4 mistakes data center tenants make when operating in a colo facility

April 5, 2018
As more companies see a move to a colo data cemter as a viable option for their business, it is important to recognize not only the biggest but also the most common operational mistakes IT organizations often make when moving and shifting their IT production into a colo.  

By Tim Kittila, PE, Director of Data Center Strategy, Parallel Technologies -- While not a new concept by any means, the trend of companies operating in data center colocation facilities continues to grow. What is new is the rate of acceleration that organizations are moving their production and data redundancy (DR) to colo. As more companies see a move to a colo as a viable option for their businesses, it is important to recognize not only the biggest but also the most common operational mistakes IT organizations often make when moving and shifting their IT production into a colo.

Mistake #1: Selecting the Wrong Colo Provider

Above anything else, the data center’s role is to support the technology that ultimately supports the business goals and objectives. No two colocation providers are the same, so clearly identifying the goals and objectives and establishing needs will guide the selection of the colo provider.

For example, an organization’s goal may be to improve disaster recovery and as a result, the objective is to have the data center space duplicated in a colo. In this scenario, the organization may require the colo be far enough away so that a storm couldn’t destroy both the colo and the organization’s existing data center or that the colo must be on a different power grid.

Another goal may be to reduce future capital expenditures resulting in the objective to move all IT equipment to a colo vs. building a new server room or upgrading an existing one. This may require that the colo charge monthly rent without any upfront build out costs.

Mistake #2: Not Knowing If the Colo Is “On the Hook”

With any agreement, it is important to have a clear understanding of the “fine print”- especially when it comes to service level agreements (SLA’s).

Depending on how the colo writes their SLA’s, they may have a lot of leeway if outages occur. For instance, do they allow themselves a specific number of planned outages throughout a given year? If yes, this colo offers significantly less uptime than one that guarantees uninterrupted uptime regardless of whether the outage is planned or unplanned. Less than 100 percent uptime may be acceptable for DR purposes, but probably not for mission-critical production equipment.

Also, be aware that if there is a termination clause if the colo repeatedly violates their SLA. Termination clauses allow tenants to terminate the contract and move out if they aren’t satisfied with the service. The quality of service and anticipated uptime can be vary between each colo based on what is stated in their service level agreements. The fine print indicates quality of service and amount of uptime a colo customer can expect to receive.

Other “fine print” areas to examine are:

· Does the colo only address power in their SLA, or include network uptime and/or promise cooling and humidity to be within and a certain range?

· Does the colo quantify the amount of credit that will be given if SLA terms are not met?

Mistake #3: Getting Blindsided by Hidden Costs

Just as no two colos are the same, no two providers charge for services the same way. One colo may charge initial fees to install server cabinets, power, etc. whereas another may amortize these costs over the length of the lease. As a result, comparing prices between each colo can be mystifying.

The best way to successfully compare prices is to project future growth in terms of type and quantity of hardware needed in years to come. This hardware will dictate space, power and connectivity needed which are then used by colos to create their prices. In doing so, an organization should also create a list of all services they might need because each service may come with a fee.

In addition to the hidden costs that a colo may charge for space and power, also consider the cost of network connectivity. Which communications carrier an organization currently uses and which carriers already reside at a particular colo will affect the carrier’s cost. If an organization’s carrier does not currently reside in the colo, there may be a cost to have the carrier connect to that colo. An organization’s business continuity requirements also need to be considered as this will dictate the number of diverse carrier routes needed between the colo and the organization’s headquarters and other satellite locations.

Once growth projections are estimated and needed services determined, an organization can then request pricing based on all of these factors. Furthermore, all pricing should be forecasted several years into the future. This provides the organization with an “apples to apples” comparison for total cost of ownership between all colo sites being considered. Without this cost information, an organization may move into a colo that seemed like a good deal only to find surprise hidden costs that weren’t budgeted for.

Mistake #4: Underestimating the Move-In Timeline

Once a contract is signed, colocation providers can often meet very tight deadlines to have server cabinets in place, power strips energized and your team equipped with security badges. However, long-lead time items beyond a tenant’s control may prevent them from moving in quickly.

One very common lagging item is the activation of a carrier’s circuit. While all other items can often be turned around in less than a month, carrier circuits often take at least 90 days. Without carrier connectivity, officially migrating to a colo is impossible.

To avoid timeline delays, it is important that the timeline developed and agreed to by the provider anticipates and takes into account all aspects not just when the “movers” can get the cabinets installed.

When it comes to moving into the colo, the providers are experts at this phase of the process. Don’t try to do it all yourself. Instead, engage the colo in discussing the requirements – from special constraints to security before the first cabinet is packed.

As with any data center strategy, decisions must be grounded in the business goals and objectives. With a solid understanding of what is driving the decisions, you can ask and answer many of the fundamental questions that – when overlooked – can cause issues throughout your relationship with the colo provider. Colos are viable and appealing options for any data center operations, you just need to be aware of some of the common mistakes that tenants encounter within the colo environment.

Tim Kittila is Parallel Technologies’ (www.ptnet.com) Director of Data Center Strategy. In this role, Kittila oversees the company’s data center consulting and services to help companies with their data center, whether it is a privately-owned data center, colocation facility or a combination of the two. Earlier in his career at Parallel Technologies Kittila served as Director of Data Center Infrastructure Strategy and was responsible for data center design/build solutions and led the mechanical and electrical data center practice, including engineering assessments, design-build, construction project management and environmental monitoring. Before joining Parallel Technologies in 2010, he was vice president at Hypertect, a data center infrastructure company. Kittila earned his bachelor of science in mechanical engineering from Virginia Tech and holds a master’s degree in business from the University of Delaware’s Lerner School of Business.

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