A company’s data center facilities often include an array of features such as prime location, uptime capabilities, and peering opportunities that strengthen the business. These facilities also provide services such as disaster recovery, multiple security, and redundancy components important to the enterprise, so it is important to make knowledgeable decisions when siting a new data center. In many cases, businesses find that colocation, managed IT, or cloud hosting facilities help them adapt, adjust, and scale their IT operations to meet the demands of the enterprise.
Unlike running a business, finding an ideal data center facility doesn’t have to be a complex process. With knowledgeable support and guidance, a business can confidently choose among many options based on its specific requirements.
The following 12 best practices are the top areas that businesses can consider when shopping for data center space.
Assess data center requirements.Companies must first assess whether or not to design, manage, and operate their own data centers or outsource to another provider. Outfitting an in-house data center to be scalable, secure, and have multiple levels of redundancy is challenging and expensive. Colocation and managed IT providers promise a number of benefits designed to help enterprises sustain and grow their businesses, including service reliability, 24/7 support, disaster preparation/recovery, flexibility, security, and access to skilled IT personnel and engineers, all of which can lead to significant cost savings as the provider is able to leverage significant economies of scale across all of these areas. In addition, a carrier-neutral data center typically provides a wide range of connectivity options to meet the need for secure multiple connectivity options with low-latency, high-capacity bandwidth at lower costs.
Managed IT services offer many of the same benefits as colocation providers, while also providing trained experts who can handle regular maintenance of a business's IT infrastructure. Managed IT services ensure the availability of qualified, knowledgeable professionals who can assume responsibility for monitoring, maintaining, and troubleshooting, along with the overall management of IT systems and functions, enabling IT operations to be handled as-needed or on a 24/7 basis.
Cloud computing services promise to add yet more flexibility to IT. The cloud provides companies with the ability to deploy virtual IT resources on demand while reducing or eliminating direct data center power, infrastructure, and equipment costs. Economic factors that push companies to drastically reduce costs, streamline processes, and conserve energy have driven the surge of cloud applications.
Jonathan Koomey, a researcher who has studied data center energy use at Stanford and Lawrence Berkeley National Labs, told DatacenterKnowledge, “There are powerful economic factors pushing us towards cloud computing. One of the major reasons is the more efficient use of power by cloud computing providers.”
Disaster recovery-business continuity planning issues constitute the final aspect of data center selection. The right plan and data center services should provide complete protection and security for all of a company’s business processes and client data. While basic backup and recovery services are standard IT or data center processes, more robust data centers provide complex, strategic disaster recovery options including fully built, power-protected, secure infrastructures to ensure network operations are consistently up and running. Patty Catania, CBCP and COO of TAMP Systems, a worldwide provider of business continuity and disaster recovery and planning software and consulting services, said, “As a respected member of the continuity and disaster recovery planning community, Telehouse's data center facilities in New York and California are some of the most secure and finest in the United States. Disaster recovery has become a major issue of concern in recent years. Clearly it has become vital to explore and include your DR-BC planning when purchasing co-location space or other IT services.”
Consider the liabilities and tisks.When choosing a disaster recovery or business continuity planning process, companies need to assess the potential risks to the organization that could result in times of disaster or emergency situations, along with the day-to-day perils that may cause an interruption to daily lives and business processes. In doing so, a company must explore the kind of impact each risk and resulting liability may have on its business’s ability to continue normal operations.
The Disaster Recovery Guide (http://www.disaster-recovery-guide.com/risk.htm) offers a comprehensive list of the types of threats that can wreak havoc on a business, a sampling of which is listed below:
Organized and/or Deliberate Disruption
• Act of terrorism
• Act of sabotage
Loss of Utilities and Services
Equipment or System Failure
• Internal power failure
• Air conditioning failure
• Production line failure
• Hardware failure
Serious Information Security Incidents
• Cyber crime
• Loss of records or data
Other Emergency Situations
• Workplace violence
• Public transportation disruption
• Health and safety regulations
• Mergers and acquisitions
• Negative publicity
• Legal problems
Telehouse America’s strategic partner, Tamp Systems, stresses the importance of businesses recovering with speed and efficiency following any type of crisis. Its Disaster Recovery DRS-I Module provides customers with a simplified interface, offering fast implementation, complete with key features that include 24/7 secure access, reporting options, business impact analysis, and workflow tools. Companies of all sizes and from all industries can benefit by utilizing their own processes or a disaster recovery-business continuity package.
Check data center background and obtain references. Who better to trust than industry peers? Speaking with customers who are colocated in the data center facilities that companies are considering is a great way for them to learn more and understand real-world experiences.
The success of data centers is indeed measured by its level of customer satisfaction and overall retention. Smith comments, “Voxel's long standing relationship with Telehouse America has been marked by exceptional customer service and technical support.”
Consider equipment maintenance contracts.data centers offer a variety of hardware solutions related to the facility’s infrastructure capabilities, reliability, and uptime, along with maintenance plans and the ability to track the maintenance records. How can a company best decide what type of contract would be best?
In April 2011, Faulkner Information Services released a report, “Data Center Equipment Maintenance Contracts,” which lists the principal responsibilities of the executive in charge of finalizing the maintenance contract with a data center: “Ensure that the maintenance is: (1) performed on schedule and according to the terms of the agreement; (2) conducted with minimal disruption to IT operations, particularly ‘customer-facing’ operations; and (3) verified via a program of post-maintenance testing.”
Maintenance plans are usually set up to be monthly, quarterly, or yearly agreements based on the manufacturer’s electrical and mechanical equipment recommendations. For example, diesel generators are typically turned over monthly but inspected and serviced quarterly, while UPS systems, monitored 24/7 by the building management system are physically inspected twice a year. All client-facing maintenance cycles are announced at least three weeks in advance and done usually at off-peak times.
Evaluate the certification of a data center.SAS 70 certified data centers—important or not? Offering his 'Industry Perspective' to DatacenterKnowledge, Certified Public Accountant Ali Gheewala, describes the “age of regulation,” and how government compliance is quickly becoming a crucial component for data centers. In turn, the SAS 70 audit has emerged as a widely recognized auditing standard developed by the American Institute of Certified Public Accounts. In response, data center providers are busy at work marketing its SAS-70 and SAS 70 Type II auditing capabilities—especially to financial companies, a sector that relies heavily on such a standard. (Type II refers to compliance for subsequent years after a SAS 70 Type I audit.)
Confirm power reliability.There is no doubt that data centers have evolved to become power-centric. Increasingly, organizations need more power to maintain and grow their businesses using more powerful hardware and complex processes. Data centers must find ways to provide more power and associated cooling through the implementation of efficient and cost-effective hardware and management strategies.
Online electrical backup systems include multiple diverse power feeds into the data center facility, such as redundant uninterruptible power supply systems (UPS), batteries, and generator systems. Additionally, there is the mechanical infrastructure with its supporting cooling systems, which include computer room air conditioning (CRAC) units, chillers, cooling towers, pumping stations, air-handling units, and more. Telehouse’s Chelsea center in New York currently has four static 750-kilovalt-ampere (kVA) with a three plus one configuration and two 2.5-megavolt-ampere diesel-powered generators in an N+1 configuration. Redundant power ensures that there is no downtime, which is critical when it comes to keeping businesses up and running. Any delays or interruptions could potentially mean the loss of a customer.
Compare service level agreements (SLAs). A solid and reputable data center provider will offer a contract to its customers complete with a highly detailed SLA that will guarantee specific uptime, service response, bandwidth, physical access protections and other key elements. “It is important to ensure the SLA clearly states what the data center’s responsibilities are should it fail to meet or carry out the agreement as stated, such as failing to provide critical power, maintaining uptime standards, scheduled maintenance, or poor response to service requests, cooling temperature settings, etc.,” said David Kinney, deputy director, facilities and operations, Telehouse.
Check data center cross connect fees. When seeking out a data center facility, companies should carefully assess all fees including monthly recurring, installation costs, and other one-time charges. For instance, the costs of networking and the cabling or cross connects needed to deploy circuits for voice, data, and internet services can quickly add up as a company’s IT network expands.
Cross-connects are physical connections between networks that are an important function of carrier-neutral data centers and multi-tenant carrier hotels (e.g., Internet gateways) that commonly take place in a central “meet-me room.”
As these types of interconnections can be frequent, this is this primary reason why one-time or low monthly cross-connect fees are essential for the business looking to maximize cost savings, as well as prepare for growth and future network needs. Telehouse is currently one of the data center providers that offers low or no cross-connect fees.
Consider the on-site service.The ideal data center provider will offer its tenants 24/7 access to authorized personnel, onsite security, multi-level technical support, and facility engineering experience. These attributes are absolutely required while other features, such as basic day-to-day IT functions, are either included in-part or often performed as an extra option under remote hands type services, including equipment resets, rebooting, etc.
Peering is key.Organizations with medium-to-heavy bandwidth traffic should actively seek facilities with both private and/or public IP peering exchanges in order to improve connections, average down bandwidth cost, and increase traffic routing options.
Know deployment time frames. How long is too long when it comes to a data center installing and deploying tenant equipment? “With the exception of very large or non-standard installations and certain telecommunication provisioning, anything that exceeds two- to three-weeks’ time,” according to Cannone, “is taking too long.”
Ask for additional services.Everybody likes perks—especially when it comes to a business gaining more for the money it spends. Data center providers can offer quite a few unique benefits and services in addition to its primary services. This includes low or no cross-connect fees, diverse internal and external fiber routes, a varied client base, carrier-neutral facilities, and global connectivity options, scalable managed IT services, and modular data center construction with or separately data center facility management.
Whether a small business or an enterprise, all types of organizations share the same goal of achieving steady cost-savings and efficiency. Flexible, stable, and reliable IT operations and support functions are the foundation of a successful business or enterprise; which is why it is critical for businesses to choose a data center provider that is reputable, cost-efficient, and one that offers a multitude of beneficial service offerings in a variety of locations.
The twelve best practices featured in this article serve as an essential guide to securing the right data center space for businesses of all sizes and types.