Carrier-1's Colo Checklist: Selecting a Provider

December 9, 2021

Best Practices for Choosing a Data Center Colocation Provider

Data Centers are built and operated very differently. A number of factors influence your selection process for a data center colocation provider. Here are some key considerations that will impact your decision:

_ Location

_ Flexible Space Options

_ Power Redundancy, Capacity and Density

_ Diverse Network Options

_ Compliance Audits

_ 24/7/365ONSITE Monitoring & Security

_ 24/7/365ONSITE Customer Support

_ Service Level Agreements


Cost to do business can vary from region to region. Price-per-watt costs in Texas are relatively low and stable. Not only is the cost of real estate lower than many other regions, tax incentives deliver savings over other markets as well. Dallas is estimated to be the fourth largest multi-tenant data center market in North America with a low risk of natural disasters as well.

Flexible Space Options

General population by the rack is the most common colocation solution. Utilize the racks in the fault-tolerant facility as a primary site, a secondary location for disaster recovery, or a tertiary point to diversify your server footprint. Ask about receiving a volume discount for a higher quantity of adjacent racks or caged environment. Private data centers suites offer a convenient option to expand or diversify your web infrastructure.  

If you plan to start small and grow over time, ask about expansion options. You may want to reserve adjacent space upfront under a Right of First Refusal or negotiate language in your agreement about free cross connects to multiple footprints spread out within the facility so that you may expand without commitment for more space.

Power Redundancy, Capacity and Density

Redundant power infrastructure is a critical part of any colocation build-out. Evaluate each provider based on the level of redundancy you require such as N+1, 2N, etc. Also, it’s important to know who is managing those systems. The building owner or a third party? You’ll want to vet any third party vendors as well as understand their escalation procedures with the colocation provider.

Capacity is important to know when you plan to grow. Ask how much power is available within the building today based on current customer usage, contract obligations and plans for future growth. Also, be sure to understand the max power density allowed per rack with each colocation provider. This will help you understand how many servers you are able to put into each rack or cage. Ultimately, the provider’s cooling efficiencies or Power Utilization Efficiency (PUE) plays an important role in high-power density solutions.

Diverse Network Options

Carrier neutral providers allow you to utilize your current network carrier. Leverage your purchasing power and existing contracts by using your current network at the colocation site. You may extend your network to connect multiple sites or use a different carrier to add diversity.

Many colocation providers also offer their own blended mesh of multiple carriers. This is typically the fastest and easiest way to get online. It also can be a supplemental offering for out of band connectivity for network management, monitoring and failover. Be sure to ask to test their network performance using one of your own IP addresses from their facility before committing to the service.

Compliance Audits

There are number of factors to consider regarding security and compliance including PCI, HIPAA, and SOX. Check for access control on all entry point and cameras installed and monitored covering perimeter and external areas. Data Center providers typically invest in an SSAE-18 audit to verify procedure engagements including SOC attestations. Tenants may then fulfil the facility requirements portions of their own audits.

24/7/365 ONSITE Facility Monitoring and Security

You invest in the redundant infrastructure within a colocation environment. Remote monitoring tools are typically used to regulate the environmental systems. More importantly, a team needs to be actively responding to alerts from the monitoring systems. It’s essential that trained employees are monitoring these systems; including, environmental controls for power uptime, cooling temperatures, humidity levels, network performance and access control procedures.

24/7/365 ONSITE Customer Support

You may need someone to physically reboot your server for you in the middle of the night. You may want to upgrade a RAM stick, change out a cable or type in commands locally. Expedite installs by shipping gear directly to the colocation site for the facility’s personnel to install on your behalf. Utilizing local support personnel who work within the data center for fast responses to “remote hands-and-eyes” requests allows you to be more efficient with your time. It’s no longer necessary to drive to the data center. This means, with onsite customer support, you may co-locate your server infrastructure anywhere! Ensure that around-the-clock customer support is provided.

Service Level Agreements

The most common component of an SLA is that the services should be provided to the customer as agreed upon in the contract. The most common SLA from colocation providers is 99.9% guaranteed uptime for power and network. Some will offer 100% guaranteed uptime if you purchase redundant (or “B-side”) power circuits and network drops that match your “A-side” primaries. Depending on the power density of your solution, some providers may agree to a cooling SLA, although this is rare as temperatures may fluctuate based your installation.

Flexible service level agreements will allow you to address items critical to your business. Is the vendor willing to make revisions to accommodate your needs? Don’t wait until you have selected a site – address SLAs as you review your options.

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