will be able to keep your current IP addresses at the new premises. They usually won’t inform you that this is possible so you will have to specifically ask for it. If you can do this it should half the amount of work that is required for the move.

DNS Addresses – Check who hosts the domains and find out what the process is to change the records. This usually involves sending them a company letter with the record changes at least 24 hours before the change needs to happen.  Make sure you get a reference number and follow up a day before the move.

MX Records – Any sort of professional business should have hosted mail spooling in place already so it should be as easy as requesting your service provider to point the spooling server to your new address. If not you are going to lose any email that is sent to you during the downtime. To minimize lost mail you will have to leave the mail server and internet in place at the old premises until after hours.

Insurance – Make sure your insurance will cover you during the move of the equipment.

3. Execution

The evening before the move I use external USB drives and image all the servers with software like Storagecraft or Symantec system recovery as it usually takes hours for the image to complete and you cannot move the servers before you have a complete image. Backups are helpful but with an image you can get up and running in hours rather than days. The following day when the company officially shuts down you can just run an incremental image of the servers after sending out communication of the server shutdown and removing network access so users are unable to make any changes.

Next thing I do before the move is take pictures of the back of all the servers and networking equipment. This is really help when re-assembling the servers and you don’t know exactly in which port the network cable was.

When moving the servers I would usually use my own car and do the moving myself with a helper as I know how much work goes into setting up these servers so I’m that much more careful than any moving company will ever be.

 4.       Testing & Problem Resolution

The important part here is to test everything before things are moved into place and tied down with cables ties. There is nothing as discouraging as finding out the next day that one user’s network point is not working and you have to take it all apart just fix the one point.

Also make sure you test all the important services like for example:

Email – Test incoming and outgoing. What I found with spooling is the server usually has a retry time limit so for instance it will try to connect to your server when it fails it will try again in 2 minutes after 2 minutes it will try again in 4. So if your mail server was down half the day it might have a retry time of 16 hours. What you can do is to contact your service provider and ask them to simply force the connection again once you have everything up and running.

Remote access – Remote to an external server and make sure you can access your server.

3rd Party Applications – Using the list you compiled during your site inspection get the users to test their respective applications.

The first day when everything is back to work is usually quite a hectic day so more the you can test and sort out before the time the smoother your first day will go.


The important part about moving is your initial planning, if you do this properly then you will find that an office move is one of the easiest IT projects you will ever come across. The 2 things most important to me in this article I would like you to take away is to: 1. Make sure you image the servers beforehand and 2. Test the new internet lines well in advance. Anything else apart from these 2 things can be resolved on the fly.

Please download the accompanying Project Workflow and Site Analysis Checklist which you can modify according to your requirements.