For any technology company that relies on data and mission critical software to operate, choosing a data centre or colocation provider can be the biggest decision they will ever make. This is because they have to trust the provider to house their mission critical infrastructure off site, allowing the organisation to continue to operate – but removing a sense of control and ownership from their assets.
Such a decision should never be taken lightly, and before anything is signed, they – from innovative start-ups to technological behemoths – must ask the right questions of their prospective provider. Getting it wrong may result in inefficiencies, or at worst, disaster.
1. Location, Location, Location
Location is one of the most important factors when selecting a potential data centre or colocation provider. First, the provider must be within an actionable distance from your offices. This ensures someone from your company can get to the physical location should upgrades, services or check-ins be needed. Secondly, you must research the area and how prone it is to natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes or storms. If the past few months have taught us anything, it is that natural disasters can strike at any time and have profound impacts on businesses.
Finally, the provider must be in an area where it is supplied with ample power, with lots of internet paths going to and from the complex. This will ensure that you can access as much of your data as you require, whenever you need, without having to worry about power outages. It is fair to say; a provider should have considered all these factors when deciding to open up shop. However, it never hurts to be 100% positive before any big decision. Another good indicator is whether other companies are also using them. Good service is contagious.
2. Room To Grow
A provider worth its salt should be able to scale with you – when you need to downsize or upgrade, the provider should be able to help both ways. And not only now, but for years to come. Different providers will offer different levels of flex and it is important to investigate how each can match your criteria. Don’t cap your business’ growth by partnering with a provider that will not be able to handle your planned growth in one, five, or ten years. Measure twice, cut once, as the saying goes.
3. Measured On Pace
Your biggest asset is most probably your efficiency at answering your customers’ queries and providing a solution that is efficient, and more effective than your competitors. If that is the case, why then settle for a provider that can’t promise the same? Always question how fast your provider can potentially have your infrastructure up and running. Will you need it done almost immediately, or is there time to spare? Furthermore, if you’re planning to grow quickly in the future, can they not only provide extra capacity, but do so quickly in time with the needs of your business pressures? Make sure you discuss timelines with your potential providers and get a good idea of how long all the above will take. Don’t tolerate vague answers or slow deployment – service-level agreements (SLAs) should be drawn up exactly.
4. Show Me The Money
As stated above, you will have definitive growth plans, so make sure that you partner with a provider that will, at best remain in business for five – 10 years down the line. Danger signs need to be investigated. Building a working relationship with a provider that will collapse only a few years after contracts have been signed will hinder your growth and could permanently damage your business. Your investigations must start by looking at press releases, financial reports, customer retention level and any financial history you can get your hands on. You can also ask current customers how they feel about their service and if they have heard anything through the data centre grapevine. Check for how, should the worst happen, they plan to fail. Those who plan for all contingencies are the kind of forward thinking partners you want to work with.
5. What’s Measured Improves
Knowing your provider has a detailed view of your data is crucial to its safeguarding and continued access. Data Centre Infrastructure Management (DCIM) solutions offer providers the ability to have a single pane of glass view over their entire estate, including your data. With this information providers can see the flow of data, identify whether you may need to expand, or downgrade server and other physical assets, ensure that equipment is being cooled properly to ensure optimal efficiency – and much, much more. DCIM solutions also don’t give providers excuses for not matching your agreed SLAs.
This is because with these solutions in place they will be able to provide a detailed breakdown of your data and how it is being managed. A provider without DCIM tools could well be pulling figures out of thin air. Furthermore, DCIM tools have such a granular view of your data’s storage and how the complex is running, that they can identify areas for improvement which means cost reduction which can be passed down to you.
Picking the right data centre or colocation provider is not easy. With so many organisations touting their wares, it can be hard to discern who is genuine and who is selling snake oil. However, while the above is not a definitive list of questions you must ask, they will help you paint a picture of the type of provider you want to work with. Are they located an actionable distance from your offices or those of your agents? Do they have the facilities to accommodate your growth (or downsizing requirements)? Can they move as quickly as you need? Are they financially stable? Have they the DCIM tools installed to ensure your data is properly looked after? If they can answer yes to all the above, you may well have found the most important partner of your life.