Hallmarks of a Colocation Center Provider You Can Trust: Part I

We recently took a deep look at what you should look for in a cloud server provider, and today we’re back with some advice on what the most important attributes of a colocation data center are. The cloud is a great thing for a great many businesses, but no one technology solution works for all businesses all of the time. That’s why you have got options, and colocation (aka “colo”) is one of them.

Let’s say you want in on some of the very best benefits of the cloud: you want to save space in your office; you want outsourced, smart, dedicated IT people keeping an eye on things for you, but you don’t want to hire on a round-the-clock crew; and you want your servers stored in world-class facilities with high-security, modern temperature control and high-tech security. OK, you can have all that, and Superb will deliver it for you. No problem.

However, the operative words in that last paragraph were “your servers.” You own your own hardware. You like your own hardware. You don’t want to rent any hardware from a third party. If that’s the case, then colocation is the solution you’re looking for. With colocation, you send your existing servers to a data center, and they’re monitored and managed by the owner of the center.

What does that mean for you? In practical terms, it means no more staying up at night worrying about your data. It means no more watching your phone with dread on weekends and holidays, waiting for that call/email/text/im to pop up: “Boss, there’s a problem with the servers.” That’s over and done with when you choose colocation, because you put your servers in the hands of data management experts – people who know how to keep things running with efficacy and speed and without worry…or high costs.

Specifically, colocation means taking your existing servers and sending them to a managed data center that provides cooling, power, bandwidth, building space, physical and virtual security. Technically speaking, your data is still stored away in that magical land of “the cloud,” but it’s not on somebody else’s servers; it’s on yours. While you’re not renting server space, you’re still saving major moolah by avoiding facility and equipment upkeep. You don’t need to find more room every time you need more servers for your ever-growing collection of data, and you don’t need to hire a dedicated team of IT professionals to keep an eye on all of it.

As with any service you pay for, you’ll want to know the ins and outs of colo before just shipping your servers off to who knows where and assuming all will be well. So let’s take a look at a few of the most important things to look for in a colocation provider.

Maintenance and Support

We already touched on one of the benefits of colo being that you don’t have to hire a ton of internal people to manage your servers when you go this route. (And hiring an IT team is expensive. Besides their salaries, you also have to take into consideration a plethora of other costs: health benefits, 401K match, HR expenses, possible bonus pay, job board listing expenses, placement agency costs, etc.) Instead, you will rely on your colocation provider’s people to handle all of your servers’ IT needs. Better hope they know what they’re doing.

Start asking questions: What is the provider’s security system like? How do their access procedures work? Do they have 24/7/365 staff monitoring things? Will they allow you to perform your own equipment installation, should you so wish? How easy will it be for the equipment manufacturer’s field engineers to get access to your servers? Will the site accept and receive packages for you? If so, for how long will they hold onto them?

That’s a lot of questions, but they’re all ones that you need to be asking before you settle on a colo data center. Understand that you may not be looking for the same answers as every other business, though. What works for someone else might not work for you. Consider, for example, that some sites will require someone from your team to be present in order to allow a manufacturer’s representative to gain access to your equipment. It’s a great physical safety measure, but it can be inconvenient. Weigh your options and consider what’s most important to you.

What level of support do you want out of your data center owner? Different centers offer different types of support, and even within each center there are usually several different levels of support from which you can pick. Additionally, there are different types of charges for those service levels. Do you want to pay per man hour? Per incident? A flat monthly fee?

Finally, find out who exactly is going to be performing the maintenance and management work. It seems obvious, right? “The data center’s people, of course. D’uh!” Right. Maybe, but maybe not. Some centers use in-house personnel, while others contract out all or some of the work. Ask about who’s going to be taking care of your equipment and find out whether or not they’ve done it before. Inquire as to what hardware manufacturers they’ve worked with in the past.

Full Redundancy

You don’t want to receive partial payments from your customers/clients, and you don’t want to receive partial work from your employees. So why would you only want partial redundancy out of your data center. You wouldn’t.

Full redundancy means multiple internet service providers, uninterruptible power and an extremely well-designed network infrastructure. Take out any one of those elements, and you’re not getting what you need to ensure your servers are up and running when you need them to be. Having multiple internet service providers in place means there is an automatic failover in the e vent that one provider becomes unavailable. Their network goes down, another takes its place. Uninterruptible power sources and battery and generator backups, meanwhile, ensure that there is still power ready for use in the e vent of an outage or a power spike that would otherwise disrupt service.

Find out if your colocation data center is SAS 70, Type II and SSAE 16 audited and if it has a SOC 2 or SOC 3 report. (Don’t forget to turn to your old pal Google first to find out what those are if you’re not sure.) Those are good indicators that the provider in question boasts standardized processes and procedures that are up to the task of protecting your data.

In addition, your business might have specialized data storage and retrieval needs that others don’t. Do you store credit cardholder info? Make absolutely certain that the center you choose is PCI compliant if so. Do you have patient health information? Then you’re going to want to ask about HIPAA compliancy. Don’t think it’s safe for you to just take a provider’s word for it if they tell you they’re compliant, either; ask to see proof of an audit. If – god forbid – something goes wrong with your data, you want to be able to go back and show proof that it adhered to all the standards it needed to.

That’s it for the first part of our look at colocation needs, but check back soon for part two.

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