If you’ve been keeping up with our blog lately then you caught the first two parts of our look at how to choose a greatcolocation hosting provider. If you haven’t, not to worry – this is the internet, so the first two parts of this series haven’t gone anywhere. Read up on Part I and Part 2 for an exhaustive look at why you need to consider pricing, service levels and a host (admittedly awful pun intended) of other provider services and capabilities before choosing a data center that works best for your business and its needs and goals.
Once you’ve read up on those key points and checked with potential colo hosting providers as to how they stack up in those areas, you might think you’re ready to make your choice. That’s great if you are, but there’s one more thing to consider: what is their actual facility like?
We hear what you’re saying: “But Superb, didn’t you already tell me to read up and ask around about facility conditions and capabilities?” Yes, indeed we did, and we’re happy to know you’ve been paying attention to our suggestions and taking them seriously. As you should be, since they were designed to help you select the best provider possible. So if you followed through on that one, then you’re probably in a good position with a shortlisted group of hosting names to consider.
Here’s a question for you, though: You wouldn’t buy a car or a house without first looking at it in person, would you? Of course you wouldn’t, and neither should you buy colo center space and services before you take a physical tour of the facility. Obviously you don’t have the time (or likely the desire) to visit every single colo location that sounds decent, but you might want to get out and visit the few in person you’re seriously considering once you’ve narrowed your list of potential vendors down.
When you get there, do you know what you should look for? Specifically? We do. Here are some of the top things you should concern yourself with when you make a physical visit to a data center.
H2O Everywhere You Go
This probably won’t come as much of a revelation to you, but servers get hot while in use. Use a lot of servers at once in a data center, and you can produce some serious heat. That means they need to have some serious climate control in place to keep the servers from overheating. Now, any center that is even halfway competent is going to have either air conditioning units and/or water chillers to control temperatures and keep everything running smoothly, so at this stage you don’t have to worry so much about whether or not there is a cooling system in place. If you’re seriously considering a center, then you already know it has temp control.
How the center you’re visiting puts the big freeze on is something worth looking into deeper, though. Water chilling is an energy-efficient method of getting the job done, but it brings with it a new consideration: potential leakage. Even if there aren’t chillers in place, there had better be a fire sprinkler system in the center, which means another potential leak source.
Wherever there are water pipes – inside and outside of the world of colocation – there is the potential for them to leak. That’s not to say you should avoid water-chilled centers, just that you need to poke around a bit more. Ask the provider what the perimeter water damn and floor drain situation is, as these elements will help to mitigate any potential damage in the event of a leak. If there are drains, find out exactly how the system is designed to be used to protect your data. Follow up by inquiring if they have check valves in place in the drainage system to prevent water from backing up from storm drains and city water services. The likelihood of that happening may be small, but you want your center prepared for all contingencies. So ask away.
Wetting Your Whistle
Let’s stick with the water theme for just another moment, if you don’t mind. Here’s an H2O question that you may not have thought of: in the event of an extreme emergency, what are the server operators going to be drinking? We’ve all performed one of those group exercises in which we’re tasked with ranking a list of items from most important to least important for surviving on a desert island, and drinking water is always at or near the top.
Well, what if something of truly catastrophic proportions occurs in the area a data center is physically located? This isn’t any everyday concern, of course, but freak acts of god/nature/whatever do occur. When they do, resources can become scarce. If data center operators are stuck inside the center for any extended period of time due to a pandemic or something of the sort, then the air pumping into the server room isn’t the only thing that will need to stay hydrated.
Municipal water supplies can’t be relied on in such a situation. Find out what the quantity of drinkable water on site is. What’s the refresh cycle? Cases of bottled water are better than nothing, but an underground drinking water tank is the best solution.
Fueled Up and Ready to Go
Surely the colocation hosting provider sites you’re looking at have uninterruptible power supplies in place to keep the power flowing in the event of a localized outage. But if there’s an elongated outage, then having sufficient available fuel is going to become as important to your data center as it was for the citizens of Mad Max’s dystopian Australia.
Fuel tanks need to be refilled when outages outlast supplies on-hand, so it’s prudent to ask about the refueling agreements the data center has worked out and where they are on the list of local priorities. Hospitals and emergency services are going to get top priority, of course, but find out how much further down the list your data center is.
Clean and Orderly
From the moment you set foot into the parking lot, through the time you first set foot on the raised floor to the moment you leave the site you should be checking the condition of things. Ask yourself: does this colo provider’s site look dirty and disorderly like a traveling carnival, or has it been meticulously cleaned and organized like Disney World?
Don’t think you always have to wait for your tour guide to stop and point things out to you. Stop him or her at random and look around for yourself, and then ask the guide for a little bit of show and tell. Don’t just assume that everything is as it should be below the raised floor – ask to see for yourself. Have them lift up a tile or two and show you what’s underneath. What’s it look like down there? If everything is neatly organized then you’re good to go. If not, it’s cause for concern.
A rigorously cleaned and organized facility is a sign of a colocation hosting provider that’s disciplined enough manage data with enough scrutiny to ensure yours is safe and ready to be accessed quickly and reliably.
Image Source: Data Center Knowledge