It’s all about the whiz-bang services, or is it?

Much has been written about what to look for (technically) in a colocation (colo) provider, specifically location, PUE, connectivity, network speed, power redundancy, green power options, cooling redundancies, etc. These are all common factors in what to look for but when your job is on the line is this enough?

We live in a world of social media, where it is all about the data and we seldom talk directly with one another. As we have heard in one news report after another, our generation is losing the ability to develop relationships. When you are selecting a colo company, you are making a long-term commitment and not one that you can readily change without a lot of pain if it doesn’t work out. So why is everyone so focused on the technical, check the box evaluation of a colo and seldom evaluating a colo as someone to have an intimate relationship with? OK, lots of jokes here but seriously, after all, we spend more time at work than with our better halves. If you are comfortable with a rather sterile relationship with your colo what does it say about your personal relationships? The colo relationship seems to be one that people do not put much effort into and is therefore certain to fail somewhere along the line.

Think about it. We contract with many colo companies, whether it be for a few edge cabinets distributed around the globe, hosting/cloud services, or even for traditional colo space to serve as the company’s primary processing site. It is a critical decision that the company will live with for many years and it may very well be your job if it is the wrong one.

Beyond the “promise you the world” salesman and the lobby security guard, we seldom get to interface with another colo human being. So where is the relationship?

No place is this more evident than in the colos that also provide cloud and hosting services where menu driven automated management is the norm. How do I ask the menu about alternate services, future rates, or a host of other questions that make a difference to my business? If the colo offers it, maybe I can open a chat session? But who really is that person responding? Are they a local colo staff member or are they some overseas service with a script of answers?

If you need some additional virtual/cloud services, equipment installation, network cables, or cross connects installed, its fill out an online form with all the information according to the colo providers format and price list. It doesn’t matter that this does not follow your information format. If you want service you have to follow their format or forgo the service/install. If you need something unique or inventive, you end up typing in a special request and wait (perhaps days) for a response. When the first response comes back it is usually with a whole list of questions.

The colo business profile is based on volume. It thrives on largely well-defined standardized routine requests that can be readily addressed. The colo process is to data centers what the assembly line was to manufacturing a century ago. One might say that they are the ultimate display of process efficiency.

Like the menu-driven assembly line, there is a reduction in customized solutions or the premium placed on the non-standard request becomes so high that you can no longer afford it. The airlines have learned this well. Need a ticket? No problem, that’ll be $200 roundtrip. Add a checked bag that’s another $25 per bag each way. Seat upgrade? That will be another $20 to $80 each way. Food and/or drink? That is still more. Further, neither the base rate nor the extras included all those taxes. Before you know it your $200 trip is now $500 or more.  Perhaps if you flew naked in a middle row seat in the back of the plane and didn’t eat or drink you could get the $200 flight. Sorry for the visual but look at the bright side, TSA could speed you through security.

While I digress, the point is: What relationship do you have with your airline? None!

You think that you have a relationship because you joined their membership mileage program but how many hundreds of thousands of miles do you have to fly before you can even get priority boarding? This might work for the road warrior but seldom for the rest of us because we “do not have a relationship.”

The same is true regarding colos. Have 20 cabinets where none of them exceed 5 KW and you fit right into the colo’s standard part of the crowd offering? Don’t expect much attention. 

What ever happened to relationship building where you know the people you are dealing with? The benefits of a relationship, any relationship — business or otherwise, are significant. The confidence you get (or don’t get) by hearing their voice, watching their mannerisms, or just listening to what they say allows you to evaluate if they truly know what you need or are just yessing you to death.

When you have a colo relationship, you know the skills that they excel in, as well as all their faults. It allows you to manage your expectations as well as those to whom you report. When you have a colo relationship and there is an issue (yours or theirs) you will know who to call/text/email anytime of night or day to get immediate attention. With a colo relationship, you will know who can get you that favor when you are behind schedule. Finally, when that hurricane or tornado makes a direct hit you will be able to talk directly to the recovery team to assess your next critical step.

Start building your relationships with your colo today. If they are unresponsive then perhaps it is time to move on.