7 Questions To Ask Your Data Centre Services Provider

NTTColocation - Questions to ask your data centre provider

When discussing the topic of choosing a colocation provider, it has been my experience that there are often many unrealistic expectations and requirements being voiced as part of these discussions. It appears quite often that the customer is not really aware of what they need or should expect when choosing a colocation provider.

While you might expect colocation to be somewhat of a commodity product, the reality is that data centres are all very different. I’ve not seen any two data centre providers (even operating within same physical facility) identical in their service offering. What may appear as minor nuances between two providers could result in a major impact resulting from the colocation decision. Whether your needs include access to a screw driver at 2 am in the morning, 100 percent uptime for critical applications or better alignment of IT with business priorities, knowing what to look for in a data centre services provider is crucial to making a successful decision.

To assist with the purchase decision, here are some important questions I suggest customers ask potential colocation providers. They not only allow you to compare and contrast providers before making your choice, but they also help you to better understand exactly what it is you are buying:

1. Where is the data centre located?
Don’t underestimate the value of the location choice of the data centre. It is very important to keep in mind that not only close proximity of the data centre makes it easier to access but it also reduces downtime when disaster strikes, reduces cost of connectivity between the office and DC, and lowers latency and potential data replication issues.

2. Does the service provider offer a wide range of capabilities?
You might be running an organisation that is fully self-sustainable, but it is still important to consider the full extent of service options available before choosing a provider.
You might never need it, but it’s always good to have the option to go to your provider and ask them to supply new hardware, manage some ageing technology or maybe support your cloud initiatives.
This will help you achieve and deliver a flexible and dynamic IT strategy that accommodates the ebb and flow of your business cycles and responds to changing needs quickly and without the need to establish other provider arrangements to do so.

3. How flexible are the provider’s contractual terms in facilitating future changes in your business?
Although overlooked by many IT organisations, it’s important to check what the provider proposes to do when the original contract expires or how would their contracts cater for future growth or new requirements. You want to avoid those providers who propose that the contract will renew for extended period if you do not take action OR that they will RE-START the contract every time you require new services delivered. Having access to a rolling month-to-month contract OR the option to negotiate new contracts will drastically reduce the risk and cost over the long run. Also, ask for the service provider to book the new services using the original contract’s expiry dates instead of starting new contracts every time.

4. What are the provider's network connectivity options?
It is highly critical to ensure that a carrier neutral colocation service provider is chosen however additional merit should always be given to a provider that offer highly reliable and redundant connectivity options. If possible, you should always choose a provider that owns and operates its network end-to-end to have full visibility across the network. This provides greater control to improve network performance and reduces potential downtime during an outage.

5. How does the colocation provider ensure security and compliance?
Generally, knowledge of other occupants of the DC will give you enough comfort about the physical security of the building. However, it is critical to check if and how they provide proposes to cater for your bespoke security requirements. It is also important to check if the provider can assist with your organisation’s audit and compliance requirements and what experience they’ve had in this area.

6. What ad-hoc support services are available?
Look for a colocation provider that delivers more than just space and an electrical hook-up. Having access to a number of ad-hoc services will ensure the optimum performance of your IT infrastructure and will help reduce cost over long term. Your provider should at least provide 24x7 ad-hoc remote hands and feet services, courier acceptance and storage, access to basic tools like trolleys, power cables, rack shelfs, screw drivers, cable clippers, etc. along with on-site security, power and cooling, and facility management. It is also very important to ensure that the so-called remote hands service is actually provided by skilled IT staff and not the security guards or electricians.

7. What are the historic power and cooling performance of the data centre?
Power and cooling for your servers and networking equipment are mission-critical components for a data centre. It is very important to keep in mind that it is NOT the service credits that makes you money but is the uptime. Historic power and cooling uptime can be easily verified and should be before decision is made. Simply put, it is safer to go with a service provide which offers 99% SLA but 10 years track record of 100% uptime against someone who offers 100% SLA but has experienced outages in the past.

Ultimately, you want your selected data centre colocation provider to be a partner in the success of your IT service delivery and your business as a whole. As with any ‘partnership’ you want to make the best choice for your specific needs. It could be one that will drive the availability and performance of your applications and websites. So, it better be right!

If you need assistance with your next Data Centre evaluation, I’d be happy to help.

 

Added 1 February 2016

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