Is Colocation a Commodity?

Is Colocation a Commodity?

There’s no question about it, the evolving industry of IT continues to stretch the boundaries of our once perceived limitations and capabilities. We now live in an era where the newest technology will soon become last year’s trend. We expect that as a population, and as we continue to push the envelope on IT capabilities, it’s had a great influence on the way companies view and operate their businesses. With the increase of capabilities, many businesses are seeking third-party colocation data centers to handle their day-to-day IT requirements and equipment. However, as more businesses seek colocation data center vendors, there is a perceived notion that it’s just physical space that you rent. Nothing more than power, space, and connectivity, in other words, a commodity.

As a data center provider who’s been established since 1995, you can imagine that we’ve had our fair share of businesses reach out to us seeking a colocation solution. Many times when a company puts in an inquiry they provide us with their requirements and specs and simply ask for a price, with little to no interaction between our engineers and their technical staff. This can only mean one thing; the company feels that this is strictly a commodity purchase and that all data centers are the same. “Just find a data center, anyone will do.” This is not exactly the thought process one should have when making a mission critical business decision and here are the reasons why.

Infrastructure

From provider to provider, the infrastructure supporting their facilities can be exceedingly different from a redundancy, configuration, and scalability standpoint. A facility can have all the power and bandwidth in the world, but without redundant power feeds from the main power utility, backup generators, UPS systems, and other automatic failovers then the power and bandwidth are meaningless. A company that relies heavily on mission critical processes and applications that supports customers and potential clients, any downtime experienced could be a devastating blow to your reputation and revenue.

Security

Let’s face it; IT equipment is not a cheap expense. Most likely, your company has made a hefty investment in the IT equipment that helps drive efficiency, productivity, and functionality for the business. As the person who is leading the decision making process for a data center vendor, security should be at the top of the checklist. Does the vendor offer 24x7x365 security, what kind of access security measures are in place, who handles the facilities maintenance, etc.? These are all important features that will help to differentiate between data center providers and offer peace of mind when storing expensive equipment in their facilities.

Support

Whether your organization is large or small, support is of the highest value. While having technical support available during the working hours of the company is beneficial, many issues arise during non-working hours, weekends, and holidays. A vendor that does not have a full-time staff 24x7x365 can be costly. Additionally, support doesn’t mean just technical support, but account support as well. Are you able to reach your account manager after hours or on the weekends? For example, there may come a time when you have an immediate need to upgrade your services during non-business hours. Having the ability to reach your account manager to handle upgrades or billing issues can be the difference in supporting an end-user or resolving an internal issue. Ideally, data centers will approach technical and customer support with the attitude that they are an extension of your IT staff and take ownership of any involvement in your business.

Consultation

Pre-sales and post-sales consultations are an essential piece of the puzzle that allows an organization and the provider to have an IT roadmap for current solutions and also for future growth potentials. By offering these consultative approaches, transitions to new solutions are easily completed. CTO’s and IT managers don’t always have the answers or may need a little guidance from an experienced leader in the technical field. Data centers should be willing to share their thoughts on projects and help guide prospective clients towards a resolution that fits the needs and requirements of their IT solution.

Multiple Solution Offerings

While cloud, dedicated, or managed services may not be part of your company’s strategy now, they likely will be in the future. Hybrid IT can assist in creating the most cost effective and productive environment for organizations. Utilizing cloud services and colocation together can provide you with a more complete package that suits all of your IT needs. For example, by implementing a hybrid hosting solution via a provider, you are not only able to build a solution that’s custom tailored to your organization’s needs and managed by staff you control, but you are also able to control your longer term financial expenses and pay only for the raw materials of the cloud and not all of the margin and services provided in the public space. With a data center provider that offers multiple solutions such as colocation, cloud and dedicated servers, businesses are finding that those providers are the easiest to work with when they can provide all of these products seamlessly in one environment. Considering a data center provider that offers multiple solutions today can help aide in the growth for tomorrow.

Service Level Agreements

All SLA’s are not created equal and by not fully understanding the differences between vendors can be costly. Does the SLA clearly state the uptime guarantee; if not met, is there a significant financial impact to the vendor, and will you receive a refund or credits in the event of an outage? In short, the SLA should represent an organization that is not afraid to back its guarantee with real consequences, and that is simultaneously realistic about what they can promise.

There is more to colocation than just power, space, connectivity, and price. Colocation and data centers vendor decisions are fundamental to the business’ strategy. Understanding that there can be major differences between vendors can prove to be time well spent getting to know your provider. Your focus on the long-term attributes of a colocation partner will benefit your company for years to come.

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