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10 Critical Questions to Ask Your Next Data Center Manager

By: Blair Felter on April 5, 2019

Migrating IT infrastructure from one colocation data center to another can be a complicated process. There are many moving parts, and it’s easy to overlook important details. Before the migration takes place, however, it’s important to assess the capabilities of a new colocation provider. Entrusting a colocation data center with your valuable data and IT assets is an important decision and you should make sure the provider meets your technical needs and is committed to delivering superior service.

Whether you’re the migration manager or part of a cross-functional team overseeing the move, asking a few key questions will help you make certain your next data center is ready for the job.

10 Critical Questions to Ask Your Next Data Center Manager

1. Are Your Compliance Certificates and Attestations Current?

Audits and certifications provide a standardized way of reading an independent analysis of the facility’s reliability, security, and quality. For example, healthcare organizations will want a colocation 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. Any reputable colocation provider will be very transparent regarding their audit process and certificates/attestations of compliance.

2. Do You Provide 24x7x365 Remote Hands Support?

A colocation data center offering 24x7x365 remote hands support is critical for those times when your server needs to be reset at 2 am or some other problem requires a set of eyes and hands in front of your cabinet. A quality remote hands team functions as an extension of your own IT department and should be considered an essential component of any colocation arrangement.

3. What Training and Qualifications Do Your Engineers Possess?

Data center equipment needs to be serviced at regular intervals. You may also need to have work performed on your hardware 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 the data center manager 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 visit the facility in the middle of the night.

4. How is the Data Center Protected Against Natural Disasters?

Regardless of where the facility is located, it could still be affected 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 Level of Uptime Does the SLA Promise?

When you’re vetting colocation providers and data center managers, one of the most important questions is how much service downtime they expect to suffer throughout the year. Losing access to your data due to downtime can be devastating for any business, costing you in terms of revenue, lost business opportunities, and diminished brand reputation. While 99.99% uptime SLAs are common for most cloud service providers, that still amounts to over 50 minutes of downtime every year. Make sure your colocation provider offers greater than 99.99999% uptime in its SLA to ensure your business is protected.

6. Is the Data Center Carrier-Neutral?

Colocation data centers offer rich connectivity options to their customers, allowing them to choose from a range of competitively priced internet and cloud service providers. With single cross connections available, customers can connect to those services directly, bypassing the public internet for enhanced security, performance, and speed. In a carrier-neutral environment, it’s easy to build the customized hybrid cloud and multi-cloud networks companies need to grow their business. A single-carrier colocation data center, however, will leave customers locked in with specific vendors, greatly diminishing their network flexibility and often leading to higher costs due to the lack of competition between providers. Make sure your colocation provider is committed to operating carrier-neutral facilities.

7. What Physical and Logical Security Measures are in Place?

Today’s data centers are modern-day fortresses featuring cutting-edge security systems and access policies to protect the precious data and computing equipment stored within their walls. Good security begins at the perimeter with fencing, gates, and sensor surveillance, but it continues all the way to the data floor where servers are located. In addition to multiple, interlocking layers of physical security, data centers should also incorporate logical security protocols to restrict who can access different areas of the facility. Multi-factor authentication incorporating the latest in biometric technology is essential to protecting your data assets and ensuring that only authorized personnel can access colocated equipment.

8. Can the Site Handle the Power Requirements Necessary for Future Growth?

When evaluating a colocation data center, make sure they can support the power requirements of your servers. Be very specific because some facilities may advertise 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. You don’t want to put your business in a situation where you’ll need to migrate to another facility the next time you experience growth.

9. How Often is Power Switching Tested for Load Performance?

Load testing generators are expensive because of the amount of fuel 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 increase in density, cooling innovations are more important than ever. Does the colocation 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, particularly if they incorporate advanced predictive analytics or machine learning into their environmental controls. 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 biggest concerns IT decision-makers have about their colocation data centers. A good colocation 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.

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 colocation data center that’s right for your organization.

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