The Benefits of Remote Hands in Colocation

The Benefits of Remote Hands in Colocation

June 03

When engaging in a new service, it is tempting to find opportunities to save money by cutting “extra” costs. You may be considering Remote Hands Services from a colocation provider as one of those "extra" costs.

Before determining that, it's necessary to understand the various benefits of Remote Hands and perform a cost-benefit analysis. In most cases, the cost of Remote Hands Services can actually save an organization in the long run. If the colocation provider you have selected offers unlimited Remote Hands Services, engaging remote hands can help keep the budget consistent and predictable — a major benefit for IT teams who are always under budgetary pressure.

The primary benefits of Remote Hands include:

  1. 24/7 availability
  2. Freed resources
  3. Reduced travel expenses

TIP: There is a worksheet at the bottom of this post to help you estimate your exact cost! 

The Cost of “Doing It Yourself” 

When not opting for Remote Hands Services, the alternative is to send your own personnel to the data center for tasks like: 

  • Installing, moving, upgrading, or replacing equipment and network cables 
  • Power cycling 
  • Running diagnostic equipment 
  • Performing inventory management and labeling 
  • Refreshing and rebooting servers 
  • And more 

This may not seem like a big deal … until you look at how much each of these trips costs.  

Sending personnel to a data center has associated monetary costs (such as gas/mileage, potential airfare, hotels, per diems or food expenses, potential overtime pay, etc.). But it also has a heavy “time” cost. Your technician or engineer must spend time traveling to and from the colocation data center plus the time they actually spend on site.  

When comparing a DIY approach to a paid service, you need to know the real cost associated with the DIY approach. As a general example, let’s consider sending a Senior Engineer to the data center. According to Glassdoor, the average salary of a Senior Engineer is roughly $83,000 annually, which breaks down to about $40 an hour (based on a 40-hour work week). If traveling to the data center takes one workday (without the need for a hotel, plane ticket, or overtime), the visit costs $320 plus expenses. Multiplying that by each visit per year and adjusting for the average length of trips and trip costs will give you a good understanding of what handling these needs with in-house personnel is costing your organization annually. 

A dollar amount isn’t the only consideration though. Besides the firm cost of DIY versus Remote Hands Services, also consider if traveling to a colocation data center for routine tasks and maintenance is the best use of time for your highly skilled personnel. What other projects are these trips taking your highly skilled worker away from? Additionally, consider the last-minute trouble or a simple must-have need on a Friday night just before a three-day holiday weekend.  

The Novel Coronavirus and COVID-19 outbreak have also reminded us of how unpredictable the world can be. Your in-house personnel may not be able to travel to or access the data center, but you need to ensure your equipment remains operational and that business continues as usual. Adjusting on-the-fly is another cost of doing business that should be considered when deciding whether preemptively engaging Remote Hands is a service worth paying for. 

The Cost (& Benefits) of Remote Hands Services 

Like with the overall cost of colocation, it is hard to tell you how much Remote Hands Services cost because every colocation provider approaches it differently. Some charge hourly, some charge a flat fee, while others may offer blocks of time. (Evoque offers a flat monthly fee per rack.) When comparing a do-it-yourself approach to Remote Hands Services, you will need to understand the exact offering from your colo provider. This is critical to both making a smart decision and proving to leadership that the “extra” expense is a good deal compared to the potential alternative costs. 

However, there are some things we can assume. With Remote Hands Services, your staff will not have to travel to the data center for routine tasks (verify what tasks Remote Hands Services cover with your provider). With these smaller, more mundane trips off the table, you will be able reduce your in-house staff’s trips to only important visits. With Remote Hands Services, your staff will instead focus on filing tickets for services, ordering/shipping equipment to the data center (which has to be down with either approach), and having calls with data center personnel to discuss requirements, tasks, and results as needed. Overall, this results in much less time managing the colocation engagement. 

You also get the benefit of being able to address potential issues or needs quickly. Data center personnel are already on-site and can respond to a ticket at any time without extended travel time to the facility. They are also on-site during times when your personnel may not be available, such as holidays, late at night, or during restricted personnel situations (such as natural disasters or the response to Coronavirus). The data center remains manned during all these situations and colocation providers implement plans to ensure staffing. You may not be able to enter the data center, but Remote Hands Services can still perform required tasks. 

Performing Your Own Cost-Benefit Analysis 

The scenario outlined in the DIY section is just an example. To get a clear understanding of what you’re spending on colocation visits you’ll have to perform your own analysis. This can be done with projected need (if you haven’t started a colocation contract) or using historical data. Once you have approximate data based on your unique use case, you’ll be able to more accurately compare what you’re spending to the cost of your colocation provider’s Remote Hands offering. 

Use real data where you’re able. If no historical data exists, use realistic predictions about data center visits and trip costs. 

  • Average hourly rate of the technicians or engineers who regularly visit the data centers: ______
    • Take the technician’s or engineer’s average salary and divide it by 2080 (based on a 40-hour work week) 
  • Average time spent per data center visit: ______
  • Average on-site time plus average travel time: ______
    • Are all your data centers nearby? Does a tech/engineer ever need to fly?
  • Average travel expense of data center visit: ______
    • Gas/mileage, flight, hotel, per diem or expenses, etc.
  • How many routine data center visits are planned each year? ______
  • How many times did internal personnel actually visit a data center in the last year? ______

To get a true understanding, gather data on the actual number of visits for the past three years. This will help weed out an anomaly year. 

Average hourly rate x average time spent per visit + average travel expense = How much it costs to send your technician/engineer on a data center visit 

Cost of a data center visit x anticipated number of visits in a year = Minimum yearly cost

Cost of a data center visit x actual number of visits in the past year = Actual yearly cost 

(Do this for every year you have the data)

Are there any pending events that are likely to increase data center visits? If there are, you can expect your annual cost for data center visits to increase.

Remote Hands Services is more than just a random line item on an order form. It can be a valuable service in terms of both cost and benefit. Using your own analysis, you can make an informed decision that best fits your needs and budget. Once everything is on paper, you may realize you’re spending more than anticipated on data center maintenance. Remote Hands can offer a way to reduce that expense and refocus your in-house resources by relying on your colocation provider’s on-site engineers and technicians. 

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