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Key considerations for colocation today

Key considerations for colocation today

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As more and more companies are relying on the use of colocation, it is important to consider all the various factors when selecting a provider. Pat Morley, VP of Global Product Management, Sungard AS, is here to offer his best practice advice and what steps we should take to ensure business leaders have no regrets during the selection process.

As recent weeks have shown, organisations have reaped the benefits of colocation for mission-critical equipment in data centres across the world.

By using colocation, customers benefit from outsourcing many of the most challenging – and costly – aspects of running a data centre. Most organisations do not specialise in building data centres and IT infrastructure themselves. Quite the contrary: tech businesses, for instance, want to focus on innovation and growth, and government organisations seek to serve the public in the best way they can. To assume the burden of establishing and maintaining a data centre falls squarely outside the core competencies of such organisations, is where colocation providers can help.

With many companies now looking to explore colocation as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic – either in preparation for future events of this nature, or as a result of falling foul to issues with their current setup – every organisation should ask itself the following questions.

What criteria are most important when selecting a high-quality colocation facility?

There are multiple factors to consider when assessing colocation services, including the quality of the facility, reliability, security, physical location, connectivity, the provider’s support personnel and services offered. An important question for some under the current circumstances should be, ‘Does the provider staff the facility and offer remote hands 24/7?’  

This one factor can make a major difference in both the quality of services provided and physical security. Companies should not overlook examining the audit processes and certifications of providers too. For example, have internal controls been independently audited and certified?

Obviously, location will be a key consideration too, not only for ease of access, but also for disaster avoidance, geographic diversity and reduction of network latency. An understanding of the processes put in place to combat scenarios such as COVID-19 will also be important to note. These should include an understanding of what precautions and access a company’s own staff are given in such a scenario, versus the provider’s staff. Leave no stone unturned here to ensure expectations match this new reality.

What aspects of the colocation decision are commonly overlooked?

Customers need to resist the temptation to compromise on provider redundancy, connectivity, or the quality of facility in exchange for lower pricing.

The facility itself is the foundation for how applications and data will be housed and managed. Organisations need a clear understanding of a provider’s strategies and internal practices in order to safeguard corporate IT assets.

Businesses must also understand their own internal environment. A thorough understanding of workloads and knowing what it critical can help define the level of redundancy needed. Informed decisions are needed about what is best placed where.

The decision to outsource a data centre may be a long-term strategy or a mid-term strategy to migrate applications to a hosted private or public cloud platform. It can also be a tactical response due to a compelling event. In either case, choose a colocation provider that can provide expertise in managing difficult and complex transitions. For customers planning to migrate some or all their environment to a cloud platform, it is important to find a provider that can offer flexible contract terms that support a migration strategy without locking a company into a long-term commitment. Agility and choice are key.

What are the determining factors to decide what to put in a colocation facility vs. an internal, company owned data centre – or the cloud?

Organisations face a myriad of factors in making such a decision. As mentioned, among the most important is the question of the criticality of the application: how central is it to the function of the business? Is it mission-critical? If so, consider putting such applications into colocation.

A third party is likely to have a higher level of resilience and redundancy built in, ensuring enhanced levels of availability and uptime for an organisation’s most important applications. Moreover, given the greater capacity that colocation providers can offer from their global network of facilities, businesses can quickly scale as needs dictate and take advantage of things such as lower energy costs thanks to economies of scale.

One other factor to consider is equipment use over its lifespan: how often will equipment for recovery be used? In recovery use cases, colocation – or the cloud – could be a better option, ensuring costs are more in line with the expected level of use.

Finally, testing and development increasingly takes places in the cloud – but the data for this is often generated from a customer’s production environment. Therefore, interconnectivity between colocation data and the public cloud is an increasingly important factor in these decisions. Do not overlook it.

What about disaster recovery considerations? What has the response to COVID-19 been like?

By doing homework on disaster recovery readiness, companies will statistically reduce the probability of a physical outage or other disruption. Colocation providers experienced in providing both production and secondary sites will ensure these are mapped to complete needs.

One disaster recovery best practice that is sometimes overlooked is testing. Companies should commit to regular testing to be sure they can quickly recover critical applications and associated processes.

During COVID-19, data centre workers have been defined by both the UK and Irish governments as essential workers. The best practice approach should therefore be that all deliveries and visitors to the site – including staff – are handled by isolated security staff following specific guidelines. Employee health must remain the priority, so implementing split workforce practices too will reduce the risk of contact among employees. Be sure to ask a provider what their stance is on all these factors.

What companies should consider for 2020 and beyond

With significant benefits of scale, organisations should examine the range of factors in their decision-making process, from reliable facilities that offer uptime, conditioned environments, physical security, carrier neutrality and diversity and high-quality networks. There are many benefits to colocation but among the greatest are: more effective use of capital; higher availability for mission-critical applications through power redundancy; cooling; and finally, scalability and growth.

Ensure your cloud journey is best supported, whether that is through flexible commercial agreements, migration support or managed public and private cloud services. Be sure to find something that accommodates colocation needs beyond the original requirement to guarantee success today, and tomorrow.

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