TMCnet Feature
February 22, 2021

What to Look for in an Outsourced Data Center

4 Factors to Consider When Choosing a Data Center

There was a time when the idea of building your own data center from the ground-up sounded like a pretty good idea. But as time has passed, most businesses have reached the conclusion that building and managing your own data centers provides few (if any) benefits.

In fact, there’s more value and opportunity to be extracted from working with an outsourced data center.

Why an Outsourced Data Center is a Must

While the economics of building a data center rarely make sense, there’s plenty of opportunity to benefit from partnering with a data center company. In fact, a Gartner (News - Alert) study has found that 42 percent of companies with 1,000 employees or less have outsourced their data centers, while another 28 percent are planning to outsource over the next 12 months. (This speaks to an even larger trend of IT outsourcing, including outsourced web development and deployment.)

The widespread adoption rate of outsourced data centers should tell you all you need to know, but here are a few of the top advantages:

  • Reduces costs. Building a data center is outrageously expensive. And while there’s something to be said for owning your own infrastructure, you have to remember that servers and associated technology don’t last forever. When you own them, they’re yours to maintain and eventually replace. With an outsourced data center, you get access to server hosting at a fraction of the cost.
  • Access to superior talent. Nothing against the people on your team, but outsourcing allows you to leverage talent that may not be available internally. Rather than assigning another task to your already-taxed staff, you’re able to tap into a team that’s 100 percent focused on data center management. This generates superior results.
  • Frees up focus. In the aforementioned study, 30 percent of companies say they outsource their data center functions as a way of freeing up internal resources. This allows the internal team to focus on core applications, customer service, and other critical needs.
  • Improves scalability. Data centers are extremely resource-intensive and clunky. Power, air conditioning, and ventilation alone require massive investments and ongoing costs. And as your company grows, your needs will only increase. By outsourcing, you avoid each of these points of contention and enhance the scalability of your company.
  • Reduces stress. If you’ve ever gone from renting a house to owning one, you know that this transition involves some level of added stress. When you rent, anything that goes wrong falls on the shoulders of the landlord. When you own, you’re responsible for all maintenance and repairs. The same is true with data centers. By outsourcing, you’re able to insulate your business from all of the little things that go wrong. This enables you to sleep better at night.

While there are times when building out your own data center can work, these situations are becoming increasingly rare. If you have a company with fewer than 1,000 employees, there’s almost no upside to doing it yourself. The sooner you embrace the benefits of outsourcing, the more efficient your growth will be.

4 Factors to Consider in a Data Center

Not all data center partners are created equal. As you filter through the many options, pay attention to specific factors like:

1. Location

The physical location of a data center is essential. Consider the geography and environmental factors, both of which can influence operating risk, efficiency, and reliability.

A good data center has close proximity to stable energy sources, strategic industry partners, and high network connectivity. As you evaluate location, you’ll find it helpful to ask questions such as:

  • What is the data center’s footprint?
  • What geographical characteristics impact the data center? (Climate, regulatory conditions, local infrastructure, etc.)
  • Where should redundant infrastructure for mission-critical applications be placed?

If you have multiple data centers, you’ll also need to consider where each data center is in relation to each other. Spreading them out across different states, regions, or continents can provide better stability and efficiency.

2. Scalability

Your business is not stagnant or fixed. You’re constantly expanding and contracting, adding new elements, trading out certain processes and systems, and adapting to new technological evolution. Make sure you have a data center partner that’s equally flexible and scalable. This will give you the freedom you need to grow at will.

3. Security

Did you know that the average cost of a cyber attack on a data center is more than $4 million? The fact that the data center houses all of your critical enterprise data and applications means an attack could completely destroy your foundation and jeopardize your company’s future.

As you evaluate data centers, take security seriously. Data centers should have sophisticated and documented processes in place for both digital security and physical security. 

4. Power and Cooling

From a very practical standpoint, you can't forget about power and cooling. A good data center needs redundant power and cooling to keep the lights on and the servers running. (A single outage can cost more than $1 million, and power loss is the number one driving factor in outages.)

Ideally, all redundancy should be established through a multiple path configuration. This ensures that one system can pick up the other, should it fail. You might not have enough familiarity with the topic of redundancy to carry on an extended conversation with a potential data center partner, but ask questions like these and listen to how they respond:

  • What are your primary and backup sources of power and cooling?
  • How is power redundancy tested?
  • How long can your data center continue to run with backup power?
  • How is the temperature controlled inside the data center?

You’ll learn a lot about how the company handles power and cooling by listening to their responses. If they stumble around the answers, it could be a sign that they’re ill-prepared to handle your needs.

Make the Right Decision

It’s unlikely that there’s “one” data center that’s right for you. There will probably be a handful of options for you to choose from. Rather than overwhelming yourself with the details, pay attention to the central factors outlined in this article. And if you’re intentional in your approach, you’ll make a confident decision that benefits your business for years to come.

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