Entrusting a data center with its valuable IT infrastructure is a major step for any organization. Whether transitioning from a private data center solution or scaling a business to reach new customers, companies have a lot to think about when they begin comparing data centers.
Fortunately, they don’t have to make a decision in the dark. Data centers use service level agreements (SLAs) to spell out the services they promise to provide in exacting terms. As legal documents, data center SLAs tend to be quite forthcoming, although in some cases, they might be more revealing for what they don’t promise to deliver. When considering a data center, companies should take special care when reviewing the specifics of the facility’s SLA.
This is the big one. Nothing is more important to a business than knowing how often a data center’s service is interrupted. Losing access to data and cloud-based applications for even a few minutes at a time can cost a company dearly in terms of productivity, lost revenue opportunities, and brand damage.
Data center SLAs guarantee a certain level of uptime, which indicates the percentage of time their systems are available. For a modern, enterprise level data center, nothing less than 99.99% uptime should be considered acceptable, and even that should be considered an absolute baseline minimum. Each additional “9” offers a significant increase in reliability.
It’s important to know how a data center calculates this uptime. Is it an average measured over the course of a year or the course of a month? What factors are considered by the SLA uptime calculator? Does it take into account planned downtime, such as system maintenance? These are all critical distinctions and data center customers should take the time to read the fine print regarding any uptime guarantee to make sure they’re getting the level of service they think they need.
The physical environment of the data center is especially important for colocation data centers that will be housing a company’s servers on site. Data centers are highly complex environments that require careful oversight and maintenance. Heating and cooling standards are critically important for keeping high-density, high-high-temperature blade servers running efficiently.
When a company colocates assets with a data center, it trusts the facility to keep that equipment running in optimal condition. From filtering harmful microdust out of the air to keeping generators and cooling systems in operation, maintaining a stable environment for IT assets should be a key priority for any data center. If a data center SLA does not stipulate the minimum standards for the facility’s environment, the data center will likely not be able to deliver on its uptime promises.
Sometimes, things go wrong. In the IT world, this tends to happen quite a lot! Data centers need to provide assurances that their staff will be able to respond to problems quickly and effectively. If there’s an issue at the facility, customers need to know that support will be available 24/7/365 to address it. Are systems monitored by on site staff at all hours of the day? How much transparency do customers have over their IT assets?
Data center staff should be available to provide all manner of support at all times. If the data center SLA is unclear about how much technical support is provided for migration and maintenance, customers should ask pointed questions for clarification. When a company commits to a data center provider, it should feel comfortable with who it can contact when problems arise and what kind of response it can expect.
Data centers are designed from the ground up to serve as modern day fortresses, protecting precious data and IT assets from all manner of security threats. At least, that’s what they should be like. The SLA should detail security precautions and procedures the data center has put in place to keep customer assets secure. This can range from cybersecurity measures that protect against attack to physical security that restricts access to authorized personnel only. Gated entries, two-factor authentication, biometric scanning, and cameras are just a few security precautions data centers use to safeguard equipment from unwanted access.
Transparency is key here. A good data center has nothing to hide from its customers, offering full transparency in the form of monitoring software that gives customers some control over access, allowing them to determine who can access their assets, when, and under what conditions. Safeguarding sensitive data is far too important to be left to chance, so customers need to make sure they are completely satisfied with the data center’s terms.
Unfortunately, none of the assurances laid out in a data center SLA are an ironclad guarantee that the facility will hold up its end of the service. Regrettably, there may be cases in which the data center fails to meet its obligations. In these instances, customers must have a clear form of recourse. For most SLAs, this takes the form of a remuneration policy. If the data center does not live up to one of these promises, it must compensate the customer. While the amount paid may not be able to make up for the loss in the event data is compromised or lengthy downtime occurs, it provides a strong incentive for the data center to deliver on its obligations.
Choosing a data center partner is an important decision for any organization. By taking the time to carefully review the promises data centers commit to in their SLAs, companies can ensure that they are getting the level of service and commitment they expect and can feel better about entrusting a portion of their valuable IT infrastructure to a third party.
Ernie Sampera is the Chief Marketing Officer at vXchnge. Ernie is responsible for product marketing, external & corporate communications and business development. Ernie brings over 26 years of marketing, sales, channel distribution, program management, strategic alliances, and business development experience to the company. Prior to joining vXchnge, Ernie was Senior Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer at Switch & Data. Ernie has also held executive marketing and development positions with AT&T IBM, UNISYS, and the American Medical Association.