This content is part of the Essential Guide: Colocated data centers uncut: Avoid these costly errors

From the front lines: How to select a colocation facility

The basic idea behind every colocation facility is the same, so follow these six guidelines to figure out which colo is right for your business.

Selecting a colocation facility presents not only potential hazards, but also the prospect of additional flexibility and business value. Steps include exploiting expertise throughout the organization, establishing formal requirements and collecting the unbiased evaluations to evaluate colocation options. Let's review the evaluation process and some of the most common decision factors.

The first and most important step is to select a diverse team that can determine the full range of data center requirements. A predefined decision framework ensures that all voices are heard and that one dominant personality does not drive the decision. For example, we have seen data center selections based on network or security factors at the expense of sound critical infrastructure or operational requirements.

Once the team and decision framework are in place, consider these six factors:

  • Critical infrastructure. The electrical and mechanical infrastructure to power and cool the data center typically receives the bulk of the attention. This makes sense, given the effect a power or cooling outage can have on the business. The important thing is to understand how these components are designed to operate as one system and what vulnerabilities are inherent in those designs.
  • Operations and maintenance. Evaluating preventative maintenance procedures and day-to-day practices is both art and science. What is the service history of the facility? Has it experienced problems affecting customers? How disciplined are the maintenance procedures? What is the team's experience and track record? What are the staffing plans, how many and which types of engineers are on site? Will your operations and maintenance teams be comfortable working together?
  • Business model. Does a provider focus primarily on renting space and capacity? If so, how does it charge for facilities or power? In one recent site-selection engagement, six providers billed five different ways for power and cooling, with costs varying by more than 100%. What additional services are available, and how do they match your requirements?
  • Security. Most providers have the minimum certifications -- SAS70 or SSAE16 -- necessary to satisfy the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or Sarbanes-Oxley Act requirements. What did most the recent audits find? When you tour the facilities, can you spot vulnerabilities or compliance inconsistencies?
  • Financial and legal. How financially stable is the provider? Does it own the underlying real estate, or has it signed a master lease? Will you be asked to sign a lease or a license? How do the terms and conditions compare?
  • Network. Most colocation providers use dual network entrances for carrier and physical route diversity. Confirm that the services you've selected do not share a common infrastructure or ride on a common backbone.

Next month, we will offer tips on selecting a data center site based on the unfortunate experiences of others. We'll also explain some of the difficulties in evaluating and normalizing a variety of responses to a request for proposals.

Let us know what you think. Write to us at [email protected]

Dig Deeper on Colocation, hosting and outsourcing management