How to Choose a Data Center

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If you’ve made any IT decisions for your organization, you know your data center is the backbone of your operations. Downtime? Not an option. Security breaches? Even worse. That’s why navigating the data center selection process requires careful consideration. 

This article provides five key factors to consider, ensuring you pick the best environment for your data. Whether you're looking for traditional colocation, the flexibility of hybrid data center solutions, or the hands-off approach of managed data center services, we'll help you make an informed decision.

Key Factor #1: Location

The physical location of your data center has a ripple effect across your entire operation. Here's why it deserves a starring role in your data center selection process:

  • Minimize Latency, Maximize Performance: Have you ever experienced that frustrating lag when accessing data from a faraway server? It's all about latency. Placing your data center close to your user base keeps latency low, ensuring a seamless user experience for your applications and services.
  • Disaster-Proof Your Data: Mother Nature is unpredictable, but your data center shouldn't be. Avoid regions prone to floods, earthquakes, or other natural disasters. Reliable power and internet infrastructure are also non-negotiables. Think: redundant power grids, backup generators, and top-tier internet connectivity providers. These elements ensure your data center remains operational, even during unexpected events.

      Key Factor #2: Reliability

      Your data center is mission-critical. The average cost of an hour of downtime is $300,000 for a mid-size organization. So, the concept of “good enough” uptime doesn’t fly.

      Here’s what separates reliable data centers from the rest:

      • Five 9s Uptime is the Baseline: Don't settle for anything less than 99.999% uptime. That translates to a maximum of 5.26 minutes of downtime per year. Insist on a Service Level Agreement (SLA) that outlines this commitment in writing.
      • Always-On Power, Always-Cool Systems: Redundancy is your best friend when it comes to data center reliability. Look for providers with robust backup power generation systems, like on-site generators and utility feeds from different grids. Similarly, redundant cooling systems are essential to prevent overheating, which can hurt your entire operation.
      • Track Record Speaks Volumes: Don't just take a provider's word for it. Research their history of uptime and investigate facility certifications. Ask for references and talk to existing customers for a real-world perspective on their reliability.

      Key Factor #3: Security

      • Physical Security Like a Fortress: Beyond a simple lock and key, a good data center has strict access controls with multi-factor authentication and 24/7 surveillance with intrusion detection systems. Look for facilities with physical barriers like mantrap entryways and security cages to further safeguard your equipment.
      • Data Security Protocols: Industry-standard data security protocols like encryption at rest and in transit are non-negotiables. The data center should also adhere to relevant compliance certifications, such as PCI DSS or HIPAA, depending on your industry's regulations.
      • Disaster Recovery Plan: Even the most secure systems can't predict every eventuality. That's why a well-defined disaster recovery plan is crucial. Ensure the data center has a documented plan for quickly recovering your data and applications in case of emergencies like natural disasters, power outages, or security breaches. 

      Key Factor #4: Network

      • Diverse Connections: Redundancy is vital.Don't rely on a single network provider. Look for data centers that offer multiple high-bandwidth connection options from various carriers. This mitigates the risk of outages from a single point of failure and ensures consistent connectivity for your applications.
      • Cloud On-Ramps: Cloud adoption is on the rise.Direct interconnection with major cloud providers and internet exchanges can significantly improve performance for cloud-based applications and services. Faster data transfer translates to a smoother user experience for your employees and customers.
      • Future-Proof Your Network: Your network needs will evolve as your business grows.Choose a data center that can scale its network offerings to meet your bandwidth demands. Look for providers with a flexible infrastructure to accommodate future expansion without requiring a complete migration of data centers.

      Key Factor #5: Cost

      • Transparent Pricing: Avoid data center providers who operate in the shadows. Insist on a clear and concise breakdown of all associated costs. This should include monthly recurring charges, power consumption fees, bandwidth pricing, and additional service charges. A transparent pricing structure allows you to forecast your data center budget accurately and avoid any unpleasant surprises down the road.
      • Think TCO, Not Just Upfront Costs: The initial price tag is just one piece of the puzzle. Consider the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)—factor in everything from power consumption and cooling costs to ongoing maintenance fees and potential hardware upgrades. A comprehensive TCO analysis helps you understand the full financial impact of your data center choice. By looking beyond the initial quote, you can ensure you're selecting a cost-effective and sustainable solution in the long run.

      The Data Center Managed Services Advantage

      Managing your data in a data center is akin to managing a small city –a complex and demanding task. This is where data center managed services come in. These services take the burden off your IT team, allowing them to focus on more strategic initiatives for your organization.

      Here's how managed services can empower your organization:

      • Free Up Your IT Staff: Managed services providers (MSPs) employ experienced professionals specializing in data center maintenance, monitoring, and optimization. This frees up your IT staff to focus on the things that drive business growth.
      • Boost Uptime and Performance: Downtime is your enemy. MSPs are obsessed with uptime. They leverage their expertise and proactive maintenance practices to ensure your data center runs like a well-oiled machine, minimizing downtime and maximizing performance. You'll benefit from faster response times, smoother operations, and a more reliable environment for your critical applications.
      • Enhanced Security: Cybersecurity threats are constantly evolving. MSPs have a deep understanding of the latest security threats and best practices. They implement robust security protocols, maintain industry-standard compliance certifications, and continuously monitor your data center for potential vulnerabilities.
      • Scale with Ease: Business needs are dynamic. Managed services offer the flexibility to scale your data center resources up or down. Whether you're experiencing explosive growth or require some strategic downsizing, your managed partner can adjust your resources to meet your changing requirements.

      Ready to Find the Perfect Data Center Fit?

      Choosing the right data center is a critical decision. HBS is here to help you throughout your data center selection process, helping you identify the ideal solution for your specific needs. We can also assist you with a seamless data center migration, minimizing disruption to your operations.

      Don't go it alone. HBS is your trusted advisor in your data center journey. Contact us today for a consultation!