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What Does it Take to Decommission a Data Center?

What Does it Take to Decommission a Data Center?

If you’re switching to a cloud service, or if you no longer need your data center resources, you may eventually need to decommission your data center. What does it mean to decommission a data center and what steps should you take to do it successfully?

Put Together a Plan

First, you need to plan for decommissioning your data center. Even if your data center is relatively small, and even if you feel you understand the architecture and components of your data center well, preparing proactively is going to make the remaining phases of this process much more efficient (and less prone to problems).

  • Goals. Start by outlining your goals and your main priorities. What are you hoping to achieve by decommissioning this data center?
  • Timeline. Next, set a timeline for the project. When do you want to be done with this decommissioning? What milestones will you need to hit in order to make that deadline?
  • Responsible parties. Who on your team is going to be responsible for overseeing this project? Are there other responsible parties who are going to be involved?
  • Additional partners/resources. What additional partners for resources are you going to need to make this project a success?

Evaluate Your Inventory

After creating an overall plan, you’ll want to evaluate your inventory. This is an important step of the process, since it’s your opportunity to list all the equipment you need to account for; any inaccuracies here could result in complexities later on.

Start by analyzing your hardware. How many servers do you have and what percentage of those servers are physical? What about computers and other electronic devices in use? What network devices are you using (including things like switches, routers, and VPNs)? This is also an important opportunity to look at your racks, cables, power supplies, and cooling units.

Depending on your goals, you may also need to inventory and analyze your software, such as WAN/LAN management software, data and security services, IT management/inventory software, website hosting, video/voice services, and more.

With a consolidated inventory in place, you’ll be able to move forward.

Review and Terminate Contracts

Though you may have begun this process during your inventorying phase, it’s important to take the time to review and terminate any contracts that you’ll no longer need. What third party service providers are you using? Which partnerships could be affected by the decommissioning of this data center?

Establish Critical Resources

Before you can begin shutting down your data center, you need to reestablish any critical resources that you’re going to need during and after the shutdown. Downtime can kill your productivity and profitability, so it pays to have a continuity plan in place.


Effective communication with end users is critical if you want to be successful in this project. You’ll also want to communicate your goals and intentions internally – especially if your data center decommissioning is going to interrupt their work.

Here are some quick tips on mastering this effective communication:

  • Start early. Start as early as possible. Give your end users and your employees as much time as possible to understand what’s about to happen and when it’s going to happen.
  • Be clear. Try to explain things in terms that people are going to understand. Your end users may have a high degree of technical familiarity, but they may also not know what a data center decommissioning really is.
  • Set expectations. Be sure to explain how data center decommissioning is going to affect your audience. What can they expect from this? Are there any outages planned? How long are those averages going to last?

Orchestrate and Execute Your Shutdown

At this point, you’ll be able to orchestrate and execute your shutdown. You can start by removing devices from your monitoring and backups. Then, you can focus on shutting down your non-essential physical and virtual servers. You can then remove active directory and DNS from your domain controllers, remove obsolete objects and sites, and start shutting down things like hypervisors, storage arrays, and network devices.

Dispose of Old Equipment Responsibly

Finally, you’ll be ready to dispose of your old equipment. It’s unethical, and in some cases, illegal to simply throw your electronics away. Instead, you’ll need to resell them work properly recycle them with the possibility capable of recycling old devices and equipment.

You also need to be security conscious when disposing of old electronics. Make sure you thoroughly remove any and all important data from your equipment before disposing of it.

Once you’re done with all these steps, you can officially close the books on your data center decommissioning. Make sure you send a final notification to your end users (and any relevant internal parties) letting them know that the process is complete.

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