So you’ve navigated the plethora of hosting options out there, and determined that colocation is right for your organization.
But your diligence shouldn’t end there. You’ve got to choose the right host, with the right data center to secure your server.
This blog will arm you with questions to ask and issues to consider as you choose your colocation data center & hosting company.
Why you need to know what you need to know
While servers are expensive tools, the data on your servers is what is valuable.
As Jennifer Svensson, GigeNET’s head of support explains in her blog about data loss:
“Countless work hours have gone into making each server unique, with custom set-ups, modified WordPress templates, blog posts going back years, etc. This is where the value of a server lies: in the data.”
Choosing the right data center means keeping the risk of data loss low. Colocation is a real time and money saver, but—you’ve got to ensure that your valuables are under the watchful eye of an experienced and competent staff.
Otherwise, your investment becomes a costly lesson in how not to manage your infrastructure.
Pick your location wisely: be ready to go there if needed
With colocation, you are ultimately responsible for the installation and maintenance of your server.
Because of this requirement, it’s wise to choose a data center that’s easily accessible to your organization.
Data centers tend to cluster around geographically secure areas that aren’t prone to natural disasters, have a steady and inexpensive supply of water (for cooling) and power (for the servers, naturally)—so check and see if your provider is near other data centers.
This can be a cue that the data center has been carefully planned to take advantage of the area’s existing infrastructure.
What to consider for your location:
- Does your potential host have a data center that’s close enough to access in an emergency?
- Being able to access your physical server when you need to is an oft-overlooked element to choosing your colocation host: you may need to upgrade or service your servers!
- Does your provider have multiple data centers across the United States?
- This offers redundancy and reliability, as well as the potential for faster network connectivity.
- Is the provider in a physically secure location?
- Areas prone to natural disasters (like earthquakes, floods, tornadoes or hurricanes) are hard to avoid entirely—for example, choosing a central US location versus a coastal US location can be a positive trade-off.
Knowing where your servers live creates security by ensuring you can access them—and through a stable outside environment.
Internet connectivity: how fast do you want to go?
Perhaps it’s obvious, but not all data centers are created equal.
Since your server has to connect to the internet do anything at all, it’s crucial to ask about the level of connectivity—and reliability—from the data center.
Here’s what we recommend asking the company’s representatives about the hosting company’s network:
- How much bandwidth is available?
- The more, the better. Does the host offer a network speed test so you can determine it yourself?
- How much packet loss is there?
- Less is more. You’re shooting for as little packet loss as possible.
- What’s the average uptime?
- Anything less than 99% is below the current industry standards. Is their claim also backed up by their Service Level Agreement?
- Who are their transit providers?
- The Tier 1 ISPs in the US (they have access to the entirety of the internet, directly through their physical infrastructure) are AT&T, Cogent, Verizon, Telia, Level 3 & Comcast. Do they have all of these, and others, as transit providers?
- What sort of routing optimization does the data center utilize?
- Not all routing is created equal. With data centers, the fastest route is not always a straight line. They should be able to competently and clearly explain how their routing is optimized and why it’s so fast.
You should demand clear and concise answers to your questions about internet connectivity.
However—it’s vital that you understand your own bandwidth and internet requirements before you seek out requests for proposals. Take stock of your business goals—and current requirements—before shopping around.
Redundancy and backup requirements: your insurance policy
Besides a high-speed connection, data centers typically offer a degree of physical security beyond what your business could provide on-site.
With a good data center, you are protected against natural disasters—as well as insulated from downtime and data loss due to mismanagement.
This security is achieved through two specific areas: power and backups. So what should you consider about power consumption and backups before jumping into a colocation contract?
- Data centers need lots of power—and a plan for when power fails.
- While a power loss event at a data center is rare, they do happen. It’s vital that you ask about the data center’s power backup strategy: do they have an on-site generator? What’s their overall power loss strategy?
- Understand what your growth requirements are for the next 5 years
- If you’re anticipating drastic growth (or stable needs), ask about how the data center plans to grow its power capacity. The more computing power per square foot that the provider plans for, the easier growth will be.
- Servers like Intel’s Xeon-D have been specifically engineered to harness maximum computing power with minimal energy expenditure—does the data center offer similar high-performing, high-density servers?
- Inquire about backup strategies
- Data archival for the data center’s systems is worth inquiring about.
By ensuring that your data center has covered its bases regarding redundancy and power, you’re ensuring your own uptime—think of it as insurance against costly downtime.
The bells & whistles: consider managed services, even if you don’t think you’ll need them
The effect of turnover in the IT industry means that it’s vital to anticipate a loss of talent. What if your “server pro” leaves the company?
We recommend ensuring that your data center offers some degree of managed services—even if you don’t plan on utilizing them, you can prevent problems by having managed services as a fallback plan in case your talent leaves for greener pastures.
Additionally—managed services allow experts with long-standing experience to see to the health and administration of your servers. If you wind up in a situation where your IT experts can’t solve a problem (or are on vacation when disaster strikes), having managed services as an option—even if you don’t utilize it immediately—can be invaluable.
Another point of consideration: the self-service portal
How you access your servers makes a difference: not all data centers offer the same level of customer-centered software for controlling and managing your servers.
Some don’t offer any custom software at all—which can be fine—but a custom-designed software suite for accessing your servers is more than a luxury, it’s a powerful tool for accomplishing your business goals.
Inquire about how your servers can be accessed, what sorts of granular controls exist and how easy-to-use the software is. You should expect something built with the customer in mind—user friendly with a consistent user experience.
Colocation: still an affordable and reliable option
Colocation offers benefits and savings for organizations that have adequate IT staffing, a realistic vision of their infrastructure requirements and a clear vision for how they’ll meet their current and future goals.
At GigeNET, we’ve got more than 20 years of experience with server hosting—a very long time in this industry. We’ve got a staff of experienced industry veterans backed by three nationwide data centers designed for growth and adaptation to the coming changes in our industry.
If you’re looking for a colocation provider, shop around and utilize the questions we’ve provided here to poke & prod for the truth—but remember that long-time, stable providers are always the best bet.