If you’ve spent any amount of time in an IT department or procurement, you’re probably well versed in the Request for Proposal (RFP) process. Let’s face it. Managing an RFP doesn’t always yield the results we were hoping for. Many times, it doesn’t make the process of selecting a provider, product, or service any easier. In fact, it can make it more difficult.
In this article, we look at the best practices for writing a colocation RFP. We look at what to include in your colocation RFP and the different options for getting the job done right the first time. We also look at the differences between using a Digital RFP vs Traditional Colocation RFP Template.
What is an RFP? Why Use an RFP and When?
Let’s get started, but first things first. What is an RFP? A Request for Proposal, known as an RFP, is a tactical document used to solicit responses and standardized proposals from providers, suppliers, or vendors that are competing for your business based on requirements outlined in the RFP.
For many businesses, RFPs are their preferred way of doing business. For organizations like the government, it’s the only way. When it comes to why and when to use an RFP, that largely depends on the size and scope of the project. It’s common for businesses that have industry regulations or compliance requirements to use an RFP for the procurement of products or services.
We’ve received numerous colocation RFPs while at Datacenters.com from small to mid-sized businesses, large enterprises, and governments. The size and scope of colocation RFP range from a single, standard 42U colocation rack to a request for a private suite for 300 racks and everything in between.
Difference Between RFI, RFQ, and RFP?
What’s the difference between an RFI, RFQ, and RFP? RFI is the abbreviation for Request for Information. RFQ is Request for Quote and RFP stands for Request for Proposals.
Request for Information (RFI) is a preliminary document used to gather initial information to help evaluate potential vendors, suppliers, or providers. RFIs are typically used before creating the RFP as a way of gathering information on potential RFP participants.
Request for Quote (RFQ) is more quantitative than an RFI or RFP and provides the costs associated with a specific project. RFQs are used when products need to be repeatedly purchased in the same quantities, or when the products are standard.
We’ve already spent time explaining Request for Proposal (RFP). RFPs are much more comprehensive and can be used to evaluate the merits of each company and proposal compared to its competitors.
Where to Begin? Writing Your Colocation RFP
It’s important to take a step back to gain a better understanding of why the project is important to your business, department, or IT infrastructure strategy. I like to brainstorm a list of questions relating to the project. What’s the overreaching goal or outcome for the project? Why are you doing it? What are the technology requirements? Who does it impact? What does it impact? How does it fit into the overall strategy? Who should I involve in the decision-making process? What’s my timeline? What the budget? What are we looking for in a colocation provider?
Writing a list of questions can be overwhelming. There’s a lot to consider and a lot of moving parts associated with any RFP and especially RFPs that deal with technology. Remember that this is just an exercise to get you thinking about the next steps.
Using Existing Colocation RFP Template or Example?
A lot of businesses and IT departments have existing RFP templates or examples that they have used in the past for other projects. That’s a great place to start. You may also want to think about downloading colocation RFP templates from colocation providers and data centers. Some are better than others. Colocation providers like CyrusOne, OneNeck IT Solutions, PhoenixNAP, and AIS offer free data center colocation RFP templates. Datacenters.com does as well…
Download Datacenters.com Colocation RFP Template!
Sections in Data Center Colocation RFP?
Provider Overview –Understand what key company information to analyze to get experience and stability
Building/Property – Determine how to properly gather all the needed technical and design specs on the different facilities
Data Center Space – Gather key measures for current and future colocation needs
Electrical & Cooling Specifications – Understand key specs to gather to properly plan for power densities, redundancies, configurations, cooling output and more
Network Services – Avoid being locked into expensive connectivity agreements with little flexibility around carriers
Data Center Systems/Personnel – Ask the key questions on environmental and security monitoring systems and procedures
Risk Overview – Get critical information about the facilities location, history, and access
Availability Review – Determine if the data center can scale as your business grows
Professional Services – Uncover key partnerships and services you may need in the future
Pricing and Terms – Understand key lease differences and the hidden costs they contain
New Way? Create Your Digital Colocation RFP
The most painful parts of the RFP process is not only writing the RFP but also distributing the RFP to colocation providers and managing the responses and proposals.
Just imagine for a second that you have maybe 12 or 15 colocation providers responding to your RFP. Now imagine that they have questions that require emails and possibly phone calls with each provider. Yikes! I hope that you cleared your schedule. Otherwise, it’s going to be like working two or three jobs.
Digital RFPs are a relatively new concept for the colocation and data center industry. Datacenters.com was one of the first to create a digital RFP for colocation services. So, how does it work?
It’s a simple three-step process that walks you through the entire process from creating your RFP to selecting providers and data center facility to distribute your RFP and managing your proposals and resources. A digital RFP creates a standardized RFP that can be distributed directly to the providers you select, and you can collaborate within the platform for questions and proposal management.
Step 1: Define Requirements in Colocation Configurator
Datacenters.com created an online colocation configurator that helps determine your colocation requirements. It standardizes the colocation space, power, and connectivity options for one or more of the same configurations or add multiple, separate configurations. It even has a wizard to help walk you through the process of determining your requirements.
Multiple Racks with the Same Configuration
For example, you could enter two identical, standard 42U colocation racks with 5kW of power and 100Mbps of Internet. You could even enter your total power requirements and the colocation provider would specify how many racks are required in the proposal.
Individual Racks with Different Configurations
In another example, you could configure a single 42U colocation rack with 5kW of power and 100 Mbps of Internet. You could add a 20U half rack with 2kW of power and 100 Mbps of Internet.
Wholesale Colocation Based on Power Requirements
Wholesale colocation is typically priced based on the power requirements whether in kilowatts (kW) or megawatts (MW). For example, you could select wholesale in the colocation space requirements and then enter 250kW as your total power.
Optional Services, Features, Compliance, and Certifications
Customize your colocation requirements with additional services, data center features, compliance standards and certification requirements. For example, you can a cloud direct connect to AWS as a requirement. You can add that the data center has to have onsite parking, roof rights, or remote hands as a requirement. You can require that the data center is HIPAA or PCI Compliant.
Step 2: Select Your Locations, Providers and Data Centers
Unlike traditional colocation RFPs, the Datacenters.com digital colocation RFP allows you to configure your colocation service requirements and then search the directory listings for data center locations and colocation providers. You can narrow down your search results to individual cities, individual providers, and even individual data center facilities that you are interested in.
It’s much more interactive and eliminates the extra step of going to Google and searching for colocation providers and their data center locations individually. With Datacenters.com, you can do this all in one step and save yourself hours in the process of doing all of the research.
Select the Cities Where You Want Your Colocation Services
Let’s say that you want to submit a colocation RFP to colocation providers with data centers located in Los Angeles, California. Just search for Los Angeles and select the providers and facilities to include in your RFP. You can even add more cities to your RFP by searching again.
Select Multiple Providers in Cities Where You Want Colocation
Suppose that you only want to select Equinix, Digital Realty, and CoreSite for your colocation RFP. Simply search for the city that you want to include in your RFP. Then, select only the providers Equinix, Digital Realty, and CoreSite. It will automatically select all data center facilities in that location for those providers.
Select Individual Data Center Facilities in Specific Cities
You’re only interested in a specific data center facilities in a specific city. No problem. Simply search for that city, click on the provider to expand the locations in that city, and then click on the data center facility or facilities that you want to include in your colocation RFP.
Step 3: Enter Your Project Details and You’re Done
The final step in the digital colocation RFP is to enter your project details. This includes simply adding a name for your RFP, a description and notes, or additional details. You can also upload a traditional colocation RFP document or PDF and any other relevant documents for your RFP.
It’s that simple. Once you finalize your RFP it will be distributed directly to the colocation providers and or data center facilities you selected.
Need Help? Questions About RFP Process?
Datacenters.com offers the largest selection of colocation providers and data center facilities online. With IGNITE Colocation Projects, you can easily narrow your search to the providers that match your requirements. This includes location, technical requirements, and provider preferences. At Datacenters.com, we're streamlining the IT procurement process by aligning you with top providers and providing white-glove, concierge services. Contact us if you would like our help with your next colocation, cloud, Internet, or wide area network project.