Five top queries before you go colo-loco

Transferring an organisation’s data centre responsibilities to an external colo (colo) or multi-tenant service provider is a popular choice.

By Robert Neave, Co-Founder & VP, Product Management at Nlyte Software.

It’s become a proposition worth considering because colocation providers assume the responsibilities for rack space and power while maintaining all critical facility utilities such as HVAC units for cooling. In addition to these reasons, many others outsource their data centres to address or augment security, space availability, scalability, economics and internal staff’s skill.

In fact, the growth in data centre colo facilities has been remarkable, with 26.6MW of take-up and 38MW of new supply in Q1 2017 according to global real estate advisor CBRE. 

If the reasons above motivate you to move operations to a colo facility then the next step is to choose a provider with the appropriate service offerings for your needs. Not all colos offer the same services so picking a provider needs some careful research, time and patience.

Before kicking-off, identify your specific needs to find the best match and make sure the selected colo provider has the tools to address your requirements now and as you grow. Plan for the future ‘you’. 

Here are five areas to address with prospective colo providers: 

Make the billing filling

An organisation needs to be wary of colo providers who bill based on circuit capacity – AKA metered billing. Make sure the provider bills on actual usage. This is possible when the multi-tenant provider has proper monitoring software in place to report on the energy and space usage of individual tenants. The provider must also be able to separate their facility into zones to keep track of your usage and bill verses the other tenants. You shouldn’t have to foot the bill for other customers – colo services have moved on from imprecise measurements.

Ensure the power flowers

This is a two-part inquiry, like the roots and shoots of a plant that work together to nourish the whole.

First determine how robust the power grid is where the colo is located. Look into how far the nearest power station from the colocation facility. Don’t take their word for it, find out through other means if they ever experience power rationing or blackouts. Discover when their last power outage was. How long did it take them to regain operations?

Secondly, inquire as to whether colo has the power monitoring capability to bill accurately – and the agility to change should your power-draw increase or decrease over time. It’s good to know up front that if they save power by increasing their efficiency, that savings will be passed on to you.

Be a disaster master

Time and again this is one of the main reasons that a business turns to colos. 

It’s an absolute necessity to make sure the colos you consider provides access to multiple, geographically diverse data centres in case the worst should happen. Primary and secondary locations improve backup and disaster recovery preparedness.

Ensure to ask if the colo has:

  • Disaster recovery planning
  • Tested the resilience of their data centre
  • The ability to run “what if” disaster planning
  • What SLAs they commit to in the event of major disasters of various types

Your very business may depend on their uptime, so it’s worth pushing hard to understand what’s on offer.

Infrastructure management bafflement

If this area of questioning draws a blank look, reconsider your choice immediately. Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) solutions have gone from being a nice-to-have to a must-have, especially in large facilities like colos. Without a DCIM solution to pull and integrate information from all the siloed systems in a data centre, the colo provider will never have the single pane-of-glass view of all data to prove SLAs are being met. 

That means they can’t accurately answer your queries, bill you, or manage your infrastructure as well as they could. That’s bad news for all parties. 

Know they can slay the SLAs

The colo you choose should be able to prove that SLAs are being met at any time, by simply pulling a report. If they do not have this information at their fingertips then you can’t be sure they have control of their service.

The decision to go colo or not is very personal to the business needs of an organisation.

So make sure that the colo you choose offers a multi-tenant DCIM solution, understands your needs completely, and can deliver the kind of attention to detail and transparency that your business requires.

And if they don’t have a DCIM solution, make sure you have one yourself to ensure you can manage and optimise the assets you deploy in the colocation provider. You are paying for that space and power so you should try to maximise the use of those limited resources with a system which helps you automate the management of precious resources.  

And if you take away just one pointer that can help you, it’s this: Data Center Infrastructure Management solutions should be part of the service package offered by successful colos. If not, they’re just being loco.