Just because colocation is the preferred solution for many industries and use cases doesn’t mean that all colocation service providers are created equal, or that the solution will be a slam dunk no matter what. Colocation (colo) is not a commodity. Selecting a data center provider should be a long-term partnership based on many factors such as customer service, value-add services, and financial stability, to name a few. Additionally, today’s requirements are more complex with higher densities and flexible solutions. Understanding your environment and needs is critical to a successful colo deployment.
Here is as series of questions you should ask yourself and prospective providers to help you plan for a colocation initiative and make vendor selection easier and more in-line with your true needs.
When’s the Right Time to Make the Move?
While some moves to colocation are driven by an acute need, some organizations can pre-plan for the transition as part of their corporate roadmap. If there’s no immediate need to transition to colocation (like outrageous cloud expenses driven by scaling, or difficulty staying current with compliance requirements within a private data center), it’s convenient to align migrations with an equipment refresh. Instead of moving existing equipment that only has one year of life left, or underutilizing CAPEX that has already been spent, plan your data center move at the same time you are purchasing new equipment. Why pay someone to move existing equipment when you can ship new gear directly from the vendor to the new data center? (Just make sure all the contracts are signed before you ship it or risk the equipment being rejected by the data center provider!)
What to Ask Yourself
Before engaging with potential solution providers, it’s important that your team (and organization as a whole) have a clear internal understanding of needs, expectations, and driving factors. This will help you verify that colocation is the correct solution and help you clearly articulate your needs to the providers you engage. After all, moving to a colo solution provider is a business decision that should enable your company to do more!
Some things to consider and discuss during this planning phase include:
- Why are you considering a data center move or consolidation?
- Is it to save money by freeing up expensive in-house data center costs that are not part of your company’s core competency?
- Is there a need not currently being met, like having access to cloud on-ramps or more carrier options?
- Is your current data center strained on capacity (floor space, power, or cooling) or is it otherwise not meeting your needs? (I.E. New server/IT equipment requires more density and cooling.)
- Is your current deployment no longer efficient? (I.E. Too much power delivered compared to how much power the environment needs or is using. Over time some environments have shifted large workloads to the cloud and therefore do not require as much power.)
- Have clearly defined and documented expectations and desired outcomes.
- Communicate with everyone in the organization that is involved with the project to ensure that goals and timelines are met or exceeded. This includes the CFO and/or procurement team.
- Understand your current environment and future needs to accurately document and articulate technical requirements. Make sure you have a clear understanding of what your existing deployment looks like. If you don’t know where you are starting from, you can’t measure improvement.
Documenting the answers to the questions you discuss during this phase is important. This will help everyone within your organization be on the same page regarding needs and expectations. It will also come in handy when it’s time to vet potential solution providers.
Define the Specs
Understanding your current and future technical requirements is just as important when working with a colo provider as it would be if you were building (or refreshing) an in-house solution. Not only will it lead to a more accurate solution from the colocation provider, but clearly communicating accurate requirements will help potential providers meet your future needs as your business demands scale (or change entirely).
Before vetting solutions, document specs such as:
- How many different IT systems do you have?
- What are the dependencies of those systems?
- How much power do you need delivered?
- How much power do you expect to use?
- What do you want the environment to look like in the future?
- What is important today?
- What will be important tomorrow?
- Consider things like possible expansion space and first right of refusal
- What are your compliance needs?
- What are your compliance needs right now? How about in the near future?
- If your business makes an acquisition, how could your compliance needs change?
If you’re not 100% clear on all your specs, that’s OK. Having a general understanding is a good starting place and a Sales Engineer at your chosen provider can help you more fully define and plan your transition and new solution. We’re trained to craft solutions within this space, so we may anticipate some specs or requirements that you didn’t foresee. Together, we can plan your ideal environment.
Vetting Colocation Solution Providers
Once you understand your needs and tech specs, it’s time to start talking to potential colocation solution providers. Once you’ve established that a certain provider can meet your basic needs, you’ll want to consider deeper elements of their service offerings.
Be sure to discuss these elements with any provider prior to signing a contract:
- What’s the quality of the provider AND the data center facilities you’ll be entering?
- What’s the data center uptime?
- If there have been service interruptions, how did the provider handle it?
- Does the facility have a long and positive history of operational excellence?
- Consider uptime and operational excellence during previous natural disasters if the facility you’re considering is located in an area prone to hurricanes, earthquakes, tornados, or wildfires.
- Is the facility a purpose-built data center?
- Do you like the company and the people you will be working with?
- Are they easy to do business with?
- Are they responsive, informative, and helpful?
- Is the company well-funded?
- Will they be around in the next three years, or do you risk losing your provider from a sale or closure?
- Does their roadmap of products and services align with your roadmap for growth and requirements?
- Do they have a plan to expand into geographical regions that align with your growth?
- Are additional services or products you’re interested on their roadmap?
Considering the questions above will put you into the best position possible for a smooth, successful transition to colocation. These questions and reflection exercises will also help ensure you find a provider that you’ll be happy with for years to come. Colo is a great option for many use cases and industries, now it’s just down to finding the right service provider for you.