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Our company has moved recenty. Although each computer was packaged into bubble wrap and hopefully handled carefully we now see a burst in hard disk failures. Some computers failed to boot immediately upon relocation, some experience disk problems weeks after.

Are there some best practices on how to prepare computers for relocation? Maybe something like disconnect all drives and put into boxes with shock absorbing material? This would "put all eggs into one bin" - should one box get lost or severely damaged many computers would be left without disks. It is also very resource consuming - we would need to remove and label all the disks and then put them back upon relocation.

What are best practices for handling hard drives when relocating a huge (100+ employees) company?

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100+ employees is "huge" now? The GFC must have hit harder than I thought. –  womble Oct 13 '09 at 15:30

5 Answers 5

up vote 6 down vote accepted

When my company moved, my primary goal "best practice" was to make sure everything was backed up, so if there was any sort failure, it would be okay.

When we did move, maybe 10 servers, 30 computers, and networking equipment, there wasn't a single failure. If the moving company handles moving computers with care, it shouldn't really be any different from picking up the computer and moving it to another office.

If all the parts are not covered under warranty, you probably should get moving insurance for part failures. You might also want to look at the terms of the warranties you do have to see if this covered. In fact, you might not want to trust a moving company that isn't willing to pay for what they break if you can find one that will.

As to removing and individually wrapping parts, I would look at based on man hours. Will there be enough fewer failures to justify the cost in time it takes remove every single hard drive, and put it back. Even if your IT is on salary, is subjecting them to such a tedious task worth the cost of just buying a few hard drives and restoring the backups?

Your answers to these questions probably depend a lot on the size of the company, for a large company, things like insurance might be more worth the effort. Some failures should probably be expected, and added to the IT budget portion of the whole move.

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Desktop backup seems to be the final frontier in well-run IT shops. Losing a PC hard disk SHOULD be simply a matter of installing a new one, re-imaging, and restoring the desktop backup. However most shops still tell employees "store anything important on the server", which works for documents but saving application data, app installs and user settings is forgotten. –  kmarsh Oct 13 '09 at 12:12

There used to be a "park" feature on hard drives (years and years ago) which you had to use in order to move the machine from one side of the desk to another. But, thankfully, those days are over.

Computer components will sometimes fail simply by being powered off and back on. If for some reason the power in the new location is "dirty" or in some other way inconsistent that could also be a cause of failure. Low voltage or high voltage conditions do play havoc on electronics.

Also, hard drives do get old and need replacing every so often. My rule of thumb is to keep a drive no longer than 3 years. After that power cycles have a habit of killing them. Sure, the drive manufacturer might claim a 5 year or 10 year MTBF; but those numbers usually involve extremely few power cycles. Ever noticed how server drives always have higher MTBF numbers than desktop? It's not because of quality differences.

Motors fail, magnetics fail, etc. I'm not defending the handling by the moving company (obviously I wasn't there so I have no idea); however, I do just want to point out that there are other factors.

This is why server parts, especially mechanical ones, have a higher incidence of failure in the first month than any other time. Typically, a server is put together and power cycled many times during that first month due to software installations and other set up tasks. Once in it's "home" most servers are simply not shut down very often. Rebooted? Yes, but not completely powered off and later turned back on.

This means the mechanical parts rarely have to go through the most stressful part of their life which is shut down, park heads, and start up.

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The drives should be OK if the moving company handles the PCs with care.

I suggest, before the first power on of the systems at the new location, reseating the data and power on the HDDs, or reseating the entire HDD if it's attached to a hotswap backplane.

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Work in a penalty per failed drive within x months of the move for the moving company and I bet you will see significantly less. People just don't handle stuff in boxes with much care. –  JamesRyan Oct 13 '09 at 11:29
    
@EK: That's a great point. Will you please add this as an answer? –  sharptooth Oct 13 '09 at 11:33
    
Try finding a moving company that will underwrite technical risk in a move? Good luck with that one... you are right, "I bet you will see significantly less", that is, less (or no) moving companies that would sign such a contract. –  kmarsh Oct 13 '09 at 12:14
    
@kmarsh: The company that moved us promised (I don't know whether that was written down) that they wouldn't turn the boxes with stuff upside-down. Still I saw many cases when this was actually done. So the point is they might sign even what they will not stand after. –  sharptooth Oct 13 '09 at 13:03
    
turning the boxes upside down should have zero impact on the drives. Which are sealed and able to be deployed in pretty much any orientation. –  Chris Lively Oct 13 '09 at 14:45

I had a similar experience and we only moved across the street!

It does make you wonder how the PCs (complete with OEM operating system installed on the hard drive) make it from the factory to the shop without ending up in this state.

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You're supposed to disassemble each computer and wrap important individual parts into bubble wrap, as things will still shake violently inside a chassis wrapped in bubble wrap.

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