10 Critical Questions to Ask Your Next Data Center Manager Blog Feature
Blair Felter

By: Blair Felter on June 23rd, 2014

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10 Critical Questions to Ask Your Next Data Center Manager

Data Center | PCI-DSS compliant | power density | SSAE 16 | Data Center Customer Transparency

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Moving from one data center to another can be a complicated process. There are many moving parts, and it’s easy to overlook important details. Whether you’re the migration manager or part of a cross-functional team overseeing the move, asking these 10 critical questions will help you make certain your next data center is ready for the job.

1. Are the data centers certified and audited each year?

Audits and certifications give you a standardized way of reading an independent analysis of the facility’s reliability, security, and quality. For example, healthcare organizations will want a data center offering HIPAA compliance, while many financial institutions will require SSAE 16. For websites that take payments, a data center that is PCI-DSS compliant will be a must.

data center servers

2. Does your phone support staff have access to technicians around the clock?

A data center offering 24/7 support is critical for those times when you get an alert at 2am and you need a set of eyes and a pair of hands in front of your cabinet. You want to make sure that the person you talk to has access to the right engineer for the job.

3. What training and certifications do your hands-on engineers have?

Data center equipment needs to be serviced at regular intervals. You may also need to have work performed on your machine if you’re not able to be present. If this is the case, you really don’t want a security guard doing this task. You need someone with IT credentials and experience with maintaining network and server equipment.

You should ask what types of certifications they are required to have in order to do daytime and nighttime support. There are a number of certifications issued by different organizations, so it's a good idea to know what baseline skills a facility's employees possess. If the engineers are well-qualified, this may limit your need to drive in to the data center in the middle of the night.

4. How is your data center protected against natural disasters?

Regardless of where your data center is located, there’s some chance that it will be struck by a natural disaster such as a snowstorm, hurricane, flood, earthquake, wildfire, or tornado. Even if the data center is able to survive a disaster, how long can it continue to supply power using its generators with the fuel they already have on-site? How many fuel suppliers are contracted to bring additional fuel during the emergency? Are they operating on an Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS)? Having a clear understanding of the data center’s contingency plans based on likely risks and knowing how they will keep you informed and apprised on that status of service following a disaster can help put your mind at ease.

5. What type of uptime can be expected following a disaster?

When you’re vetting data centers, you may notice some claiming 90% uptime up to 99.99999% uptime. Those extra nines can really make a difference.

     Number of Nines

     Average Yearly Downtime     

     90%

     36 days

     99%

     3 days

     99.9%

     8 hours

     99.99%

     50 minutes

     99.999%

     5 minutes

     99.9999%

     30 seconds

     99.99999%

     3 seconds

6. Are all of your data centers carrier neutral?

By staying carrier neutral, you can guarantee business continuity through interconnected primary and backup data centers. With each running on separate grids, if a disaster or power outage occurs at one location, you know your data remains safely housed at another location. They are also able to use the BGP best path selection algorithm to provide low latency performance.

7. How is the physical security at your data centers?

Typically, security is viewed in two ways, physical and virtual. Since the data center houses your physical servers, they are also responsible for physical security. This may take the form of:

  • A windowless facility located at least 100 feet from the main highway and far from airports, power plants, or any hazardous industrial locations.
  • Fortified concrete walls (preferably lined with Kevlar) that are weather and bomb resistant.
  • Retractable bollards that can close off vehicle entry points in an emergency.
  • Limited entry points under extensive 24/7 surveillance by a combination of motion-detection devices, low-light cameras, and both panning and fixed cameras that record and store footage offsite.
  • Two factor biometric identification for access to sensitive areas.
  • Hardened security with at least three step authentication for the data center core.
  • Exit only fire doors that prevent outside access and trigger alarms when used.
Employees at the data center should also know all of the facility's emergency protocols.8. Can the site handle the power requirements necessary for future growth? Also, how much power can be consumed per cabinet?

When evaluating the data center, make sure they can support the power requirements that your servers will need for virtualization. Be very specific because some facilities may indicate 60A per cabinet but they can truly only handle 30 amps primary and 30 amps redundant. Make sure you specify that you will be “consuming” that much power, otherwise you may be limited to only using a portion of your circuits’ capacity.

9. How often is your power switching tested for load performance?

Load testing generators are expensive because of the amount of fuel that is required and the equipment needed for testing. Unfortunately, a simple power outage is not the same as a full load test to see how much load their generator can handle. This type of routine maintenance should be done to ensure that power requirements are met before an emergency.

10. How do you handle temperature control in your data center?

As cabinet deployments become more dense, cooling innovations are more important than ever. Does the data center use cold and hot aisle containment? Alternatively, do they simply try to defuse the hot air with cold air? Find out how they control and monitor temperature (you should also be certain they utilize Computer Room Air Conditioning [CRAC] versus regular A/C). Are they set up to handle the special cooling requirements of high density cabinets?

BONUS QUESTION: What is the level of transparency?

Lack of access is one of the top 5 concerns IT decision-makers have about their data centers. A good data center partner should provide transparency with tools that allow for 24x7x365 access to your assets. These integrated tools should give you the ability to track power and bandwidth usage, customize your notifications, and manage who has access to your assets. Full transparency allows you to assess your actual data center needs and make decisions accordingly to grow your business more efficiently.

Conclusion

Today, there are over 600 data center operators in North America. While this provides an abundance of options for data center-seekers, it also makes the task of migrating to the right one rather time-consuming. Knowing the right questions to ask can help ensure you choose a data center that’s right for your organization.

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About Blair Felter

As the Marketing Director at vXchnge, Blair is responsible for managing every aspect of the growth marketing objective and inbound strategy to grow the brand. Her passion is to find the topics that generate the most conversations.

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