Top Five Questions to Ask When Evaluating Colocation Partners

It used to be that organizations turned to data centers for the basics, such as sufficient power, along with cooling, and backup services to keep IT systems up and running even in the event of an outage. Businesses relied on colocation partners to manage their hardware assets, deliver carrier and connectivity options, and provide network diversity with the ability to scale and add infrastructure and capacity quickly to support the enterprise. With the adoption of cloud computing and the movement toward virtualization technologies, enterprises have found that they require less hardware and less of a ‘footprint’ to run their businesses. As a result, colocation providers have added new services and adjusted their offerings to meet enterprises’ evolving needs. 

When shopping for colocation partners, it all comes down to finding a provider that understands the enterprise environment in the short term as well as can support the long-term goals of the organization. Here are the top five questions to ask when evaluating colocation providers to find the optimal match. 

1.      What hybrid cloud support is available? Where the public cloud was once seen as the end-all-be-all of consumption models, today the multi-cloud and hybrid cloud options are taking center stage. With this movement, organizations need to consider how a complex hybrid model will work with a colocation partner. The trick becomes finding a colocation partner that offers more flexibility concerning where they store resources and how those resources are delivered. With multi-cloud platforms enterprises need data centers to provide multiple redundant internet connections to avoid latency issues and poor user experience, and to optimize connections to other cloud systems. For example, several cloud providers offer ‘express lanes’ for their cloud customers, such as Google Cloud Interconnect, AWS Direct Connect, and Microsoft ExpressRoute. Using these connection fast lanes businesses can establish private connectivity between cloud services and the colocation environment or office, which can help reduce network costs and increase bandwidth throughput. Compared to internet-based connections, they can also deliver a better user experience.

2.      Can you share tooling data? It’s important also to ask a colocation partner how much information they can share about what’s happening across the data center. For example, this may be needed if a ‘noisy neighbor’ issue arises, which can be a problem if one users’ use of the IT platform kicks up and causes an adverse effect on another. This situation may translate to a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack if another user increases their number of transactions significantly. Partners that monitor and measure this kind of unexpected user activity and are willing to share their tooling data may be able to help solve these issues quickly if they arise. Without access to the underlying data, an enterprise may be left guessing why connectivity is slow.  

3.     Where is my data located and what rules apply? Thanks to new legislation by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and others, there’s more to consider when it comes to data protection rules. According to the GDPR data processors (i.e., a colocation partner) and data controller (the enterprise)  are equally responsible for managing data as the data controller, which could bring some unique challenges. It’s essential to ensure that your colocation partners offer full transparency into how and where data and IT systems run. Meaning, organizations need the ability to clear out old, archived data once it has served its purpose, or update records per an individual’s’ requests, according to GDPR rules. 

4. What do cost savings look like? While colocation cost savings can vary greatly depending on the size of the company, most experts agree outsourcing colocation and IT infrastructure costs to a specialist offers considerable cost savings. 451 Research estimates that enterprises considering not having a colocation partner need to factor in the value of the equipment, systems, and configurations required to support computing processes and those costs can range from $7,000 to $20,000 per kilowatt of IT load. Not only that, avoiding costly downtime is a significant cost-reduction factor as well. Because colocation services can offer redundancy, such as providing a secondary backup location, this ensures minimal downtime and the organization can still access critical data and applications, in the event of an unexpected issue. 

5.    Physical and cyber-security measures? In addition to providing an audit trail to demonstrate GDPR security compliance, organizations also need to be sure their colocation providers have physical security in place and adequate protection against cybersecurity threats to ensure business continuity. Threats could come in the form of malware, power outages, network disruptions, or even natural disasters. Organizations need to talk with potential partners about how their data is stored and protected and ensure that the colocation partners have robust facilities to mitigate or address risks.  

As companies become more reliant on cloud services and complex IT systems, organizations are also looking for colocation providers to act as a trusted connection point to other digital business partners. With the right partner and proper support in place, the company’s internal IT team can rest easy knowing that their critical computing environment is protected, connected and that they have complete visibility into their environment and activity. 

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