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COLOCATION: How to Make a Selection amongst Various Providers

By CIOReview | Monday, August 29, 2016

Everywhere we go, everything we do, every transaction we make, is reliant on data; our most valuable commodity today. As the amount of new data grows, it only continues to increase in value and importance. In this digital age, the data must be instantly accessible. There are high chances that your existing data center may fall short to align with your business requirements. Also, hosting a data center is complex and baffling. So, instead of spending on resource building and maintaining a data center, you might consider to choose  easier and reliable option—colocation.

Data center colocation is a simple and effective way to fulfill various aspects of storage hardware, network infrastructure and new ways of handling ever-increasing computing needs. Apart from meeting the primary objectives, one must always discuss and agree upon SLAs while entering into an understanding with a data center provider; it might differ from perspective of both. Clients usually need to pay for the power, rack space, data transfer and any additional facilities to be availed as per the SLA between the duos. The contracts are typically made for one year, but it depends how flexible you want it to be according to the plan.

So, how to make a selection amongst various colocation providers? Below are the points to look out for:

•    Power Density Support and Pricing

In the beginning, prior to the power density "boom", a majority of colocation data centers were constructed to support only an average of 4-5 kW per cabinet. The implying continual rise in demand due to technological furtherance, few data centers now offer 10 kW or more per cabinet, but costs vary widely. Data center providers distribute the load over a larger footprint or have to implement a supplemental cooling system in order to support high-density environments.

When it comes to providing power, the pricing structure varies from one colocation provider to the next. Each vendor has their own formula—some charge per-circuit, while other sites may provide metered usage-based charges, and are based on monthly recurring charges, generally.

Also, terms in the vendor’s contracts may allow them to audit the equipment you have installed in your cabinets and how much power is being consumed by it.

•    Colocation Connectivity Considerations

After taking on the power and cooling issue, next thing to consider about is connectivity to the carriers. How will your connectivity be delivered (i.e., the handoff and demark point)? You might find some colo sites to be carrier-neutral and will allow you to connect to any carrier while others may ask you to connect to carriers that they have in-house relationships with. Here, the costs of bandwidth and the choice of carriers and carrier diversity need to be considered carefully—there are cross-connect charges in addition to the basic bandwidth and port access charges. The internet connectivity via the colo operator or the carrier directly affects your future options as there will be an open choice to move to another colo or perhaps hark back to your own data center.

Reliability and Up-time and Service Levels

It is recommended to take customers’ feedback for the equipment that they have used for a year or more at the particular site from one selected provider. It will do half of your job in examining a provider's contingency plan and recovery procedures for the occurred problem. For the reliability and resilience of a data center, know that availability numbers and claims are usually based on generalized interpretations of the tier system (1-4)—based on the Uptime Institute or the TIA 968 standard.

One needs to be proactive in addressing contractual and SLA terms to see what levels of availability and remedies are promised. At certain instances, your SLA may allow you to have limited options or methods of recourse to break the contract. In the end, you will end up paying more for the colo with the greatest levels of redundancy, resources, and better SLAs, conversely, it's foolish to assume that nothing will ever impact the operation of your computing systems because you are in a highly rated site.

•    Maintenance and Support with a Colo

While moving to a colocation site, note that your existing operational model will be changing significantly. Like before, you cannot just step out of your office, walk down to your own data center and just re-boot that problematic server by opening the rack door and hitting the power button. Services offered depending upon the type of maintenance includes: a) to have the third-party support of a manufacturer's field engineer, b) third-party expert accompanied by a person from the customer who rented the rack or cage, or c) provider’s support with different skill sets—unmanaged, per-incident or hourly rates or in blocks of time per month. In order to skip occurrence of any ominous event, review the provider's overall security, access procedures, and any hands-on support options as well. 

Given the scale of big data, the storage system for a colo must exempt the need of data migration needs and simultaneously flexible enough to accommodate different types and sources of data, without sacrificing performance or latency. Companies across various industry levels are leveraging the benefits of colocation facilities and delivering more flexible ways of working. Thus, determining a data center or colocation provider would be a landmark for your business’s future.