You’re not just a web host client—you’re investing in this host. Web hosts need data centers and data centers are, understandably and notoriously, very expensive to operate. They take up a lot of space, require a lot of costly hardware and software, and as such demand top of the line security features. You need knowledge about the industry. However, how can you be expected to have expertise about such a technical and niche industry?
It all starts with asking the right questions. Depending on colocation services is much more affordable than building your own data center (which only major enterprises may need), but it’s still going to impact your budget. For many businesses, a lot of their vitality is in the data center, so choosing a provider with transparency and integrity is key. The first question you ask should be to yourself: Why not consolidate your data centers? Data loss and downtime prevention might have you looking at many sites that are lower quality, but investing in colocation at just one or two high quality facilities may be a better approach. It lessens redundancy, nixes extra maintenance and you’ll probably have better disaster recovery in place.
Now that you’ve prepped yourself, it’s time to start asking the tough questions to data center managers:
- How’s the security? You should know in depth what kind of security measures are in place. If a data center isn’t transparent about these, they’re either subpar or the data center is being secretive for another reason (that probably won’t serve you). Even if you’re a Luddite, a data center manager should be able to explain security measures in a clear way.
- Is the hardware you have rationalized? When hardware is rationalized, you’ll be able to “see” your inventory easier and the data center can tell which tech is being the most efficient. Less equipment means less maintenance and fewer support fees. It also reduces energy consumption. Basically, it’s a win-win for all.
- How do you know SLA is met and the IT is optimized? The vast majority of data centers utilize a DCIM system to monitor data. However, there are a few that supply real-time insight to the data center environment. Virtual windows tell clients exactly what resources are being used so there’s no guesswork. That amount of visibility can guarantee SLA is achieved.
- What’s your uptime best record? The average cost of one minute of downtime is $7,900 according to FORTRUST, so every minute really does count. Knowing your data center’s average uptime, downtime history and records can give you a concrete idea of how much money you can save (or lose) with them. There should also be a contingency plan in place of how you’ll be compensated if the data center drops below guaranteed uptime.
- Is there around the clock customer service? Ideally, you’ll have customer service 24/7. Your website doesn’t operate on business hours and neither do you. Live staff should be reachable by whatever means is best for you. All assistance requests, questions and other conversations shouldn’t have to wait until Monday at 9am. Make sure you know accessibility before signing a contract.
- How’s the scalability? Sure, the data center suits you now, but what if your business grows? What if it shrinks? What if you just need something different down the road? A data center should offer features that allows for scalability and personalization. You may not be able to predict what you’ll need or want in the future, but having flexibility is key.
- How’s the connectivity? Both WAN and internet connectivity are critical, and you need to be certain your data center’s network infrastructure is robust. Connectivity should be diversified, there should be plenty of redundancy and load balancing needs to be “smart” to achieve minimal latency. Ultimately, connectivity (or lack thereof) drives service. You don’t want to find this out the hard way.
- How green are you? Data centers are notoriously not very green, but that’s changing. The degree of eco-friendliness varies center to center, and the importance varies client to client. If you’re committed to finding a green data center, you may need to do a little more digging. Ask pointed questions, get concrete answers and realize that (since greenness is new to this industry), you may have to pay a premium for the greenest data centers.
When shopping around, create your own list of questions that you need answered. How clearly you get those responses is a great indicator of transparency and customer service, both now and in the future. If you finish a tour or phone call more confused than when you began, that’s a red flag. Start by checking out geographically local data centers, such as those in Utah, which often provide premium service and may even allow you to tour the facility yourself before making a decision.