As costs of managing and maintaining in-house data centers rise, enterprises are reconsidering their infrastructure and attempting to minimize on-premises data center space. Colocation data center providers are becoming a more attractive and cost-effective solution, offering physical locations as well as power, cooling, network, and security services for their customers. According to 451 Research, nearly half of all enterprises plan on increasing their use of colocation services over the next two years.
If you are considering colocation data center vendors, choosing the right one for your data center needs can be a complicated decision with many factors that must be weighed. With the average colocation contract being three to five years, it is important to make the right decision in selecting a colocation provider that meets your current and future needs so you don’t have to worry about the cost, effort, and downtime that accompanies moving data centers every several years.
Here are the top considerations for choosing your colocation provider to help ensure you make the best choice for your organization:
- Know your requirements – Identify what you want to achieve now and in the future, any unique business and IT requirements, and a realistic projection of future growth. If you are migrating a data center, start with what you have, project your scalability needs, and determine what services are necessary. For new deployments, consider speaking with a consultant or with industry professionals to help identify your requirements.
- Location – The physical location of a data center impacts cost, latency, uptime, and availability. Facilities in metro areas like New York or San Francisco tend to be more expensive. The location’s vulnerability to natural disasters should be considered and can also contribute to the cost. A location far from your target audience may be cheaper upfront but has the potential downside of connectivity and bandwidth issues. Having a colocation facility near your IT staff provides easier access for necessary site visits. Consider your organization’s unique needs to determine what location is right for you.
- Disaster plan – Certain locations may be more prone to natural disasters, such as earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, or hurricanes, but all data centers should have a disaster recovery plan to mitigate against costly downtime or data loss. When choosing a colocation facility, learn their procedures for equipment protection, service restoration, data backup, and emergency drills to help ensure your service is not impacted.
- Scalability – A colocation provider should be able support your current requirements, while also accommodating your needs as they grow. The scalability that colocation data centers offer is one of their biggest advantages as it removes the expensive cost of building and maintaining new data center space. Expanding in your colocation should simply be a matter of purchasing additional capacity, but you should be certain that your provider can handle your projected growth.
- Security – Both physical security and cybersecurity are important when choosing a colocation data center. Physical security can include a fenced or walled perimeter, a single point of entry, strict facility access guidelines, security staff, cameras, and locked cabinets with RFID card access. Determine what level of protection is sufficient for your equipment and data and confirm that your colocation provider can meet it.
- Sustainability – For companies seeking an environmentally friendly partner in their colocation data center, it is important to know what effort they put into sustainable initiatives. Identify what your colocation providers are doing to reduce their carbon footprint.
- Carrier neutrality – Look for a colocation provider that offers a variety of network carrier options to allow for reduced costs through competitive pricing and the ability to implement a redundant vendor network design. Being committed to a “locked” environment in a single carrier data center impede future growth and prove costly.
- Flexible SLAs – Don’t wait until you have already selected your colocation data center before addressing contractual or SLA. Be proactive and identify if providers are willing to be flexible with their agreements in order to better protect your organization.
- Managed services – You won’t have your own staff on-site at a colocation data center, so you will need to rely on the managed services or remote hands staff they provide. A certain level of support is typically included in the cost of the colocation, but emergency or specialized services may come at an additional fee or limited to certain times or days. Determine the services you require and compare the managed services portfolios that are offered to identify the best fit.
- RFP process – Once you know your requirements, ideal locations, and all the other factors in your decision-making process, send an RFP to six to eight colocation providers. Ask tough questions and get all the information you need to make the most well-informed decision. Be sure to understand every vendor’s unique pricing model and check their level of detail.
Best Practices for Remotely Managing Your Colocation Infrastructure
Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) software improves the availability and performance of data centers, benefitting colocation facilities and their customers alike. Operators use it to improve efficiency and resiliency and to make more informed decisions about their infrastructure, forecasts, and billing models. Colocation tenants can use DCIM to get insights into uptime and power usage, to make critical decisions as it relates to negotiating contracts for future space, and to simplify remote asset management and capacity planning.
- Track and manage port capacity – As colocation environments grow increasingly dense and complex, accurately inventory and track individual physical port types residing on every device to make the most informed decisions to improve planning for new equipment and services and aid in maintaining and troubleshooting colocation infrastructure.
- Visually document power and data connectivity – Good network documentation practices improve uptime and increase the speed at which you can deploy equipment. Plus, if there is an issue, you can quickly trace cables via your documentation to determine the root cause rather than having to manually trace cables. Without proper documentation, you risk mismanagement of resources, ineffective use of capacity, inability to move or install equipment, unsafe operating environments, and increased capital expenditures for new cabling and hardware.
- Accurately manage all assets, including spare parts – Eliminate the pain of managing multiple Excel spreadsheets and Visio diagrams and enable a single source of truth with an accurate inventory of data center assets and real-time views across your entire colocation deployment, including equipment in racks like servers, storage, networking equipment, rack PDUs, patch panels, and even applications.
- Monitor and report on power loads – Deploying new equipment is expensive, and you want to put as much equipment as you can in the space you lease from a colocation provider. Monitoring power loads is critical to know the exact load for each device you deploy and to maintain uptime.
- Monitor environmental sensor data in real time – Monitoring the environmental health of your colocation data center helps identify hot spots and overcooling, ensures a safe operating environment for IT equipment, reduces energy costs, and improves uptime.
- Simplify space and power capacity planning with business intelligence dashboards – Increasing capacity often has a lead time, so it’s important to know exactly what your current capacity is and when you can expect to run out. Leverage a DCIM solution with zero-configuration dashboard widgets that provide an accurate view of your capacity. Configure your gauges with your own red/yellow/green thresholds to easily understand your capacity at each site, if you need additional capacity, or if you have run out anywhere.
There are many benefits of moving to a colocation data center, including a predictable and operational expenditure model, better access to space, power, and capacity, lean infrastructure to manage during times of rapid business change, and a secure facility to ensure data integrity. Colocation is an attractive option to many organizations, but you should make the most informed decision possible when choosing your provider.
Remotely managing colocation infrastructure can be a challenge due to a lack of on-site personnel and no visibility into what’s happening, but by following best practices and leveraging a modern DCIM solution, you can simplify colocation infrastructure management and improve efficiency, productivity, and uptime.