This is the fifth post in a series on introducing open source software into your church. If you haven't already, read parts `one`_, `two`_, `three`_ and `four`_ first.

The previous 4 parts of this series dealt with migrating to various pieces of open source software which runs on both Linux and Windows. In this part I'd like to deal with the final big thing: a full-on migration to Linux.

1. Create a Migration Strategy

The most important part of your migration is to develop a strategy for how you are going to approach it. Just installing Ubuntu on the computers is not good enough, and will probably leave you pastor bewildered and inclined to go back to Windows.

If your church has more than one computer, your migration strategy needs to deal with the order in which the computers are migrated. Assess how much each computer is used, and when they are used, so that you can migrate the computers without causing a major disruption to everyone involved.

You also need to manage your pastor's expectations around what he's moving to - while we feel very strongly about open source, your pastor typically doesn't care what software he is using, as long as it works. Remind him that Linux is different to Windows and that while there are a number of similarities, not everything is the same, and he should not expect everything to be the same.

Of course you need to plan the migration of all their data as well. Make sure you have ample backups and that you have a "revert" plan - if all goes wrong, how do we get back to where we were? It might feel like a huge step backwards to go back to Windows, but at least you'll be able save face and retain a level of trust with your pastor, hopefully paving the way forward for another attempt at migration.

2. Prepare Well In Advance

While this point falls somewhat under the strategy heading, I feel it is important enough to warrant its own section.

I can't stress preparedness enough, and the further in advance that you are prepared, the smoother the migration will be. Perform a couple of dry runs a few weeks before you migrate. Backup all the data and make sure you can restore those backups.

Test out all the applications that will be used. Make sure they can import their data correctly and that the data is fine. If there are any Windows applications that the pastor can't live without, make sure beforehand that they work correctly in WINE.

Time yourself! Make sure you have an accurate estimation of how much time the entire migration will take. This allows you to better judge exactly how much of your pastor's time you are going to take up. Remember that this is an all-or-nothing procedure, and that however long you take to install everything, that's how long it'll take for you to "revert" back to Windows (if not longer). It also gives you the opportunity to test the imports of all the data, and make sure they succeed.

Get Everything Ready

Make sure that you have everything you need on the day. For example:

  • List of tasks - a step-by-step guide of what you plan to do
  • Backup media - CDs, DVDs, etc.
  • External hard drive - if you can, I recommend a minimum of 1TB
  • Independent Internet connection - laptop with a 3G modem is a good idea
  • Plenty of snacks and cold drinks - you're going to be there for a long time
  • Something to keep you occupied - you're gonna be bored otherwise

It's probably a good idea to keep your pastor informed of your progress, so make sure you have his contact details. Remember not to talk in jargon - he doesn't know his kernel from his desktop environment.

Make Your Move

Finally, it's time for the migration!

I recommend getting up early that day, so that you have as much time as possible during the day to spend on the migration. Do your last bit of double checking on your way to the church office.

If you've calculated that the migration will take more than about 12 hours, rather see if you can split it up into two days. Spending more than 8 hours in front of the computers is not recommended, as you lose concentration and become mentally weary.

Finally, do your migration.

Post Mortem

When you have finally completed your migration, whether successfully or not, spend some time thinking about what went well, what took a long time, and what failed. Write it down so that it sticks in your mind better. This will help you in future, and possibly with the remainder of the migration process. If you need to perform the migration again, you'll know what works, and what needs work.


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