By Jonathan Griffin. Editor, SEO Consultant, & Developer.
About six weeks ago we reported on plans for a massive SiteGround data center migration. The plan was to move their US operations to a brand-new state of the art data center recently opened by SingleHop.
At the time, we went reported on a little about the new SingleHop data center, and the reasoning for the move. This post aims to talk more about the meticulous preparations undertaken by SiteGround, and how they seamlessly and painlessly carried out the move.
To get some idea of the scale of the move, it should be noted that more than 50 percent of SiteGround’s customers were affected by the migration, so the potential for fallout and discontent was huge.
Because of the monumental task of the move, planning for the migration started several months ago with careful planning to ensure the smallest amount of downtime possible. It was determined that to minimize the disruption all migrations would occur at night, during weekends as this was when website visitors were at a minimum.
Advanced notice was given to SiteGround customers via a detailed blog post, later featured in the weekly newsletter, which we, in turn, commented on shortly after.
The Dry Run
Because SiteGround were reliant on their data center partners, SingleHop, they left nothing to chance. They worked with the migration team at SingleHop to practice a dry run movement of several servers, meticulously measuring timings throughout the whole process, including:
- Switching off the servers
- Unracking the servers
- Loading the servers on a truck
- Driving to the new location
- Unloading the servers from the truck
- Arranging the servers in new racks
- Switching the servers on
They have done a great job and minimize the time for each task squeezing every second. Then we felt ready to start the real migrations
Dedicated Server Migrations
Once the dry run had been carried out, SiteGround then set about moving the first 35 dedicated servers. Dedicated servers were chosen as they caused the least disruption and minimized the number of customers that needed to be updated during the process.
There were few minor glitches that helped us perfect the procedure even further.
Over that weekend several more batches of dedicated servers were migrated, further allowing the process to be streamlined and perfected.
The Big Day - 22nd September
Whilst many of the dedicated servers were moved before the big day, the 22nd September scheduled for the move of the majority of Shared Hosting Servers. This would affect by far the largest number of websites so special arrangements were made to oversee the whole migration.
Not wanting to be totally dependent on the SingleHop Migration team, SiteGround flew over an entire team over to the US to oversee the entire operation, including the head of the SiteGround admin department. This allowed a SiteGround presence to be in both the old and new data center locations, allowing them to communicate precisely with the customer care team back at the SiteGround office who then were able to update technicians, as well as customers with a constant flow of information ensuring everyone knew what was happening at all times.
Thanks to SiteGround, we have been provided with copy correspondence (these are duplicated at the end of this article) that was sent to users throughout the actual migration. As you can see, the customer was informed several days before the planned migration giving details of the process, details of the time that the migration was due to take place as well as the expected downtime via email.
When the Server Migration for an individual customer commenced the whole process was documented in 3 more emails, that indicated that the process had started, the server arriving at the new data center, and an email to confirm that the migration was complete. Just looking at the example emails sent, you can get an indication of the timings involved (these are copies of actual emails sent). In this one example the migration took just one hour, from disconnecting the server, moving it and getting it back up and running … incredible!
As you can see from all the alerts and emails sent out by SiteGround, the data center migration was flawless. We have always known that SiteGround prides itself on its speed, both regarding performance and Support. It would seem that SiteGround almost took the whole process as a challenge to themselves to not only keep downtime to a minimum but to reinforce how great they are at customer communication. We frequent many forums that specialize in web hosting, and we haven’t seen a single grumble about the migration.
SiteGround provided us with their thoughts on why the Server Migration went to so well:
What is the conclusion for us: a good planning + good internal communication during the process + good communication with the affected customers leads to good results.
It is amazing to think that 98 percent of their servers experienced less than 75 minutes of downtime, with many servers taking less than that to move physically from one data center to another. Well done SiteGround!
There are apparently only a few servers left to migrate, mainly their VPS servers, and GoGeek servers. We trust these will be moved just as meticulously as everything else.
Date Posted: 2014-09-18 15:43:45
Dear Customer. An important infrastructure change has been scheduled at the data center where your account is hosted. As part of the infrastructure change, your server will be moved to a brand-new facility. The scheduled date for the physical move of the server is Sunday, September 21st, 2014. The new facility is a state of the art data center featuring:
- Upgraded network topology, capacity, and throughput
- Upgraded storage network and capacity
- Upgraded redundancy and availability options
- Enterprise-class security to protect your assets
- State-of-the-art on- site NOC staffed 24/7/365
The time frame for the server move is:
From: 1 a.m. CDT on Sunday, September 21st To: 07 a.m. CDT on Sunday, September 21st Expected downtime: up to 4 hours
We strongly recommend that you postpone any activities on your site (s) on the day the server move takes place in order to avoid service interruptions and data loss caused by it.
We have taken all measures to ensure the server move will be as quick as possible, with as little downtime as possible. We will manage and supervise the whole migration process. There is a strict procedure, which has been executed several times during multiple pilot tests to make sure each step is completed properly and quickly. The procedure consists of the following steps:
- Stopping the server at the old facility, removing it from the rack and packing it for the move.
- Loading the server on the truck and moving it to the new facility.
- Unpacking the server and putting it in the new rack.
- Turning on the server and making sure it is up and functional.
We will also have people on website at all times, managing and supervising the situation, ready to deal with anything that may come up during the migration process. On top of that, we have all your data backed up and ready to be restored on a new server in case there are some unexpected issues during or after the migration.
We apologize for the inconvenience this necessary infrastructure change may cause you and your visitors.
Thank you for your understanding and continued support!
The SiteGround Team
Date Posted: 2014-09-21 12:03:22
Dear Customer. We have started the server migration and it is currently in progress. The server has been turned off, unracked and is already on its way to the new data center facility. Best Regards,
The SiteGround Team
Date Posted: 2014-09-21 12:56:12
Dear Customer. We are happy to inform you that the server has been successfully transported to the new data center location. It is currently being placed in its new rack and once this procedure is completed, the server will be turned on. Best Regards,
The SiteGround Team
Date Posted: 2014-09-21 13:03:49
Dear Customer. We are happy to inform you that the server has been successfully migrated to the new facility. The migration procedure was completed as planned, the server was put in its new rack, switched on and it booted successfully. There is no data loss and all services are fully functional after the migration. Thank you for your continued support! Best regards, The SiteGround Team