In my position as a Launch Manager on our Cloud Launch Team, I speak everyday with customers who are bringing an application over to Rackspace from another hosting provider. Whether it’s a WordPress blog, a Magento eCommerce site, or a custom-built mobile app, my fellow Launch Managers and I work with our customers to provide a smooth transition from one provider to another. Today, I’ll outline five questions you should ask before starting a migration to Rackspace (or any other hosting provider). I will also be hanging out at 1 p.m. CDT Thursday, April 24 with other Rackers to discuss these questions in more detail. Join us on Google+ to Hangout, or watch the embedded video below.
1. Why are you moving from your current host?
What are your current pain points? There are many, many reasons you might be moving – a performance increase; your app has grown to need a hybrid hosting platform; the need for better, specialized support; maybe you need a more reliable platform; or perhaps your app needs to scale beyond the scope of your current hosting provider. Whatever the reason, we want to make sure you have a good “why” before you move to Rackspace. Wait, is Rackspace trying to convince me to stay with my current host? Not necessarily, we just want to make sure that you account for all of the reasons you need to migrate so that answer:
2. What does a successful migration look like?
When this is done, how will we know we succeeded? Gather your stakeholders, and find out what matters to them. Look back at the reasons why you need to move hosts. Does fixing those issues constitute success? Are there other factors that would help to improve your and your end users’ experience? The definitions of success should include both experiential metrics and concrete metrics. For example, load time less than 2 seconds; or no more than 30 minutes of downtime. Take that feedback and write out a realistic version of a successful outcome. By clearly establishing what success looks like, we’ll know when we get there.
3. Who is managing the project?
Who is responsible for each aspect of the migration? Who’s handling the infrastructure? Who will move the files, and who will switch the DNS when you’re ready? Asking and answering these questions now will help us delegate tasks as they come up, and can greatly decrease the amount of time needed to complete a migration.
4. What’s your timeline?
When do you need to have your project online here at Rackspace? Do you have a hard and fast deadline for leaving your current host? Are you up against a deadline for a major media appearance? Think Shark Tank or Good Morning America. By establishing that timeline early in the process, we’ll be able to allocate the appropriate resources to meet that deadline. We’ll work with you to establish the timeline for building the infrastructure, moving over your existing content and the final DNS migration. Of course we’ll also need to leave enough time for the most important question:
5. What do you need to test?
Did we meet our definition of success? The one thing customers don’t leave enough time for is testing. The tyranny of the urgent often dictates that we change hosting providers right now! When your site is down at the current host, it seems like the most important thing in the world is to get back up and running on your new provider. But things do change from one host to another, from one server to another, and taking the time to test is still extremely important. What should you test? Test for the definitions of success. Our Launch Team will work with you to help establish those definitions, and also help with testing that they have been met. You should test basic site functionality, while we work with partners like New Relic and Load Impact to test application performance under load. I can’t stress enough how important testing is – always make sure to make time in your timeline for testing.
I can’t guarantee that answering these five questions will make any transition free of complications, but I can tell you that I’ve seen enough successful migrations to know that it will greatly help.
Hangout with us for more discussion
If you want to discuss this further, join our live, interactive Hangout on air at 1 p.m. CDT Thursday, April 24. My Cloud Launch Teammate Drew Cox and I will discuss these five questions and other ideas around migrating to Rackspace. You can learn more about the Hangout here.