For most companies, licensing space from a data center colocation service provider is almost always a better business and technical decision than maintaining private facilities. The exploding demands placed on IT infrastructure as well as the high operating cost make it difficult for in-house data centers to keep pace. As you examine which third-party data center is right for your organization, here are five key characteristics to consider: location, amenities, network services, security and pricing.
Just like when you buy a house or set up a business, location is paramount when selecting a data center colocation facility. Several location-related factors must be reviewed during the evaluation, including the following:
Proximity to your company location. If you are planning to use a data center colocation facility as a primary or secondary site, your IT staff should be able to easily access the facility. Everyone involved in maintaining your IT infrastructure needs to be able to visit the location.
Geographic stability. Geographic stability involves climate and seismic activity. Being near a fault line, for instance, could be especially troubling. Although there are building technologies that can mitigate risk, clients will likely pay a higher price to offset the cost of protecting the data center from earthquakes. Minimizing the risk from these factors ensures a more geographically stable location.
Access to power. Where are the power stations, substations and facility feeds located? Access to power involves two things: delivering power to your equipment within the data center and getting power delivered to the data center itself. You need to evaluate not just your company’s access to power, but the facility’s overall access to the power grid.
Data center colocation providers often differentiate themselves by offering value-added services. In addition to the required space, power, cooling, connectivity and security capabilities, the best solutions provide several on-site amenities. These accommodations include offices and work stations, conference rooms, and access to phones, copy machines, and fax machines. Additional features may consist of kitchen facilities, break rooms and relaxation lounges, storage facilities for client equipment, and secure loading docks and freight elevators.
In addition to the on-site and nearby amenities, your company should look for a provider to staff technical experts who will be available around the clock. Access to support whenever you need it can be a major differentiator among different data center colocation solutions.
As data requirements balloon, businesses will require more bandwidth and greater network speeds just to keep pace. Operating in an increasingly global economy also involves ongoing access and continuous communications. These growing requirements have made connectivity a major concern for businesses considering data center colocation services.
Organizations should give special consideration to telecom companies that are also data center colocation providers. Telecom companies have an inherent advantage over traditional data center providers because they own their network. If a customer wants to add a new capability—say, data storage backup for disaster recovery—companies with their own network can add their data center as an extension off an existing ELAN service.
With increased virtualization and mobility, businesses face greater data demands and complex connectivity requirements. The more robust a provider’s network services, the higher the level of IT performance the business will experience. For this reason, data centers have become central communication hubs driving effective connectivity among businesses.
Many businesses can’t provide the same level of security as experienced data center colocation providers. They just don’t have the necessary resources. Therefore, many businesses opt to use a top-tier data center colocation facility to house their mission-critical infrastructure.
The following list highlights the physical-security considerations for data center colocation solutions:
Layered security zones. To limit access in a data center colocation facility, systems and processes are deployed to allow only authorized personnel in certain areas of the data center. Examples include keycard access, alarm systems, mantraps, secure doors and staffed checkpoints.
Physical barriers. Data center colocation providers often install physical barriers, fencing and reinforced walls to protect their facilities.
Monitoring systems. Advanced surveillance technology offers additional access control by monitoring and recording activity at entrances, exits and equipment areas. Because these sophisticated systems are costly, many businesses can’t afford to install them in their own data centers. So, they either use less effective solutions or they move to a data center colocation facility with high-end monitoring systems already in place. In addition to assisting with access control, monitoring systems detect fire and water emergencies. Using advanced technologies, these systems provide early detection before significant damage results.
Top-tier providers are constantly evaluating their data center facilities for vulnerabilities. Because technology becomes outdated quickly, providers must remain diligent in protecting their facilities and their clients’ valuable IT assets.
To evaluate pricing for alternative data center colocation solutions, companies need to determine the added value. In other words, how much are they benefiting from the services provided? Is their business operating more efficiently? Is the cost for data center colocation much lower than what the company would pay for an in-house operation?
The factors influencing a competitive price include power usage, real estate, risk mitigation, supply and demand, and redundancy.
Power usually represents the largest cost in a data center. Therefore, the cost of power will greatly affect pricing. The cost a service provider pays for power will be affected by the source of the power, the regulatory environment, the facility size and the rate concessions, if any, offered by the utility. By choosing data center colocation, organizations can lock in a rate for power included in the monthly rack pricing, whereas in-house operations are subject to fluctuations in power costs.
Real estate, construction and labor costs will also be factored into the final pricing model. Because these costs vary from one region to another, businesses operating in different parts of the country will likely be paying different amounts for data center colocation.
Risk mitigation also plays a role in pricing. The extent to which providers must implement special building techniques and operating technologies to protect the facility will affect price. When selecting a data center, organizations should make note of the data center’s certification level on the basis of regulatory requirements in the industry. These certifications can ensure that your organization is meeting necessary compliance requirements.
Like pricing in other industries, supply and demand within each market will determine price. These market dynamics will change over time. For example, as capacity increases in a market, pricing among service providers may drop to help consume the excess inventory. New entrants into markets might also create pricing pressure. To gain market share, these new providers may initially reduce prices.
Higher redundancy levels required by a company will typically lead to higher prices. If you require high availability backed by a service-level agreement (SLA), you can expect to pay more than another company with less stringent redundancy requirements.
Data center colocation pricing is influenced by many factors, including those listed above. The actual price charged by a service provider, however, involves a complex analysis and will be based on the overall value provided to your company.
Why Colocation Always Merits Consideration
Data center colocation services provide organizations with conditioned space without requiring them to invest capital for new construction. It also allows them to protect their data in the case of emergency by acting as a disaster-recovery location. Data center colocation offers a pay-as-you-grow model that allows businesses to replace capex with a more manageable operational expenditure. By evaluating potential providers on the basis of location, amenities, network services, security and pricing, organizations can ensure their investment in data center colocation will yield the greatest benefits.
About the Author
Chris Alberding is the Vice President of Product Management at FairPoint Communications, a leading provider of advanced communications technology in northern New England and 14 other states across the U.S. Chris is responsible for planning and executing go-to-market strategies for new products as well as managing and maximizing growth of existing product portfolios across multiple sales channels including direct, indirect, inside and VAR teams. His 20+ years of experience in the high-tech IT service and telecom industries includes strategic and tactical experience in operations, sales operations, product marketing and product management.