How to choose a data center provider

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To the uninitiated, data centers can look pretty much the same. Super-sized boxes full of racks and cabinets, coolers and backup generators, surrounded by fences and security cameras. So how do you choose?

July 27, 20217 mins
NJE 1 Modular data center overhead

All data centers are not created equal

To the uninitiated, data centers can look pretty much the same.  Super-sized boxes full of racks and cabinets, coolers and backup generators, surrounded by fences and security cameras. So how do you choose?  Is it based on the quality of the coffee?

Of course not (although good coffee matters). Selecting the right data center partner is a very important decision that will have a huge influence on the future of your digital business.  Even experienced buyers can slip up if they do not take a systematic approach.  

This is why Iron Mountain Data Centers has compiled a short but invaluable guide on How to Choose a Data Center Provider

Here are a few of the key things to look for:

A lasting partnership

If you want to get the most from your provider, you are looking at a long-term and mutually beneficial relationship.  So it does not come as a surprise that trustworthiness comes top of the list. Track record, customer lists and feedback, and future-proof strategy and operational standards are all critical indicators:

“Look for a stable company with a long, successful track record of serving customers in top industries that offers the services you want and transparency in their operations. Make sure that they not only understand your current needs but can support your growth strategy for the future.”

Sustainability comes a close second, as it is linked to and supports trustworthiness.  Sustainability is a non-negotiable characteristic for a successful business today, as beside showing that a prospective partner has ethical and environmental standards, it means that the business will be in good, or even better, shape tomorrow. 

Check for ongoing reduction of PUE and percentage deployment of renewable energy. These will bring your business immediate benefits in terms of cost and - -if the carbon credits are transferable - CSR.

“Today, renewable energy is often less expensive than brown power, and sophisticated buyers are negotiating long-term fixed-price or stable-price contracts for energy. This means that going forward, energy costs from companies using renewables are likely to be more stable and offer more reliable pricing than fossil fuels.”

Site specifics

The data center is where the physical meets the online world, so a lot of the key selection criteria focus on the quality of the specific facility.

Security is always key. Your data center provider needs to offer the right technical and physical practices to assure your confidence in the security of your data.  Is the perimeter secure? How is access managed?  Are mantraps and biometric scanning in use? Bearing the lessons of 2020 in mind, what procedures are in place for other forms of ‘soft’ security such as physical separation, tracking and hygiene during a pandemic?  And compliance is the key to your security at the data level – get a full list of certifications and make sure that all your current and potential sectoral requirements are covered.

Then there’s the location, or locations, you need.  For local market firms a single location may be all that is required, with convenience and easy access for upgrades, migrations or troubleshooting.  But for many firms a wider footprint is needed, either nationally or internationally.  If you are looking at a global architecture, make sure there will be space available for you as needed, and that it meets the same security, compliance and service standards as your primary facility.

Get connected

The local community of interest, or ecosystem, is also a critical factor.  You should obtain a complete list of available networks for IP Transit, Dark Fiber and Layer 2 transport.  Make sure your IaaS provider is available for a direct connect – in fact more than one is a bonus as it gives you greater flexibility in the multi-cloud future.  

Look for aggregators like exchanges as they can help you scale up cost-effectively. Also, find out what options are available if you need to access new markets.  The internal marketplace in a data center is your key to reaching broader marketplaces online, and you don’t want to be locked in to a limited service, so ensure that your operator is carrier and cloud neutral and pursues a flexible and affordable approach to ecosystem access.

The right questions

These are just some of the key considerations covered in the report.  It’s always worth approaching the selection process with the fullest possible list of questions in your RFP.  Asking the right questions is a big part of the equation. 

The report provides targeted questions covering eight key areas to consider when choosing the right colocation partner for your business.  Even if you are veteran data center hunter there are bound to be a few you may have overlooked, or you may find the format useful to share with a colleague looking for more information.

You can download the Choose a Data Center Provider guide here.