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Searching for Colocation Data Centers? Here are the questions to ask..

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Posted by Jackie Edwards - 11 November, 2019

UPDATE TO BLOG POST:  We made finding the perfect Data Center even easier with our Colocation Data Center Checklist

Data center colocation is trending upward as organizations rethink their spending priorities, choosing to preserve capital with hosted services rather than retool or expand conventional on-premises infrastructure. Colocation is appealing because it provides relief from escalating cost and capacity pressures. Although all data centers are different, the industry consensus is that it can cost up to $25 million a year to operate a large, onsite data center.

Colocation can be a far more convenient and efficient way to operate. You simply rent space for servers and storage in a facility that provides all the power, cooling and physical security you need, as well as established connections to a variety of telecommunications and network service providers.

As with any major business decision, it is critically important to do your due diligence before signing a contract with a colocation data center provider. Hosted data centers vary greatly in terms of cost, safety, security, energy efficiency, connectivity options and available services. Here are some key questions you should ask when you begin shopping for a facility.

Is it in the right space? Location, construction and design features are important considerations for mitigating the risk of downtime. That’s why it’s important to physically inspect potential sites. It should be well-built and capable of withstanding strong storms, floods or other weather events. It should meet Tier III standards for uptime and fault tolerance and ADA accessibility requirements. Look for a conveniently located facility for quick emergency access, and evaluate whether it is in a safe, well-maintained neighborhood.

Is it secure? Unsecured doors and windows that can be easily accessed from the outside are huge red flags. All entrances should be well-lit with surveillance cameras, alarms and industrial doors and locks. There should be perimeter security as well, including strong fencing and gates and possibly even concrete barriers or bollards that limit vehicle access. Other essential features include secure access and fire suppression systems with 24x7 monitoring.

Is it reliable? All electrical, mechanical and environmental systems must have built-in redundancy to ensure there is no single point of failure. The electrical system should be fully redundant with multiple distribution paths to IT equipment. Find out how many distribution units, backup systems, utility feeds and generators are in operation.

Is it energy efficient? Power is the single biggest cost to data center operations — and those costs are passed to customers. Motion-sensing lighting is a good sign that the operators are concerned about energy efficiency. Cooling systems are major power users. Look for a facility with hot/cold aisle containment and multi-stage cooling systems with high SEER ratings. Ask if the operators use “free cooling” techniques that take advantage of outside environmental conditions to increase energy efficiency.

How’s the bandwidth? Chances are good your bandwidth and capacity requirements might change in the future. Make sure the data center has a cabling plant and interconnects that can handle growth. Specifically, it should have Layer 2 switched infrastructure that supports standard cross-connects, separate copper and fiber cable runs, and redundant cabling routes into the data center. Ideally, you should have access to a broad range of carriers and service providers with enterprise-class blended bandwidth from leading backbone providers.

Is it properly staffed? Many people just assume that a hosted data center will be staffed 24x7, but that is not always the case. Make sure you’re not going with a so-called “dark site” in which staffers only keep regular office hours with no staff or perhaps only a skeleton crew on-premises overnight.

Depending on your requirements, there could be many other features and services you may require. This could include disaster recovery planning assistance, IT architectural and engineering services and “remote hands” technical support. If you’re considering a move to a hosted data center, give us a call. We can assess your requirements and help you develop a thorough list of the characteristics you’ll require in a colocation facility.

Need help comparing hosted data centers? Use our Co-Location Checklist to determine the pros and cons about data centers.

Topics: data center, colocation

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