When moving, the devil is in the details

Saddle up, we're breaking camp! earlier this year that cry went out when we had to move our computer room, including about 25 servers, some routers and switches, tape drives, and various data communications lines.

Saddle up, we're breaking camp! earlier this year that cry went out when we had to move our computer room, including about 25 servers, some routers and switches, tape drives, and various data communications lines.

As laborious as moving can be, we did have some factors in our favor. First, we were moving to another floor in the same building—and, thankfully, within the same elevator bank. Second, the new room, which we were to share with our parent company until its planned move, was already built.

The move went off without a hitch, due in part to these favorable conditions—and partly because previous moves, which left some scars, have taught us some lessons in logistics and planning.

The first step to a successful move is to notify key vendors and providers about the project so that they can be on alert in case of an emergency. If they won't be on site during the move, get home phone and beeper numbers for key people.

Next, lay out exactly where all your equipment will go. Make sure you have enough access space to do maintenance. You will run into a problem with cables that are too short, and there will be mis-sized and misplaced cutouts in floor tiles, so plan for it.

Furthermore, you may need to disassemble some equipment, such as connected racks, to get it through doorways. In fact, don't be surprised if you find yourself taking doors off hinges because you need an extra half-inch of clearance. And plan for the point of least clearance: Some of our tallest equipment was stopped in its tracks by ceiling-hung Exit signs in the hallways.

If height is not the problem, it's weight. UPSes are heavy. If yours aren't on wheels, warn the movers about them.

Exercise caution

With all this rearranging going on, don't forget to label everything properly before you take it apart. Sticky notes don't count; spring for a label maker. There's more:

  • Have Band-Aids around; someone will draw blood—most likely on the jagged edge of a floor tile cutout. Grommet them!
  • Make sure an electrician is on call. Sunday night is not the time to find out the wrong outlet was installed.
  • Buy a batch of heavy-duty extension cords. You will use them. Also, you may want some power strips on hand in case you find yourself short of outlets.
  • You'll need lots of screwdrivers, pliers, and wrenches. Oh, and snippers for cutting tie-wraps.
  • Every pair of hands can be put to use. If you're worried about not having enough muscle, consider recruiting your PC technicians who are always asking about getting into networking. Even if you're hiring movers for the heavy lifting, you'll still need extra hands for running cables and reconnecting everything.
  • And finally, don't think you're ahead of schedule after you take everything apart—it takes a lot longer to put it all back together.

A successful move usually means your users are completely unaware of what has transpired, and that's good. This is one of those projects where the best recognition comes from your own sense of satisfaction. Although, after logging in without a hitch the Monday morning after our move, the CEO's secretary called with congratulations to tell me that at least one person recognized the effort.

Brian D. Jaffe is an IT director in New York. He can be contacted at bdjaffe@compuserve.com.