The goal of a colocation facility is maximum uptime. This is a crossroads of factors: multiple Internet backbones with intelligent routing, redundant power systems, adequate cooling. Behind the frontline systems is a commitment to maintain systems; without that support, uptime is still a matter of luck. That consistent maintenance is one area that low-cost colocation facilities risk outages and poor performance, since maintaining facilities can cost millions of dollars. There are several major places to check for the infrastructure of a good data center:
o Infrastructure monitoring
o Security and support personnel
o Long-term and scheduled facility system maintenance
o Disaster-resistant facility construction
Round-the-Clock Server Monitoring
Server monitoring focuses on another safety level of uptime, and to be truly effective, it has to be 24/7/365. A low-cost colocation facility probably won’t have the capacity to monitor any of your systems, leaving your servers vulnerable to a variety of performance and power issues. However, a quality colocation facility will offer circuit-level power, server, network or application monitoring programs. A high-level of service allows power fluctuations, overuse, or performance degradation to be quickly detected. Without monitoring, customers cannot be notified when an issue occurs.
There are other server-maintenance areas where low-quality data centers cut corners. They may not offer services like daily or weekly tape backups, secure storage, crash carts, KVMs, or complimentary wireless networks. The ability to monitor and maintain servers effectively is critical to network performance.
Personnel Resources (Security and Support)
The actual people and procedures in place at the colocation center have a big impact on customers. Many low-cost colocation facilities attempt to operate remotely, but having expert services on-site increases uptime and lowers the time customers spend in outages and maintenance.
Like monitoring, support services must be available 24-hours a day. Quality data centers have a 24-hour support number that reaches on-site support, on-site facilities, support, engineering, and management personnel. Since on-site personnel is an investment, many low-cost colocation facilities attempt to farm out customer service to phone banks, at the risk of leaving their customers with low-skilled and ineffective support.
On-site security also matters. Many businesses, from gaming to healthcare, deal with sensitive customer data, and keeping data secure is critical. Like support, security requires active, on-site personnel, plus integrated data center procedures. Low cost data centers may lack:
o Passcard-based secure access
o Equipment barcodes and check in/out procedures
o Meet-me rooms separate from the colocation server rooms
o Multiple layer video surveillance with footage archiving for least 30 days
Long-Term Systems Maintenance
The power and cooling systems in a colocation facility with full-capacity and redundant backup units are designed so that if a primary system has an outage, the facility doesn’t go down. However, major backup systems – UPS and generators for power and CRAC and chillers for cooling – must have regular testing, routine maintenance, and adequate supplies, like fuel for the generators. All testing and maintenance will have records; make sure that the colocation facility makes the records available and that the schedules are reasonable and consistent.
Also make sure that the colocation facility has continual systems monitoring service running. Systems monitoring checks facility power usage, server room temperatures, fire response, and climate control systems like CRAC units and chillers; monitoring services can identify and notify the facility if a system is underperforming so they can respond instantly.
Targeted Fire Suppression
Another measure of quality is whether the facility is designed to control catastrophic events in ways that preserve network equipment. For example, server and computer equipment require specialized fire suppression systems which detect minute smoke particles (VESDA systems) and respond with targeted, gas-based suppression to minimize equipment damage.
A well-designed, well-maintained facility can be difficult to find. There are low-cost data centers out there which may talk about technology or service, but do not offer the services, monitoring, and support that are required for high uptime. The only way to identify a good data center is to be proactive:
o Make sure the facility has on-site support staff, especially skilled engineers.
o Ask the salesperson about equipment and facility systems maintenance.
o Take a tour of the facilities and check out their server rooms, power systems, security, and monitoring options for yourself.
Gathering as much information as possible to determine whether the data center’s uptime record is because of luck or because of extensive planning and management.