While profitability is the aim of every business, growth often creates unforeseen challenges, especially for IT managers who are tasked with maximizing system uptime even if space is limited, equipment is antiquated, and costs are running skyward. The answer to these challenges for many organizations involves the relocation of their IT infrastructure to a data center outside of their current facility, rather than keeping it in-house.
Data centers, the alternative for growing businesses
Larger enterprises may have the resources to build or expand data centers from scratch, but smaller businesses are choosing to shift their IT operations to outside data center providers. This is because building any facility from the ground up is a costly undertaking. For small-to-medium sized business, it is most likely a budgetary impossibility. Retrofitting is another option, but it can be equally costly.
Oftentimes, the most common problems faced by growing businesses – infrastructure and costs – are the only factors considered when selecting a data center provider. But, there are so many other factors to consider as well, including disaster preparation, security, and redundancy. Choosing where to move your servers is one of the most important decisions your organization will make in the coming years. So be sure to ask the following questions before selecting a data center provider:
- How many watts/amps of usable power can I consume per cabinet?
One of the reasons for moving your IT gear to an outside data center is to mitigate the problems and costs of maintaining your equipment in-house, building a new facility, or retro-fitting. Make sure the prospective data center can support your usable power requirements so you can fully utilize your cabinet today and into the future. Be specific. Some facilities may indicate 60 amps per cabinet, but that can mean 30 primary and 30 redundant amps. Specify “consume.” Without doing so, you may be able to install anything you want, but limited to drawing just a portion of your circuits’s capacity.
- Does the data center offer a power metered billing method or flat-rate?
If cost reduction is a major determining factor for you, the way power is billed offers opportunities for additional cost savings. There are several ways to pay for power. The metered method allows you to pay for only what you consume. Another method involves pre-buying the entire circuit capability and using only a portion. The downside to this approach is that it drives up your real per-amp cost. A true consumption model is flexible, enabling you to install power circuits with your future power needs in mind, without having to pay a premium upfront. Say you plan to consume 14 kW per cabinet in the next 2 years. Then it’s recommended that you install the proper outlets to allow for that consumption today. As a result, you will reduce setup fees and speed up installation time, which improves your total cost of ownership (TCO).
- Is the data center in a controlled, single tenant building?
Controlling risk in data centers is nearly impossible in multi-tenant buildings. Here’s an example of what can happen in a facility with multiple tenants. Imagine your data center on the fifth floor of a facility. What if there was a leak on the floor above which is used by a different tenant? How can you ensure that the leak won’t affect your operations? Single tenancy also gives data center users more control at a lower cost of occupancy.
- What free services are included (loading dock, reboots, monitoring)?
One of the advantages of data centers is the reduction of upfront capital costs. But, it’s important to never underestimate the costs of “extras.” While you may only need 3 reboots per month now, how much more would it cost if something happens and suddenly you need 20 reboots? Therefore, it’s not about the first invoice. It’s about appropriate planning and the total costs involved over the course of the relationship.
- What are the tools the data center can offer to help with your growth? (SAN, data backup, server management, monitoring, cloud services?)
If your server goes offline at 2AM, you can’t afford to wait until the business day begins to get it back online. Be sure the prospective data center offers 24/7 on-site staff with the knowledge, skills and experience needed to resolve the problem. And because downtime can cause stress, exceptional customer service is a must-have to achieve peace of mind. Bottom line, if a data center’s staff is ill-equipped with the right skills to maximize uptime, then what’s the use of moving your IT there?
IT managers want peace of mind that their systems will continue to perform in most any circumstance to support business objectives. What other questions should be posed to a prospective data center?