Analysts: Hostway Failed to Properly Plan Server Migration

News Analysis: Industry analysts say Hostway could have avoided lengthy outages with a well-planned data center migration.

With a handful of customers still offline on the afternoon of Aug. 3 after service outages caused by a data center migration snafu, executives at Hostway are not yet ready for a Monday morning quarterbacking session.

But industry pundits had plenty of opinions on how to avoid the type of lengthy outages some of Hostways newly acquired ValueWeb customers experienced.

"Moving a data center is a major project, but its one thats been done before, and there are lots of resources for that. You get the whole thing up and going offline, test it, make sure its working, and then you swing it online. You only take the old stuff offline after you know its working," said Roger Kay, founder and president of Endpoint Technology Associates. "It literally sounds like they took their servers, put them on a truck, unpacked them and tried to plug them in again," he said.

To be fair, Hostway has performed several successful migrations of servers from one location to another, according to John Enright, vice president of marketing and business development for Hostway, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Enright said the data center migration was intended to improve service quality for the roughly 3,000 customers who were affected by the move after Hostway merged with Affinity Internet to become one of the largest Web hosting companies.

The migration from Affinitys ValueWeb Miami data center to Hostways data center in Tampa, Fla., was meant to "improve quality of service by moving into a facility with more capacity and better connectivity," Enright said.

/zimages/6/28571.gifTo read more about problems with the Hostway migration, click here.

Although Hostway is working "feverishly" to bring the last few customers back online, the root of the problem that caused some 400 customers to be offline for days after the projected 12- to 15-hour outage has not yet been determined. However, the company saw an "unusually large number of hardware failures that occurred during the transportation," Enright said.

"Any time there is a relocation of equipment, there is an increased risk of hardware failure. We had additional parts in our data center to account for that, but the number of hardware failures exceeded our most pessimistic forecast," he said.

Still, not all customers who experienced lengthy outages were plagued by hardware problems.

"They ignored all the support tickets till they fixed 100 servers with hardware [problems]," claimed former customer Steve Thompson, founder of Personalized Websites, in Columbia, Mo. "They had all these customers that just needed simple things and they didnt use their resources. Instead they were all just [working] on one problem. Meanwhile the only communication we had was the stupid message on voice mail," said Thompson, expressing frustration.

In hindsight, Enright agreed that communication during the outage could have been better. "Communication was definitely our biggest challenge in the [initial] period after the migration. We could have done better in carving out time to communicate with customers. Our folks in the Tampa data center were focused 100 percent on getting customers up," he said.

Next Page: Planning for server migration.