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Keep your business running during a Linux to Windows Server migration

How should I approach the process of a Linux to Windows Server migration?

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Considering the mission-critical role of operating systems in a business data center, it's vitally important to adopt a slow, carefully phased approach during the Linux to Windows Server migration. There are so many changing elements involved that an immediate, wholesale migration will undoubtedly result in serious disruptions to the business.

Start by working with Windows Server in the lab. This allows IT administrators familiar with Linux to become familiar with Windows GUI, the command line interface, virtual machine provisioning under Hyper-V and techniques for installation and management. More extensive testing and training usually involves working with Windows management tools like System Center. The learning process may take anywhere from six months to one year, depending on the staff size and prior Windows knowledge. Some businesses may also choose to make the investment in formal training for key staff members. As the development process builds, replacement applications can be deployed and optimized in the lab environment.

Once the server hardware, OS, application software, staff skillset and a migration plan are all in place, make the transition to Windows Server in a systematic manner. As with any major platform migration, start with the simpler and less-critical servers. For example, start by migrating test and development systems to build confidence and expertise without risking critical business workloads. As each new workload comes online, gradually migrate more complex and important workloads until the migration process is finished.

A Linux to Windows Server migration is a complex and demanding effort. It's costly and time-consuming, and it requires new applications and management tools in addition to new operating system licenses. IT will need a new set of skills, which will take time for staff members to master. And the actual migration process should be approached slowly and carefully, one platform or application at a time, to mitigate the disruptions caused by migration snafus. But when the need is justified, the effort yields long-term benefits to a data center and enhances the long-term success of the business. 

This was first published in October 2013

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