Moving Your Systems
By Ronald E. Kaplan & Michael A. Goodman
Someday your firm is going to move or expand.† As frightening as that thought is, itís reality.† Firms outgrow their space or want to change their location, others merge or close offices.† When you move you will need to take your systems with you. This article addresses the concerns and planning which will help keep the downtime to a minimum.
There are 3 types of systems most firms maintain: telephone, office automation/word processing and accounting.† Sometimes the accounting and office automation functions reside on the same hardware.† The three most important rules to remember when moving systems are: 1) plan, 2) plan and 3) plan.† Plan for current equipment and configuration,† plan for future equipment and configurations and plan for the move itself.† Not only does planning keep the downtime to a minimum, but proper planning can enable significant moving cost reductions.†
Have an internal project coordinator who is a liaison between the various vendors.† The phone system alone requires the involvement of at least three vendors: 1) the local phone company, 2) the manufacturerís representative for the telephone switch (if you have an on-site switch), and 3) the cabling contractor.† The computer systems require:† 1) a systems integrator/operating system specialist, 2) an cabling contractor, and often 3) a vendor specialist (e.g. mainframe vendor).
Don't rely on space planner or office designers to have an understanding of the space requirements for systems.† They are often excellent in designing office layouts for the professional and secretarial space, but lacking in understanding of even basic needs of systems.†† Measure all equipment and plan for its location.†† Access space between equipment is often an issue.† Telephone switches typically require a three-foot easement on all sides.† Maximizing the physical space required for equipment with the amount of access space required is the job of the person familiar with all the equipment.† Power amperage, along with quantity and location of circuits are critical and should be carefully addressed.† Design your workspace, if you don't have racks, do you need them?(if you are not planning on purchasing racks reconsider your decision they offer economy of space and stability in case of a shaker). If you need racks, what's going on them and where?† Bottom-line - don't rely on space planners for the systems planning.††
This planning must be completed months before the move and way before the final plans for the new space are completed.†† If more space is required, as is often the case, or space can be configured better with modifications, this must be done early in the space planning process, before plans are signed-off.††
Moving is a perfect opportunity to implement cabling plans for future development which otherwise would not be reasonable or cost effective to implement.† Cost of the cable is nominal and the labor is already in the equation.†† Fiber backbone, redundancy between floors, dual cable at critical workstations (dual data connections, one for PC and a separate one for printer).† Even if some cabling is not used on day one after the move, you might be surprised how often it comes in handy on day two.
The type and location of the cabling often determines the difficulty in moving these systems.† If the cabling is new, meets all the specifications for the systems which will run through it, and is properly labeled and tested much of difficulty of the move has been contained.† Additionally, the cabling layout design must be flexible enough to adapt to oversights and allow for future system configuration changes and enhancements.† Even in a well planned move there are oversights and last minute changes.† Your
cable systemís ability to easily adapt to changes is a function of how well it was designed.†
Donít assign your furniture mover the task of moving your file server(s).† Make sure your system are fully backed up.† Double check your system documentation and make sure you have recorded which components are attached to each network segment.† Some devices may be sensitive to which segment they are placed on and may not function without software changes in a new location.† Make sure you have spare hubs, NICs, concentrators (and the power supplies and host cards in the hubs) and any other equipment which is critical to the operations of the network.
Moving computers can cause marginal equipment to cease operation.† Cards can become unseated from their slots, jarring hard drives, especially older ones, can cause damage to the surface of the media or the head, cables can be undetectably broken inside their insulation.† All these potential problems add to the already difficult problem of isolating just what went wrong if the server doesnít come up or individual PCs cannot see the server.
Donít make any changes or additions to drivers, operating systems, hardware, hubs or other network components at the same time as the move.† This just adds to the potential points of failure.† Changes should either be made in advance of the move or after.† Donít be seduced into waiting for the move to make configuration or other changes to your system. Why wait? Only cabling changes are lost with the old location.† The advantages of making and testing the changes before the move generally outweigh the drawbacks.† Be careful not to use critical time before the move making changes to your system when you should be planning for the move.
Have a plan for a minimal configuration.† This will enable you to demonstrate that vital network elements, like the server, disk subsystem, server NIC cards, and specific concentrators are functioning properly. If you are running 10BaseT, twisted pair Ethernet, it is a good idea to have a cable made up that enables you to connect a workstation directly to the server without going through a hub.† This allows you to prove the most vital network component, the server, is functioning properly without depending on any of the other equipment or wiring in the system.†
A very useful aid in isolating problems is a portable computer with a NIC installed, or better yet† Microtestís Compas network tester.† This along with a map of the cabling layout will enable you to immediately determine if a workstation that is unable to see the server is the problem or if the problem is on the otherside of the wall (the cabling, concentrator, or server). The Compas tester emulates a NetWare client workstation.† It is light and battery driven and enables a quick test of individual workstation locationís ability to login to the network.
Before you take apart the equipment make sure you have marked the hubs with the location they are being move from as well as where they are being moved to.† Additionally make sure you note any bad ports on each of the hubs.† This information will be invaluable when the hub is moved to its new location and workstations are being tested. Without this information the cabling will likely be blamed when a workstation cannot find the server and the time and effort to change and retest the cable will be wasted.
Donít forget that patch cables, both at the hubs and connecting each workstation to a wall outlet, are suspect when a problem occurs.† They may have been stretched, smashed or broken in the move, or new cables may have been configured incorrectly.† Donít assume anything.† Have one piece of cable you know works with you when testing workstations.† The first thing you should do if a workstation doesnít see the network is the simplest, swap out the patch for a known good one and eliminate that as a potential problem.† Remember it is possible to have more that one problem.† Both a NIC and the patch cable at a workstation could be bad. So donít just swap out the patch cable for a known good one, see that the workstation still canít see the server, and conclude that the patch cable is not part of the problem.† Be careful about what you conclude as you are testing.† Over concluding causes simple problems to get buried, and chasing them down becomes much more difficult.
Movers often require a pre-move inventory, sometimes referred to as an induction.† This requires labeling of all equipment so that each piece can be assigned to its destination location.† Asset tracking software is available to facilitate in this process and to enable the firm to perform their own induction, instead of paying the movers to perform it.† An obvious tangential benefit is the software enable tracking and valuation of the firmís assets.† Micro2000 calls one such product PC Census.
Moving presents a great opportunity to get your systems in order.† Maintaining PCs, servers, hubs, disk subsystems or other network components where space is very limited and things cannot be moved is frustrating and tends to increase the time and effort required to fix problems.† Data cabling, keyboards, monitors, wall outlets and wire in general tend to get very cluttered and disorganized in systems as they grow.† Often the space allocated for your systems equipment was not designed with the appropriate space and power requirements.† Moving presents an excellent opportunity to fix these problems and plan for your systems growth.
Ronald E. Kaplan, MS, MBA is a management consultant with System Integration Consultants (SICons), a Novell Platinum dealer based in Los Angeles.† He holds Masters degrees in Business Administration and Computer Science from UCLA. You can reach him at (310) 551-0505 extension 527, FAX (310) 556-8115, or email: email@example.com.
Rebecca A. Blau is MIS Director for Greenberg, Glusker, fields, Claman & Machtinger, a Los Angeles-based law firm with 100 attorneys.† She holds a Masters of Science degree from Northwestern University.† She can be reached at (310) 553-3610 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.