The Office Space Advisor Blog

Things to Consider When Choosing a Colocation Facility

Jan 7, 2015 8:30:00 AM

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Colocation data facilities have the special ability to bring together diverse companies. Yet housing the digital assets of a potentially broad range of companies in one place means that colocation centers must be just as diverse and reliable as their "co-lo" tenants.

Colocation, or “co-lo”, is defined as the housing of applications, servers and data in an off-site facility separate from one’s center of operations. Companies that colocate their data frequently realize 50-60% savings in IT capital expenditures. But choosing a colocation provider is a strategic decision that requires a multi-year commitment and merits significant consideration.

Since demands vary by business, so do the criteria for evaluating a colocation provider. However, giving consideration to the following six important criteria should help ensure you choose the right colocation facility.

1. Location

Since colocation facilities are by definition off-site, location is one of the most important factors in selecting a data center for your company.

  • Proximity
Consider how easily someone from your company can get to the colocation facility, as having equipment down for an extended period of time can be quite costly. If you periodically need to upgrade or service your equipment in-house to get it back up and running, proximity to the colocation center may be a top priority.

While primary data centers should be close, disaster recovery sites, on the other hand, should be at least 50 miles away. Consider how prone a region may be to natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, earthquakes and tornadoes.

  • Latency
The important consideration with latency is making sure that you do not lose any speed in your operations. To ensure adequate speeds, make sure your colocation facility is reasonably proximate to central hubs. Note that proximity to your own business hub is, for the vast majority of applications, irrelevant.

In determining your latency tolerance, the critical factor is your application requirements. Some applications, like MS Office, can handle significant latency, while others, like analytics, cannot. Your application load drives your speed requirements. 

2.  Security

Nothing should be more secure than your mission critical data, and when it comes to your company's IT assets, physical security is as important as being hack-proof. Card readers, keypads or electronic locks, digital camera placement and biometric security should be a part of any data center facility you choose. Also take note of the roads around the facility and any physical barriers. For reference, ATFP (anti terrorism force protection) standards recommend 150 foot setbacks, and some agencies require 300 foot setbacks. Cybersecurity or DoD contract-pursuant companies may need to ensure that the facility meets SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility) requirements.

 3.  Reliability

The highest security is of no value if the data environment is not reliable. In the world of data centers, reliability is measured in "uptime.” A reliable provider can offer at least five 9s, meaning they are reliable “at least 99.999 percent of the time” (also called Tier III).

Other things to look for in vetting a colocation’s reliability include staff certifications, customer feedback and availability of on-site support. Take note of the power sources your colocation provider uses, and ask about their plan for keeping your equipment powered in the inevitable event of primary systems failure or power outages. Finally, make sure that the facility offers adequate cooling, to prevent server over-heating, which can decrease equipment lifespan.

4.  Pricing

Different providers may present very different pricing models, and it is important to understand how their approach will impact your organization's objectives. One common cost model is to price on metered load. This method can appear to be less expensive at the outset, but as your organization adopts new methods of managing data, or if your data use intensifies, you may need more equipment, thus driving your power requirements up. During the evaluation process, standardize the responses potential providers give you. The best way to do this is to compute the costs per kilowatt of IT load. 

5.  Scalability

The needs of every business are subject to change over time. As those needs changes, you’ll want a colocation provider that can grow with you. Look for a provider who is implementing new facility design elements and is capable of deploying higher-density configurations within your existing footprint. Colocators already integrating proven technologies that can increase power and cooling capacities and support higher density rack configurations are the ones ready to evolve with your company.

6.  Landlord

Colocation providers require a multi-year commitment, so you are in essence partnering with the company you select. That means you should want all the same qualities in your landlord that you would want from any other investment relationship. Financial stability is key, and you should look for that in your colocation provider. You will also want to be able to access your colocation facility as easily as your main headquarters. Help when experiencing any access or network problems should be available 24/7/365 and just a phone call away.

Check references and do your research. Like with any other healthy business relationship, you not only want to partner with a trustworthy company, but also one that is a leader ready to augment your business. The data industry is changing at an exponential rate, and a landlord that has a reputation for leadership could help connect your business with new customers and partners.

Recap

Your company’s colocation data facility choice is just as critical as the data you’ll house there, and the services your landlord provides can affect the health of your IT assets in the long term. Remember these factors in vetting out your colocation selection, and choose a company that can partner with you to handle your long term needs:

  • Location
  • Security
  • Reliability
  • Pricing
  • Scalability
  • Landlord
Joining the right colocation facility should support, not be detrimental to, your IT requirements. It should provide your company with greater reliability, an on-site specialized engineering staff, low latency, higher bandwidth for lower costs, and potentially lead to new business connections.

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