Selecting the right colocation provider and data center facility is critical whether building your offsite IT infrastructure for a private cloud deployment, disaster recovery planning or hosting applications that perform better on physical servers or have special licensing requirements.
Moving to a colocation data center can be brought on by a number of different factors. We’ve seen it all at Datacenters.com. One of our clients had to move because they had an on-premise server room that had a cold water fire sprinkler system directly above mission-critical servers, networking, and storage hardware. Another client was kicked out of a colocation facility because the data center was changing to a wholesale colocation model. We’ve also even seen a resurgence in colocation demand by IT that moved their workloads to public and private cloud and then reverted back to colocation because their cloud costs spiraled out of control and budgets were exceeded.
Whatever the reason, it’s imperative to select the right colocation provider for your IT infrastructure. The last thing that you want to do is to perform a data center relocation or migration a year, two years or even three years into purchasing colocation services. There’s never a great time to do a lift and shift to a new data center.
Start with understanding your current environment
It’s your technology that supports your business goal and objectives. It’s the data center that supports your technology. The best place to start is to look at your current environment and evaluate the performance, cost, and risks associated with that environment. What is my average downtime annually? What causes downtime? Is my business at risk from a natural disaster or human-caused disaster? What about data, security, and compliance?
It’s also very important to clarify the role of technology in achieving your business goals and objectives. This means getting various input and perspectives from those outside of the IT realm. How does HR, finance, operations, sales, manufacturing, and other departments use and access technology? What do those systems or applications run on? Are they in the cloud or do they run on a physical server?
Create an inventory of your current IT infrastructure
Do you have an up-to-date inventory of your network assets, internet circuits, colocation facilities, cloud assets, on-premise servers, and hardware? You would be surprised by the number of clients that we have that do not have an updated inventory of all of their IT assets. Over the years, I’ve identified hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars in potential savings by discovering underutilized circuits, overcharging, billing errors and erroneous charges. It’s a real problem for many businesses.
You may also identify end-of-life hardware by creating an inventory of your IT infrastructure and assets. The last thing that you want to hear is that it is time to replace IT hardware. However, the alternative of doing nothing could prove disastrous. This may spark additional conversations about the need for colocation or disaster recovery. In either case, performing an audit and creating an inventory of your IT is going to serve you well regardless of which colocation provider you select.
Define your IT strategy for the next year or five years
We’ve looked at how your business uses technology to meet goals and objectives? We’ve discussed the role of that technology and its current environment. However, what about the future? Where will your business be in a year? What about five years? What does that look like? Are you leveraging the cloud for certain applications? Do you have colocation for others?
It’s all about digital transformation. Determining what your IT infrastructure environment will look like over the next year to five years will give you an idea of the type of colocation provider you need to satisfy your requirements. For example, I know that I will be leveraging the cloud for my office suite. Therefore, the colocation provider must offer cloud direct connects to ensure the performance of my network and cloud applications.
Determine your budget for colocation services
You should have[BS1] an inventory of your IT environment and know where your workloads are running and how they impact the organization. You should also understand your hardware, lifecycle and any upcoming refreshes. This makes it a perfect time to start the budget process for deploying IT infrastructure into a colocation environment.
It’s pretty typical to make some assumptions on pricing for colocation services based on your requirements. You can browse pricing information on Datacenters.com Marketplace for bundled colocation services such as per unit, quarter cabinets, half cabinets, full cabinets, private cages, and private suites. This will give you an idea of colocation pricing by service, pricing, and location.
If you want to get an exact price, you can use the Datacenters.com Project Platform to build a digital colocation RFP. This will be submitted directly to the colocation providers you select and they will respond with proposals.
It’s important to look at what your monthly costs are going to be, as well as your one, two, three or five year overall operating costs for colocation plus any capital expenses for hardware purchases.
Select the right location for your colocation environment
Does location matter? When it comes to colocation services the answer is absolutely. One of the largest considerations for selecting a colocation provider is the location of their data center facilities. Most businesses that request information on colocation providers listed on Datacenters.com want a specific location that is close to either their headquarters or a branch office. This makes perfect sense because the business obviously wants its IT department and resources close by to perform maintenance, updates, patches or troubleshooting.
In addition to being close to a headquarters or branch office, many businesses select a data center location in another city, state or region for disaster recovery. For example, if your business is located in Los Angeles, California and you need a DR site at least 1,000 miles away then Denver, Colorado may be the right location for your secondary colocation facility. Denver is also categorized as one of the lowest risks in terms of natural disasters such as earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, and wildfires.
Another reason to select a specific city or region for colocation services is to be closer to your end-users. There’s a lot of talk these days about the edge, edge computing, and edge data centers. Many businesses choose colocation in a different country, state, or region to address challenges relating to latency, hardware and networking demands of a centralized data center. For example, we had a client that was opening an office in Singapore. They required colocation services to house their IT infrastructure consisting of servers, storage, and networking hardware. This IT infrastructure was used to support their local branch offices and employees as well as customers in Singapore instead of London, United Kingdom.
Download this free Colocation Buyer’s Guide from Datacenters.com
Determine the right colocation provider
It’s time to determine which colocation providers meet your requirements. You’ve narrowed down your technology requirements, budget and the location for your colocation environment. Congratulations, this is easier said than done.
You may have an existing colocation provider. You may have worked with another provider in the past. It’s also possible that you’re unsure which provider is best in a specific data center market. However, the budget will largely determine which colocation provider and data center facility you end up selecting.
Top tier colocation providers will likely come in substantially higher than other providers. Are you buying a Ferrari or a Honda? Don’t pass up a colocation provider because they’re less expensive. You need to look at the track record of that provider along with certifications, service offerings, financials, and referrals. Furthermore, a lot of decision-making process comes down to the actual data center facility itself.
Select the right data center facility for colocation
At the end of the day, it’s all about the data center facility and whether or not it fits your requirements. There are many factors to consider when selecting the right colocation data center. Is it a Tier III or Tier IV data center? Is it in the right geography? When was the last time the facility experienced downtime? Is there onsite technicians, support and monitoring?
Not all data centers are created equal. Some colocation data centers were built in the early 2000s. Many of these data centers are considered Tier I or Tier II facilities, are carrier-grade and used for networking and peering. The price point for Tier I or Tier II may seem attractive; however, the risk associated with deploying your IT infrastructure to this type of environment may not be.
The majority of our clients are interested in Tier III+ data centers and colocation providers offering those types of facilities. There is a huge jump in the availability of a Tier III data center as opposed to a Tier II data center. A Tier III facility has an availability of 99.982% with only 1.6 hours of interruption a year.
Tier III data centers have N+1 redundancy. N+1 means that the facility has what is required to operate plus a backup. Redundancy can include items like power feeds, diverse network paths, UPS, and diesel generators.
Need help evaluating data center facilities? We’ve created an easy to use data center checklist for comparing three data centers side-by-side. Make sure to download it today before selecting your data center finalist.
Download this free Data Center Checklist from Datacenters.com
Use Datacenters.com to negotiate the best pricing and terms
Since 2013, Datacenters.com has helped thousands of businesses find, compare and procure colocation services. Something you may not know is that Datacenters.com has partnership agreements with all of the major colocation providers across the globe. You can use the Datacenters.com Project Platform to create and distribute your colocation RFP directly to the colocation providers you select. You can also use a colocation broker or agent such as myself to help you throughout the process and in selecting the right colocation provider for your business.
As a colocation broker with an extensive background in nearly all facets of IT, I can help you with a lot of the heavy lifting in terms of evaluating your options, building your network and designing your hybrid infrastructure for the future. We have an insider’s view into the colocation market, data center locations and which providers to avoid. Contact me today to learn more. Bryan Smalley, Datacenters.com Advisor and President of UrPoint Technologies.