Over the past few years, organizations have increasingly hosted their computer systems in colocation centers instead of, or in addition to, their own data centers. Their rationale typically involves their bottom lines: colocation allows companies to avoid the capital expense of building and maintaining a data center while adopting a “pay as you go” or cloud opex model. This model allows companies to engage the resources and services of data center experts, pay for what they use, and realize potential cost benefits throughout the year. However, not all colocation hosting providers offer the same facilities, service or support.
Following are three tips to consider when choosing a colocation hosting provider:
1. The Price of Colocation “Real Estate”
When researching managed colocation services, keep in mind that you are renting “real estate” to house your own hardware and servers. It’s important to consider how much space you need. Most colocation facilities allow you to rent space by the cabinet or even a half cabinet. You can also rent space in a caged-in area that holds multiple cabinets. There are base charges for each cabinet or per square foot for a caged area. Some colocation hosting providers allow you to supply your own cabinets (usually in the caged scenario) while others require you to use their cabinets.
IT teams should look for expert hosting providers that understand an enterprise’s specific needs. Many colocation centers only support cabinets up to a certain weight and amount of power, which can be a problem for heavy enterprise IT cabinets.
The type and amount of power and cooling will impact the price and number of cabinets you may need to rent (usually based on a per-rack power limitation or watts per square foot). So prior to moving your equipment into a colocation facility, estimate how much power it will actually draw under normal conditions, under peak loads and at startup.
2. Availability and Service Levels
Most colocation facilities will try to dazzle you with general availability numbers based on a tiered system developed by the Uptime Institute. Dig deeper and review the colocation site’s operational history. Pay special attention to any incidents involving downtime. Also review the provider’s contingency and recovery plans – and map them back to your own. Finally, ask for customer references that have stored equipment for a year or more at the particular site that you are considering.
Service level agreements (SLAs) can vary widely among colocation providers. Before signing an agreement, examine your potential provider’s SLA to see what availability and remediation it offers in case of an issue. Find out if the promised level of availability excludes any “planned” downtime for maintenance. Also ask about the procedures and resources they have to mitigate unforeseen issues and restore normal service. Consider the impact any potential downtime could have on your organization, and if the value of a provider’s service credits will make up for any lost business you could experience. Finally, make sure to understand what options or recourse you have if you decide to break the contract.
3. Maintenance and Support
The support colocation providers offer can vary widely, so it pays to do your homework. Carefully review the provider’s overall security and access procedures as well as any hands-on support options it offers. Keep in mind that not all colocation hosting providers offer 24-hour, round-the-clock support.
Determine whether you intend to handle your own equipment installation and support, or if you plan to engage a third-party (such as a manufacturer’s field engineer). If opting for the latter, confirm that they can gain access to your equipment at any time (with proper authorization). It is critical to have this arrangement upfront, particularly if your colocation site is far removed from your main office.
Have colocation questions? HOSTING has answers. Contact us to learn more about our state-of the-art colocation and cloud hosting facilities.