Insider’s Tips: 5 Key Questions to Ask Your Data Center Prospects

Posted by Annie Eissler on October 4, 2018

Searching for a new or replacement colocation data center can be daunting; even if you have a number of options, not all data centers are set up for vital business needs. It’s not unusual to see some providers cut corners. That’s why we compiled “insider tips” for choosing the right data center provider. We encourage you to get satisfactory answers on all 5 from the providers on your colo (or private cloud) short list.

1. Does your data center have human support?

One of the top things to identify when choosing a new or replacement data hosting center is their support offering. Is your current provider only giving you space and electrical without providing dedicated account managers and 24/7/365 access to technical support?

A data center without dedicated account management and on onsite technical personnel makes you vulnerable to delays. From the simplest task of booting your machine, to partnering with you for an expansion plan, dedicated support goes a long way in making your projects successful. When prospecting a data center solution, ask specific use-case driven questions, such as,

  • “Do I get a direct phone number and email address for my account manager?” 
  • “What’s your average response time to customer queries?” 
  • “Do you have staff that can help me solve technical challenges?” 
  • “Can we get access to experts for advanced IT planning?”

Discuss escalation procedures and uptime guarantees in the context of human help before and after you sign a contract. Some companies can claim certain uptimes, but lack expertise to actually fulfill the promise. Look for providers that offer dedicated support, giving you the ability to focus on your core business initiatives.

2. Location, location, location – where is the data center located?

In theory, data hosting should be location-agnostic – after all, the internet is about connecting distant geographies, so who cares where it sits?

As IT has known for a while, location does matter when it comes to colocation. And for various reasons. Check out these criteria for geography:

  • Proximity to your team. How close is “close” when it comes to physical access to your machines? How often will your IT staff need to make regular visits? Do you need to configure changes often? If the answer is yes, proximity to your staff is key and you should look for vendors within an easy driving distance.
  • Proximity to customers. Physical proximity to your customers can yield less latency and faster performance, without needing additional infrastructure.
  • Proximity to data sources. For companies that deal with data from overseas, being close to an international hub can be important. Ask about international hubs if you transact internationally.
  • Disaster-prone locations. Is the data center located close to a fault line? Is the terrain vulnerable to flooding? What about exposure to hurricanes and tornadoes? Wild fires are a big concern around the west coast. Consider these variables and ask your provider about their vulnerability to “acts of nature” and their disaster recovery (DR) plans.

3. What is your disaster recovery and backup plan?

As mentioned above, choosing a data center that isn't located in a disaster-prone area is important: their downtime is effectively your downtime! It's just as important to ensure your colocation provider has disaster recovery measures in place to ensure key systems are operational and there’s minimum, if any, downtime. Ask about:

  • Backup Power. How many generators do they have? What happens if the power is out for a an extended period of time? Inquire about service level tiers.
  • Cooling. Ask about SOPs for cooling-related incidents.
  • On-staff NOC personnel. Data centers require round-the-clock attention of dedicated and experienced staff. No pun intended, but DR plans are not particularly effective without human intervention! So ask about the size and skillset of the center’s NOC staff. How fast do your critical operations need to be back online before your business is at serious risk? Minimize your exposure and make sure your colocation provider has appropriate levels of DR planning in place.  Ask to talk to the Director of Infrastructure, or similar role, as part of your vetting process.

4. Do you offer compliant hosting?

Industries such as healthcare, life sciences, finance, plus the public sector require strict adherence to industry standards. This compliance protects you as well as your customers. While not all industries need every compliance vehicle, working with an ISO-rated data center gives you the peace of mind that they run a tight ship. All else being equal, pick an ISO-9001/ISO-27001 rated provider.

For compliant industries, identify the compliance vehicles you require, and ask if the data center is certified for them, and audited by a third party (don’t accept self-audits). By working with a vetted and compliant hosting provider, you will host with a team that’s expert in data encryption, data storage, physical hardware, and more. If you are in an industry that requires specific compliance credentials such as HIPAA for healthcare providers, make sure you're working with a compliant certified-provider. Read our extensive overview of various compliance vehicles.

5. Do you offer access to international hubs?

Does your company do business in APAC or Europe? In order to compete in the global market, you need to seek out a colocation provider offering interconnection access to these regions and other markets you plan to do business.

APAC includes 3 out of 4 of the world's largest economies and is one of the fastest growing regions, making it a highly sought after area to expand your business. Finding a Seattle or LA data center that provides direct access to APAC for example would allow you to expand your global footprint. You can shorten international data transit times and improve network performance. Find a colocation provider that offers on-demand interconnection with the international hubs you conduct or plan to conduct business with.

Your data is your greatest asset - ensure your provider offers high-quality colocation

When it comes to evaluating your colocation provider, don't skimp on your requirements. After all your data is your most important asset, so do your research and ensure your provider is best suited to meet your needs.