Whether you’re searching for a data center colocation partner for the first time or simply need to validate your chosen partner, the number of variables to consider can seem overwhelming. While some think of colocation as an insurance policy against downtime, it’s more prudent to consider the costs and benefits of this model. Below are some critical considerations that should factor into your decision.
Analyze the Risks
If situations like Hurricane Harvey and COVID-19 have taught us anything, it’s that we can plan all day long, but never anticipate every possible scenario. While private (on-premises) data centers housed in corporate offices do offer a high degree of convenience (i.e., the “hot closet” of servers conveniently located down the hall), they seldom stand the emergency test.
We’ve recently watched as historic flooding has brought companies to their knees, making on-premises data centers virtually inaccessible for weeks on end. More recently, building closures due to the pandemic have prevented IT personnel from accessing and maintaining critical systems necessary for supporting the company and remote workers. Evaluate what will happen to your company if your data is out of reach for an extended period of time.
Determine Your Tolerance for Downtime
Downtime is a dirty word for CIOs and IT managers. However, scheduled downtime is more common in private data centers than in a colocation facility, and unscheduled downtime is even more common. A recent industry survey indicates that organizations reported an average of 69 hours per year of unplanned downtime across systems due to human error.
Most downtime events resulted from configuration errors made during deployment by internal IT personnel.
While the cost of downtime directly impacts the bottom line, it also can affect a company’s reputation, client retention rates and employee satisfaction. The stakes also go up by industry. Consider what unplanned downtime means for organizations like hospitals and financial institutions.
Calculate the Economies of Scale
Retrofitting a commercial building to accommodate a data center is challenging at best, especially when you consider the construction costs and specialized design features. Some of the considerations include:
- Location – Critical facilities must be accessible by major roadways and located outside of 500-year floodplains, but not too close to airports and railroads. They also must be close to multiple fiberoptic data connectivity pathways.
- Structure – To reduce the likelihood of storm damage and loss of access, the building must be “storm-hardened” with reinforced concrete construction, a wind-rated roof, and blast guard window film to protect against water damage and flying debris.
- Power & Cooling – Since the environment of the data center can never change, redundancy and concurrent maintainability for the systems delivering power and cooling is absolutely critical. If a component of the system goes down, this structure ensures functionality. In addition, the backup generator must provide 100% coverage of the entire facility and have a minimum of 24 hours onsite fuel supply without outside refueling.
- Internet Service – A blended Internet solution is needed for data centers. It typically incorporates three different service providers that enter the building at various entry points so if one goes out, two backups remain.
- Fire Prevention – A highly sophisticated fire prevention and detection system must include multi-zoned systems above and below raised flooring; layered smoke and heat detection systems; chemical fire suppression agents; and double inter-locked, pre-action suppression systems.
- Security – Security staff must be in place 24/7, along with closed-circuit TV systems that are monitored in real-time with footage backed up for at least 30 days. In addition, there must be a single point for entry/exit with personnel traps and layered emergency exits that don’t allow for re-entry.
Building out a private data center is typically not a cost-effective proposition, which accounts for the trend toward colocation providers.
Evaluate Your Staffing Requirements
It takes an entire team to staff a data center, diverting critical personnel away from core business activities. It’s important to note that data center quality management and facilities personnel will have additional skill sets that drive employment costs up by a margin of 30% or more over standard office building personnel. Ask yourself if your IT department is bogged down with data center facilities and environmental management.
Do they have time to focus on building efficiencies in your business? If not, it may be time to make some important changes.
Talk to Accounting
It’s necessary to understand whether your company considers it advantageous to carry more operating expenses (OPEX) or capital expenses (CAPEX). The distinction is important as they are treated differently for accounting and tax purposes.
Common CAPEX expenses you can avoid with colocation include:
- New or legacy facility upgrade design and engineering
- Redundant cooling infrastructure and equipment
- Redundant power delivery systems and equipment providing power and backup
- Specialized security feature construction
Consider the Opportunity Cost
- When a storm is brewing in the Gulf of Mexico, does your IT staff lose more sleep worrying about protecting mission-critical facilities than they do about executing emergency safety precautions to protect your data?
- When a new construction project begins down the street, do you worry about the loss of your power or Internet service?
- Have government work-from-home mandates prevented key personnel from accessing and maintaining business-critical systems or data?
- Does your team spend more time managing IT infrastructure than delivering value to your core business?
Call Fibertown Today
If you’re evaluating your current on-premises data center, your current colocation partner, or would like more information about how colocation can save money and increase efficiency in the long-run, call Fibertown today so you can focus on business-critical operations tomorrow.