The market is crowded with off-site datacenter service providers who will either rent your company space on their servers or play host to your business's own servers. Choosing the right datacenter for your organization's needs is a complex process.
1. Is there a quantifiable SLA (service-level agreement) with a reasonable cancellation clause? An effective relationship with a datacenter is rooted in the SLA. Make sure that the SLA quantifies uptime, bandwidth, response time and support requirements. The SLA should also spell out penalties that the datacenter will incur for failing to meet the requirements. If worse comes to worst, you should be able to cancel the contract without undue penalties.
2. How long will installation take? A competent datacenter can demonstrate, through customer references, its mastery of the installation process. In many cases, it won't take more than five days. Remember that extended installation time costs your company money and efficiency. Installation time is also an indicator of how fast the datacenter responds to other service and maintenance issues.
3. What is the datacenter's uptime ranking? Ask to see documentation of the datacenter's uptime ranking from Uptime Institute Inc. Request logs and downtime reports to get an idea of long-term reliability. Also, inquire about the company's fail-over procedure to ensure continuous operation.
4. How redundant is the power supply? Continuous power is a critical datacenter requirement. Make sure that the datacenter you select has a multiple-redundant source of power and the systems to condition it. This includes dual utility-line feeds, true uninterruptible power supplies and a primary source generator that can supply power indefinitely in the event of a prolonged outage.
5. Are the cooling systems appropriate? Some older datacenters are former telecom operations centers, which ran cooler and may be undercooled for today's hot-running computer and network equipment. Each section of the datacenter should have redundant cooling systems, so that if one fails, the other keeps working. Also ask about mobile coolers that can quickly bring down temperatures in hot places.
6. What about early-warning smoke detection and fire suppression? Datacenters should be equipped with redundant, early-warning smoke detectors and a gas-based fire-suppression system. It does little good if your server is saved from a fire only to be drenched in water.
7. What security features are in place? Public companies must be particularly concerned about complying with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 , which requires businesses to ensure that customer data is protected at all times. A datacenter that complies with HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and SAS (Statement on Auditing Standards) 70 regulations is also a good sign. A datacenter should employ multiple layers of security and multiple technologies, from biometric access-control systems to locked cages that house individual customers' servers.
8. Who minds the servers 24/7? Live people should be on-site monitoring your company's servers around the clock. While factors such as temperature and humidity can be monitored automatically or remotely, signs of trouble such as sound and smell cannot.
9. What is the connectivity picture? Your enterprise wants a datacenter that is backbone-agnostic, one that ties directly in to as many Tier-1 ISPs as possible along redundant, high-speed connections. You should be able to choose your own Internet carrier and tie it in to your business's servers.
10. What are the hidden costs? Some datacenters may try to nickel and dime you with miscellaneous charges that vary from month to month. Some datacenters offer low hosting rates and charge for monthly power consumption. Others charge for IP addresses, which they generally get for free. Still other datacenters charge for cross-connects between cabinets. Get everything on the table and try to avoid surprises.
Many more questions will arise as you explore a relationship with a new datacenter, and these are just a starting point. Never be afraid to ask.
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