The Colocation Checklist

By Mark Sullivan | May 28, 2013

We’ve talked a little about the growing trend of colocation in this space and how it provides a way for companies to optimize their IT departments, getting the benefits of the latest equipment, security and always-on environment without having to run or staff their own data center.

It is easy to see how this can save companies time and money (two of the most important things you can save in the business world), but making the decision to move operations to a colocation center is not one to take lightly.

With that in mind, we listed some typical data center questions managers have and why they’re important – sort of a colocation checklist, if you will, that you or your colleagues can use while making a decision.

Size and space: does the facility you’re considering have both? Have you considered both the physical and virtual requirements for your business to be successful?

Growth potential: if you’re a company just starting out, you know you have it – but does the facility you’re considering? Do they have the power capacity to support your future growth? It is important to make sure your partner can grow with you in both the physical and electronic sense. No one wants to have to move data centers with every growth spurt or merger/acquisition.

Security: just storing your data isn’t enough – it needs to be protected too. This goes without saying, but you need to ask about the levels of physical and electronic security they have in place to make sure your data is safe and accessible only by approved employees. Motion-activated cameras, digital recording and biometric access controls are no longer future technologies but are standard in modern data centers. Accepting tradeoffs in other areas for lax security should not be acceptable to you.

Redundancy: you’re paying for always-on, so it is imperative you find out what that means to your potential partner. What was their most recent downtime or failure? Are they able to guarantee pretty close to 100% uptime? Interview existing and past customers – find out why they’re staying, why they left and if they ever had any outages that affected business.

Location: do you need to be located near your data center? For some businesses this is important, as their IT executives want to see the equipment and make periodic visits. For others, not so much, as they’re content and trusting of their partners’ programs. But something to consider.

Private space: some companies are looking for partners that allow them to buy wholesale data center space where dedicated power, cooling and security systems are allotted exclusively for your business – but the company retains control of everything else. Is this of interest to you now or in the future? If the answer is even a maybe, you need to make sure it’s an option offered by your potential partner.

Capacity planning: the main cost variable when it comes to colocation is the data sent between your server and the internet – and a bad estimation or a sudden increase in use can spike overage costs. You can’t always predict what will happen, but if your facility will work with you on noticing trends and making adjustments (as a true partner would) – instead of just gobbling up the additional money you’ll have to pay – then they are someone you can work with for a long-time.

Network providers: is there a high concentration of on-network providers at or near your potential partner’s facility? If providers are located at the facility or nearby, enterprise companies with high or unlimited bandwidth needs can lower costs based on proximity. Connectivity, uptime, speed and reliability can also be improved in these situations because of the direct connection possibilities.

Power/energy: what is the average wattage per square foot of your facility? This is an important question often missed by companies as they look at data centers/colocation partners. Today’s servers are housing incredible amounts of data and are often running at near maximum capacity – and you need to make sure that your center can handle the power drain of higher processing speeds, elevated temperatures and increased cooling needs. How your facility is affected by its physical location and things such as weather is an important follow up tied to this area. Do major storms knock it offline? Has heat or cold-related issues ever been a problem?

Sustainability: how efficient is your potential data center partner? Have they taken steps to improve their energy expenditures? Are they LEED certified? This is more important to some companies than others, but you want your partner to be at least thinking along these lines, as it shows they’re always working on/investing in creating a better way to do business – the sign of a strong, committed partner.

Service-level-agreement: negotiate. Don’t just accept an agreement if it’s not a good fit for you. If there are variables important to your business – security, uptime, growth, etc. – make sure they’re in writing and that your partner is as dedicated to providing these services as you are to getting them.

Costs: has your potential partner’s costs gone up every year? Have you negotiated a set cost for a certain amount of time – or will they hold your data hostage and expect you to live with annual increases?

Budget: is the cost right? Can you afford the services you want? Can you live without the ones you can’t afford? As we all know, all too often cost is the deciding factor in business and IT decisions. But no list would be complete without mentioning it.

So, what did we miss? We’d love to continue updating this list in the coming weeks and months – so please feel free to leave any ones we’ve missed in the comments section below, or tweet them to us at our handle at @MarkleyBoston.