Building and maintaining capital-intensive IT infrastructure can be daunting for many businesses. Fortunately for them, it is now possible to lease floor space in a third-party data center responsible for the power, connectivity, and cooling of your hardware. This is called colocation.
It is vital to craft a comprehensive roadmap before launching any colocation initiative. This is because much is at stake when your typical colocation contract can last from three years to as long as 15 years.
Below are seven common factors you must consider while choosing the best colocation provider.
Before choosing a colocation site, ask yourself why that might be the best location for your business. A colocation near the in-house IT staff is more accessible, and this proximity is crucial in an event requiring quick maintenance or disaster recovery. Remote sites may not be easily accessible for the IT staff and might require external or remote interventions.
Businesses also aim to place their IT assets nearest to their workloads to minimize network latency. Colocation data centers established near population zones present high business values in this regard. This phenomenon has also led to the clustering of top data centers in some regions of the world. Northern Virginia’s Ashburn area, also known as “Data Center Alley” is the most prominent data center cluster.
Moreover, natural disasters, such as earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, etc., occur more frequently at one location than the other. Data centers in disaster prone regions are designed for highest standards of structural safety and are equipped with disaster mitigation equipment.
At the end of the day, the unique needs of your business should determine the best location for your colocation provider.
Your colocation provider must comply with the industry-recognized data center regulations and certifications for various tiers. The colocation facility you choose to partner with may adhere to a level system used by the Telecommunication Industry Association, a class system adopted by the ISO, or with the Tier certification done by the Uptime Institute.
Companies must perform a thorough check to ensure that the provider complies with the certifications and regulations that it claims to endorse. These certifications are essential later to ensure compliance on the part of the businesses themselves once they begin operating within the shared facility. The facility must also support third-party audits for transparency and validation.
Most colocation facilities have none or minimal staffing. However, larger ones provide robust physical security to the customers' hardware. This includes the 24/7/365 presence of armed security personnel and layers of biometric checks. Businesses must still ensure that the security measures effectively meet their company's unique needs. Your company can request facilities for added security if the need arises.
Connectivity is one of the most significant incentives and advantages of opting for a shared data center support system. You can generate great value for your business through interconnection, peer efficiently with your partners and distributors, and even connect with your competitors. Connectivity services offered by various facilities can broadly vary. Essentially, they must be carrier-neutral and provide an extensive ecosystem of interconnected customers. Before you opt for a facility, ensure you are thoroughly advised on its connectivity options.
Carrier-neutral colocation facilities with more comprehensive interconnectivity can help client businesses with competitive WAN pricing and redundant client connectivity. Keep in mind that your colocation provider would not be responsible for the telecom costs. Clients are typically required to pay an additional fee for network connectivity. So make sure you make the most out of your investment.
Availability refers to the amount of uptime guaranteed by your colocation provider and is measured in percentages. Uptime refers to the percentage of time when the network is completely operational. As a rule, top data centers aim for uptime of five nines or 99.999%. However, only a small number of data centers can achieve this number, while the rest stay between uptimes of 99.6% and 99.9%. A colocation facility with a high availability factor will keep your IT infrastructure running even during a planned maintenance activity. This is especially important for mission-critical systems, e.g. related to healthcare, finance, defense, where service interruptions can result in significant financial or other losses.
Whatever the size of your central organization infrastructure is, there should be a secondary site as part of your disaster recovery and data backup plan. Usually, this secondary site would be a colocation facility.In the wake of a natural disaster, the availability of a backup recovery plan will help reduce the downtime, data loss, and cost of recovery. Learn what preparatory drills your prospective facility performs for data backup and service restoration.
Cooling and power are primary resources needed for uninterrupted, high-bandwidth connectivity. Additionally, engine generators providing stand-by power supply are important, especially for areas prone to frequent electricity outages. Ask your colocation provider the amount of power it can deliver and let them know of your hardware's power consumption and cooling requirement.
Today's power-intensive technologies require matching cooling mechanisms. Prominent players in this industry are focusing on using environment-friendly cooling and power generation, e.g. wind power. Therefore, it is wise to comprehensively learn about the resource capacity of your colocation provider before drawing up any contract.
A Service-Level Agreement (SLA) is a contractual agreement between a service provider and the client that outlines the full range of the expected services provided by the facility. Reviewing the provider's primary service agreement and SLA must be the top priority for a business. Assistance from your legal and IT teams come in handy, especially when reviewing mission-critical terms and contractual formalities. If a concern arises, you must immediately discuss it with your prospective provider to negotiate the terms more favorably. A colocation facility with SLA terms set in stone should be knocked off the list.
Reliability is one of the key qualifications when determining the suitable colocation facility. This metric is closely linked with a facility's uptime. There are other ways to check for your prospective provider's reliability. These include reviewing their staff certifications, customer feedback, and onsite support the colocation offers. Moreover, a reliable colocation provider adjusts to the growing needs of its customer base. Therefore, reliability is also closely associated with opportunities for steady scalability.
Deployment here refers to the speed with which you want your infrastructure to be up and running. How much downtime can you suffer before your company can find an additional rack space or set up a new cross-connect? Logically, you'd want any modifications and deployments to be carried out as soon as possible without compromising the quality of the service. It can be challenging to measure the efficiency of your facility's deployment capacity. Clearly communicating the timelines is the only way to avoid any inconveniences in the future.
Since you will not have your in-house staff at the site of the colocation facility, you must completely trust the remote staff present on-site to provide you with the best-managed services.
The shared data center industry is by no means static. It is continuously evolving and adapting to its customers' growing and changing needs. Colocation facilities are becoming more democratized, characterized by a high degree of granularity. While choosing your colocation provider, you must look beyond the price and consider other essential credentials, most of which have been featured on the list above.
Recently, colocation has also become more specialized. These special services include edge computing that boosts the network efficiency and compute power through proximity to data sources, high output data processing, and running distributed data networks efficiently.
Partnering with a reliable and scalable colocation will guarantee your business an interruption-free journey going forward.