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

In case you missed it, we recently ran a blog listing some of the most important attributes for you to look for in your colocation data center provider. We started by taking a deeper look at what exactly colocation is, and why it could be of benefit to you. If you missed it, definitely hop on over and check that blog out first, because it’s a great starting point for anyone considering colocation.

If you’re still reading at this point, we’ll assume that you’ve read that blog post by now. So, that means it’s time to pick up where we left off and detail some of the other important factors to consider when thinking about colo. Read on for the good stuff.

Pricing

Here’s one that sounds obvious, right? We can hear you saying, “Of course I’m going to consider pricing of anything before I buy it.” Fair enough, dear reader. Spending less money always looks better on the bottom line than spending more money. But there’s more to business than playing not to lose, you have to spend money to make money and other such clichés.

Now then, let’s put aside rock bottom pricing and take a look at what different pricing levels really mean when it comes to colocation – what are you going to be getting for your dollar? It costs a lot of money to construct, manage and operate a data center of your own. Putting your servers in somebody else’s center will save you money. However, it’s vital that you understand that facility differences, service packages and quality of IT staff mean that all colocation sites are not created equal, so saving as much money as possible may not be the best strategy for everyone.

Don’t just take a cursory look at everyone’s packages. That won’t cut it. Everyone says they’re more reliable than Old Faithful, more secure than Fort Knox, faster than Speedy Gonzalez and more redundant than…well, someone or something with lots and lots of redundancies. You get the idea. Taking a look further beneath the surface could reveal significant differences from provider to provider, however.

For instance, how much space are you getting? Are you renting by the cabinet, half cabinet or per caged-in area, which contains multiple cabinets? Is the provider charging per square foot of space? Is the price cheaper because you have to supply your own cabinet? Using your own cabinet to save a few bucks is great – if you have your own cabinet. If you don’t, it might not be such an attractive model for you.

You also have to consider what you’re paying for in terms of power and how much cooling you’re going to be buying to keep all that power from overheating things. Different types and amounts of available power can cause pricing to drastically fluctuate. Find out if you’re being charged on a per-rack power limitation or on a watts-per-square-foot model.

This is particularly important if you’re going to be using blade servers. We’ll avoid getting into the nitty-gritty of blade servers here, but note that if you’re going to use them that they tend to ruin at around 4-5 kW each but can suck down as much as 7-8 kW when they’re fully loaded. Your vendor’s pricing model may account for just 5 kW per cabinet if it’s a regular raised-floor airflow setup, mandating that your one full cabinet for each blade server. If you’re paying by the cabinet, that has the potential to get expensive in a hurry. If you need 10 kW or more per cabinet then expenses can go up as additional floor space, a containment system and additional cooling systems just for your area/racks will be necessary.

How is your colo data center provider going to power your servers, and how will they charge for it? Will they charge you per circuit? Are they going to send you metered usage-based bills? You might not end up getting charged for your actual power consumption, so you’ll want to read the fine print in your contract in this area. It’s to your benefit to find out how much power your equipment draws under normal, startup and peak conditions. Before you jump into colocation, consider scooping up metered rack power strips and monitoring your equipment’s power consumption ahead of time while it’s still in your own facility. When you figure out how much power you need, you’ll know how much you should be paying for power.

Of course, your data center isn’t going to want you use up more power than you’re paying for. Expect them to conduct a power audit to double check that everything is in line. This is a fair way to ensure both parties are getting what they need, so don’t be surprised or concerned when your provider wants to run one.

One final note on pricing and power: don’t forget about A/B redundancies. Costs for a secondary circuit can vary from 20 – 50 percent of the primary circuit price. That being said, keep in mind that total A/B circuit power can never exceed maximum allowable draw of the primary circuit in order to avoid cascade failure.

Uptime

You don’t want downtime. Providers don’t want downtime. End users don’t want downtime. In short, nobody wants downtime. You’re going to expect a ridiculously high uptime going in, and why shouldn’t you? You wouldn’t pick a data center if it had a shoddy uptime record. Different price points, however, will get you different uptime levels.

For maximum uptime, you want a center that performs thousands and thousands and thousands of maintenance actions every year, ranging from basic visual inspections all the way up to completely ripping equipment apart and checking its internals.

The good news is that colo has come a long way when it comes to uptime. Today’s equipment monitoring systems are vastly advanced, allowing for an incredible amount of failure prevention, high-level monitoring and identification of repeat problems leading to the elimination of chronic failures.

A good center will have a building management system in place that provides network operators with critical alerts. But the center’s operators aren’t the only ones who should have an eye on performance. Look for a center with a quality data center infrastructure management tool that gives you a window into your servers should you choose to look through it and check in on things.

Catering to Your Needs

Remember when we pointed out that going with the lowest price possible isn’t the best route for every business to take. Well, guess what? There are lots of colocation data center provider options that may sound great for some but aren’t exactly ideal for everyone.

Why? Because everyone has different needs. When speaking with a data center provider, do you get the impression that they understand you specific needs? Do they have enough space, power, cooling and staffing for you? If you need to get on-site, how easy is it going to be for you to do so?

Whatever you choose, make sure that it’s a custom colocation solution that’s built for you. Not a mass-produced one that sounds good on paper but doesn’t meet your needs.

Image Source: Data Center Journal

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