What to Look For in A Good Colocation Center
The difference between a good colocation center and a bad colocation center can be the difference between safe and stable Information Technology (IT) infrastructure and Information disaster. A bad IT experience can destroy a company's earnings. Imagine losing all of a company's customer information. Choosing a reliable colocation provider is a key step to good uptime, security, reliability and value.
There's a saying, if someone has physical access to a machine, they have root access. What this means is that if someone is able to physically access the machine, they can easily bypass most common security features.
A good colocation facility will have employees on site 24 hours a day 365 days a year. They will have strict rules on who is allowed in the building, and may use biometrics in allowing access. Closed circuit video should cover the whole premise, especially the area where customer equipment is kept. This way companies which purchase colocation know who accessed their equipment and at exactly what times. A good colocation facility should ensure that no unauthorized access is possible.
Security against potential thieves or disgruntled ex-employees is only the tip of the iceberg. A reliable colocation facility will also provide security against natural disasters. Fires are certainly not unheard of in data centers. There are two basic types of fire prevention in data centers: water and gas. A water system is much cheaper. At the same time, if there is a fire large enough to trip the water sprinkler system you can expect all your computers to get soaked. Spraying water on computer equipment is not a very good idea and can be almost as damaging as a fire would be.
Gas fire prevention systems are more expensive, but work by depleting the fire of oxygen. Without oxygen a fire will stop burning, saving the equipment without damaging it. In any data center, the smallest of fires can be put out with fire extinguishers and every data center should have accessible and properly maintained extinguishers.
Other types of natural disasters could include flooding, storms, tornados and earthquakes. Depending on their geographical location, a good colocation data center should be equipped to deal with these. In fact a good data center should be one of the safest places to be in in case of natural disaster.
One common issue during natural disasters is loss of power. A power outage should never affect your servers. Any data center worth its name will have power backups. This includes uninterruptible power supplies along with generators which can run for an extended period of time. In the event of a disaster a datacenter should have contracts with more than one fueling company to provide fuel for their backup generators. Power is one of the basics which colocation facilities should provide and a good colocation facility should not have power issues.
Multiple Network Providers
Colocation customers should be able to use multiple networks to get to the Internet. This means a colocation center should have multiple different networks connections available for customers. Ordering multiple connections through different networks will increase the colocation cost, but should be an option for customers who cannot afford to rely on a single Internet service provider. A single point of failure should always be avoided, when possible. Multiple networks existing in a single data center also provides price competition. Where multiple networks exist, bandwidth prices will be competitive. This is called 'carrier neutral'.
When shopping for multiple Internet providers, make sure that they do not share the same points of failure. If two different Internet providers both share the same physical fiber cables then both will go down if that cable is cut. And fiber cuts happen a whole lot more often than you may suspect. Likewise, be sure that Internet provider A is not also a customer and reseller of Internet provider B. If you are looking for redundant Internet, the two (or more) providers need to be as independent from one another as possible.
Around the clock remote hands are a must for a good data center. Remote hands is when you provide instructions to the colocation staff to physically do something for you. This can be as simple as rebooting a server or moving an Ethernet cable from one port to another. It can also be more complex like changing out the RAM in a server.
You should never have to wait days for a simple server reboot. Remote hands should be quick and the staff should be knowledgeable enough to assist in a competent manner. There may be costs for remote hands, but if a crucial server needs to be reset minutes before an important meeting, these costs will seem insignificant.
When shopping for a colocation facility, find out how long it takes for remote hands tickets to be replied to. If you have to wait 24 hours for a simple reboot, that might be a problem.
The physical location of a colocation center is something to consider. Depending on what kind of servers you have, the colocation center should be near where you are or near where the majority of your customers are. If all your offices are in North America, and all your customers are in North America it makes less sense to have colocation in Asia. Doing so will simply increase latency.
Along the same lines, a facility near you or your IT staff is prefered as that way you will not have to take a business trip every time you need physical access to your equipment. Having your data center close enough that you can go in and configure things yourself is something to seriously consider.
Similarly, if you are colocating to provide a server for your customers, such as a webserver, think about where most of your customers are. Try to colocate somewhere near them, as this will reduce latency.
Look at all of the above and see what it is you truly need. Think about all the other aspects before you think about price. A cheap colocation service provider may sound nice, but make sure they meet your minimum needs. Sometimes you can get more bang for your buck by not going with the absolute cheapest provider.