In part four of this series, we will take a look into what you should look for in a Web Hosting Data Center as far as the facility is concerned. We have had a chance to look at some intangible features that you should look for, some location and uptime decisions, a little bit about scalability and customer service issues, and other important features and things to consider. When it comes to getting what you are paying for, it is important that you look at the physical location that you are going to be in, and what kind of redundancy and reliability is built in. We have already referenced some ways that web hosts fail customers, so we don’t want to be in a facility that would have dozens of ways you can go down.
When it comes to a building for your hosting company, what kind of redundancy does it have built in for both natural disasters and accidents? Some of the higher end facilities, if they are built in an area that has to deal with earthquakes, will be built on a zone 4+ seismic design, meaning that they are built to stay intact in all but the most devastating of earthquakes. Some facilities have been built partially underground in areas that may have Tornados, or other measures in hurricane areas.
What is the Fire suppression system like in the building? This may not have crossed your mind, but when you are putting thousands, if not tens of thousands of heat-spitting servers all together in a few big rooms, and throw in hundreds of thousands of watts delivered to that small area, one can understand why it would be a risky place as far as fire hazards go. By the same token, if a fire suppression system goes off in an area that does not have a fire, you are at risk for going offline. Many facilities will have a halon-type system, which is very similar to a dangerous large scale fire extinguisher. This is a double edged sword, as if the system pressurizes by accident, it can have catastrophic consequences, as a few data centers have learned the hard way. Most will have a water system, that is a dry pipe, double activation system. This means that it needs only be deployed in an area there is a fire, and nowhere else.
Also, is your data center in a flood plain? I would take it that hosting in New Orleans, you may want to make sure your hosting facility has a good plan for if everything in town ends up under water. If there is a big reservoir up the road, are you right in the flood path? These are things to consider.
I would advise you not to get TOO caught up in the technical details of how they decided to protect their building. Just know what level of protection they have. Don’t worry if they used base isolation or some other method for earthquake protection, just make sure they have adequate protection.
Data centers have a lot of things they do NOT do. Make sure the stuff they say they do, they actually do.
Photo Credit- Flickr: lbhosting