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How To Choose A Data Center Colocation Location or Colocation Facility – Here are some preliminary things to consider while selecting a data center colocation facility. This article provides the basic  knowledge necessary to make a well-informed decision about where to locate your colocation equipment in a data center. If your IT operations space is insufficient, evaluation and planning is critical to continuing continuity and disaster recovery of your business.

Data Center Selection Process

1. Determine Your Data Center Requirements and Colocation Budget Requirements

How redundant is the data center, not including server, networking and mounting hardware, cables, and labor?  System down time is also costly.

Labor and parts fees required to set up the space are expensive. Recurring expenses include the cost of space, staffing, power; cooling, maintenance contracts, Internet bandwidth and cross connect fees to ISPs (Internet Service Provider) or NSPs (Network Service Provider).  Redundancy equals higher expense but can be critical. While price isn’t always the deciding factor, the up-time of your colocation space is!

2. Data Center Security

First, consider physical security.  The SANS Institute review issued a checklist located at www.sans.org.  Other assessments include site location, perimeter, computer room access, facilities, users and disaster recovery.

Some businesses are accountable to compliances such as HIPPA, PCI or Sarbanes-Oxley.    Ensure data center provider’s willingness to allow auditors escorted access as required, to verify controls are in place.

Security is paramount.  Review considered company’s SANS checklist.  Choose one with SSAE 16 (SAS70) certification to ensure meeting compliance objectives. Always review the last audit conducted at the data center to evaluate their performance.

3. Determine Space and Power Requirements For Colocation Space

Review your computer and network infrastructure.   Determine the unit rack size, the power type (AC or DC) and the operational voltage / amperage required for each device.  Providers offer space in 1/3, 1/2, or full racks, and cage space to accommodate multiple or unenclosed racks.  Rack sizes are typically 42 and 54 units. A one-unit server occupies one unit. Determine power amounts per rack (ref. cooling capacity) to determine space requirements. Don’t just consult the specs of the equipment but identify the actual power utilization. This can save thousands of wasted dollars of the term on a colocation contract. Concerning growth, check availability of adjacent cabinets, free cross connects between cabinets, and a first right of refusal on empty cabinets or cage expansion areas.

Ready and abundant availability of A/C or D/C voltage and amperage is paramount.  Data centers are classified into tier levels from one to four. One is the least and four the most available. Price escalates based on the tier so don’t over estimate your requirements. A classification is an expression of expected average up time percentage, based on redundant systems in place and fault tolerance(s) of the site.   When deriving a tier classification, consider how many power grids the site sets on including alternate energy sources (diesel or turbine generator), automatic transfer switches, transformers, and remote distribution centers (RPPs). Providers often use N+1 terminology (applicable to power and cooling) indicating they offer what is needed plus one backup or alternate. Be sure to evaluate how the data center defines their redundancy since it can be a misleading terminology.

The power required for your application is the largest recurring cost. Determine if redundant power is viable and available to each device.  Who provides the PDU (power strip in the rack) and fuse panel (for D/C applications), you or the center?  If they do, is remote reboot and SNMP capability included? Who has administrative level control?  Most providers offer 120 and/or 208-volt single phase, and 208-volt three-phase power.  Some offer 48-volt D/C power.

If so, the following power path can be provided: Utility / Generator → UPS A → Transformer A → RPP A → Customer PDU A → Customer Server Power Supply A along with a path on the B infrastructure.

Utilizing this design, the critical load can lose an entire path of power and remain on line, while allowing simultaneous maintenance on the infrastructure with no powering down.  Standard A/C breakers are 80% rated at 20/30 amps and safely operate at 80% rating, 100% of the time.  Redundant circuit utilization requires dropping to 40%, as a single circuit may need to route the other 40% should its redundant counterpart fail. Always ask what the derated power is for a data center because some data centers derate at a lower amount to cover up the cost of power.

Data center providers should ensure specification approval of the PDU by the center, and that the receptacle matches the power cable on the PDU.  Also consider the fees and availability of power should your needs grow.  Recent increases in server density and power consumption can prohibit delivery of additional power without costly infrastructure upgrades. Tier classification determines the amount of redundancy a center has. Check to ensure it fits your uptime requirements.

Heat, a byproduct of working servers, creates problems and decreases equipment lifespan. If cooling fails and temperatures reach critical levels, your equipment will fail or have to be shut down.  Vendors can verify temperature and humidity design ranges of your equipment.  Research shows temperatures kept at or below 70 degrees Fahrenheit is wasteful.

4. Data Center Connectivity and Service

Key to connectivity is a carrier neutral data center. Consider requirements for bandwidth to the Internet, satellite locations, and other data centers. Facilities with many ISPs or NSPs, is cost effective for access, MPLS networks, point-to-point R1s, and PRIs for PSTN termination and carrier cross connection.

Would redundant Internet paths be cost effective?  Those familiar with internet protocols and implementation know requirements to configure and support that technology are not cheap. Does the center provide NSP style services and a redundant pair of copper or fiber optic drops, allowing you egress points to redundant ISPs?

5. Data Center Support

Is phone support offered 24x7x365 (with trained technicians) and physical access in case repairs are required during off hours? Call the phone support number before you sign a contract to see how responsive they actually are.

Some data centers offer remote hands on service while others offer only reboots.  Determine all service levels you require, skill level and certifications of staff, and the cost per hour for utilization.  This is critical if the site is not geographically near your operational area.

6. Managed Service Agreement and Service Level Agreement Negotiation

Carefully review the MSA and SLA with your attorney. What is said verbally at a tour of the data center or a presentation on the facility is not important. Data Center providers will only rely on the contract terms in the colocation agreement. Be careful to make sure everything you want to fall back on in the future is in writing in the contract. That’s the only thing that matters.

In summary, Data Center And Colocation is providing a preliminary basis for selecting a data center that meets your needs. This is only a partial list of things to consider. Before signing, any contracts explore each topic further in detail. Tour facilities with a checklist to determine where your needs are or are not met.  Speak with key personnel at each site. The staff should be able to answer all questions and provide references for you. Call them!  Ask questions about routine maintenance and ask to see service contracts with vendors and priority refueling agreements in case of extended utility power loss.  At some point, every piece of equipment will fail.  You want to ensure the facility you choose has plans in place to recover from these failures quickly and hopefully without any impact to your organization.

To schedule a no cost data center site discussion, please call (619) 365-9236.

About DataCenterAndColocation – Colocation And Data Center Consultants

DataCenterAndColocation, a worldwide data center and colocation consulting company, represents approximately 3000 data centers and colocation centers across the US. At no cost to clients, they identify specific space, power, compliance and security requirements, solicit proposals, professionally analyze them, compare the strengths and weaknesses, negotiate pricing and deliver highly competitive bids for colocation. Whether clients are moving their existing colocation site, adding data center sites, looking for wholesale data center space or establish a disaster recover site, DataCenterAndColocation consulting services are the best solution to reduce costs and free employee valuable time. Their specialty is identifying very high quality and low power cost data centers. To schedule a no cost colocation site discussion, please call 619-365-9236.