It’s a given that colocation and cloud services enable businesses of all sizes to focus on their core competencies but now there is an interesting trend in which many Anything-as-a-Service (XaaS) providers are doing something similar. They are contracting with larger IT service providers to host their equipment and manage their IT operations.

End-users do not consider this very often. These managed service providers are following the same logic that drives other businesses to cloud and colocation. They focus on their business and what they do best and rely on the operators of multi-tenant data centres to provide them with reliable infrastructure. As a result, “Who hosts my XaaS solution?” doesn’t always have a straightforward answer.

You’ll often hear phrases like “hosted in a state-of-the-art data centre” or “hosted in a Tier III facility” but how much does that actually tell you? There’s a big difference between a Tier III data centre that is a standalone operation and one that is part of a national or global operation. When looking to use a XaaS managed service provider, the underpinning infrastructure should be an important consideration.

Over the last few years there have been several high-profile stories of major data centre and service provider outages, ranging from huge players to independent, standalone service providers. So when businesses shop for cloud and colocation services, they most often want uptime guarantees as part of their service-level agreement (SLA) for the product. Keeping a data centre up and running is more than just a matter of redundant network connections, uninterruptible power supply systems and hardware replication.

A well-run data centre is simply the starting point when it comes to the physical attributes of reliability. The strong technology base should be accompanied by well-trained personnel who operate on comprehensive and well-recognised procedures, complementing a strong operations team that has an in-depth understanding of the efficient operation of the data centre. So let’s look at three basic but important questions you should ask any XaaS managed service provider you are considering:

1. What Is Your Uptime/Availability Guarantee?

This is more than just asking for a number; you are also asking how they go about delivering on that promise. Learn from last winter’s flooding and inquire about how they would handle potential failures at their primary site.

2. Where Is My Data/Service Being Hosted?

Since the likelihood that a XaaS provider using its own dedicated data centre is small, the quality and reputation of the colocation facility where the provider hosts its services plays a big role in how well it will deliver those services to you. And where it hosts the services may also lead you to other services your company can leverage. Many of the major colocation data centre providers offer an ecosystem of programs to connect users to other customers that provide services they may find useful.

3. Are You The Provider Of The XaaS Solution?

This might be the top question for a lot of people. There is a big difference between dealing directly with a service provider and buying through a reseller. Since there are many programs that allow resellers to brand the solutions they offer, it can be difficult to determine if they are selling a unique service.

If you are dealing with a reseller, take that into account when negotiating support, as well as SLAs. If you are being provided with a significant value add, that is all well and good, but make sure that responsibilities and requirements are clearly defined. It is too easy to buy strictly on price without realising that if, and when, a problem occurs, you will need to spend additional money beyond the contract price to keep your business up and running.

Educating yourself about how XaaS managed service providers work, what they are actually offering, and the quality and locations of their underlying infrastructure will allow you to make a much more effective business decision in the selection of these services.