Shopping for a colocation provider is similar to shopping for a car. There are lots of models to choose from and many of the “dealers” typically make the same promises regarding low cost, high performance and unbeatable service. Don’t be taken for a ride. Not all colocation providers are the same, so do your research. Start by reading our blog post, Data Center 101 – What to Look for in a Colocation Provider. Then make sure your potential colocation provider can meet the following criteria.
Beware of “white labeling”
White labeling occurs when the owner of a data center can’t fill the space with clients on his own. Rather than lose revenue, they “sublease” part of the data center to a third party who then sells the remaining real estate. Just because a sales rep can show you around a data center doesn’t mean that they are responsible for any aspect of its security and operations. Given the relatively long term nature of engaging with a colocation provider, make sure you are indeed doing business with the facility owner. Confirm that you can interact directly with the service management and technical teams as well.
Insist on having a dedicated service manager
Before signing an agreement for colocation services, meet with the person or team who will be servicing your account on an ongoing basis. Some colocation providers attempt to minimize costs by using a group telephone number, allowing them to address client issues on a first come, first served basis. If a major issue occurs within the facility, it could take a long time for the support team to return your call. Having a dedicated service manager can help streamline communications which is critical during a service-impacting event.
Establish a regular communication cadence
Schedule a regular “check-in call” with your service manager according to your needs. Some organizations require weekly calls; others may only need to hold one on a quarterly basis. Define in advance what topics will be covered and the required attendees.
Create seamless information flows
Consider your service manager to be your chief communication officer. He should keep a complete and traceable log of any discussions you have so that trends or issues can be easily identified and addressed. The service manager should also help determine who needs to be brought into any discussion and brief them in advance. These actions save time and ensure that one person has a complete picture of your colocation environment. Keep in mind that fragmented discussions lead to fragmented support. Having someone with full visibility into your colocation environment will help ensure that any issues are resolved promptly without negatively impacting other areas.
Understand the details of your colocation provider’s service level agreement
Yes, your potential colocation provider can brag about having rapid response times to service interruptions. But be certain your potential provider also has a proven track record of deploying teams to address issues within your colocation environment. Ask what tools and methods they use to anticipate potential issues before they impact your organization. Business continuity is the name of the game here. It’s better to engage with a colocation provider who focuses on preventing issues from occurring versus one that is adept at dealing with major service interruptions on a regular basis.
Know your colocation provider’s disaster recovery procedures inside and out
Lost time equals lost revenue. Ensure that your potential colocation provider has adequate disaster recovery measures in place to get your business up and running within a specified timeframe (sooner is good). Have the service manager review how the facility is provisioned to deal with any outages. Your business needs are unique, so make sure your service manager will work with you to put additional measures in place to address them.
Have your service manager advise you of changes to the data center well in advance
Your service provider should provide you with advanced notice of any proposed changes to the facility well in advance, as well as information regarding the potential impact they will have on your environment. If changes take place without advanced notice, a conflict can occur between available resources and your requirements. Advanced planning will help avoid downtime and provide business continuity.
Establish clear reporting metrics
Have your service manager provide meaningful reports that help you plan for growth and manage risks. For example, clear, detailed reporting can help ensure services levels and resources are not exceeded during changes in your organization’s workloads. It can also identify opportunities to rebalance resources for potential cost savings. At the most basic level, solid reporting metrics show who has been into the facility and who has accessed your equipment. Tying this information into your own system logs can help to identify the source of issues ranging from simple human error to malicious attacks.
Have colocation questions? HOSTING data center experts stand ready to help. Call us today to discuss your specific needs. We also invite you to take a tour of our data center facilities in Denver, Newark, Louisville, Dallas, Irvine or San Francisco.