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Page 32 February 24, 2012 SIX QUICK TIPS Choose A Colocation Provider Areas To Address When Narrowing The Field Getting it right the first time is cru- cial when selecting a colocation provider, says Darin Stahl, Info-Tech Research Group lead analyst. For example, SMEs that move equipment into a provider’s space only to have to switch providers shortly after due to lack of foresight will pay a heavy price. “When you get into a colocation, switching costs are enormous,” he says. “This isn’t like buying a bunch of photocopiers, being unhappy with them, and putting them to the curb and getting new Xeroxes in. It’s a big deal to go through switching.” To find a good fit with a colocation provider, consider the following. Smartest Tip: ?Know If The Vendor Can Keep Up When comparing providers, keep current business trends and the provider’s ability to keep pace with growing technology needs in mind, says Lynda Stadtmueller, program director for cloud comput- ing services at Stratecast. “For example, businesses of all sizes are collaborating more closely with customers (through customer portals) and partners worldwide,” she says. “That type of real-time interaction requires high levels of network bandwidth to be available to your applications. Be sure your colo provider has sufficient band- width with reliable backup to support your business growth. Even if you’re not using these technologies today, you soon will be.” ? Acquire Enough Power & Space blip, he says, but will sink downward as “IT becomes more and more of a constraint, support is not available from the colo pro- vider, growth isn’t managed, etc., and the business finally goes under because it tried to save money.” ? Check Before Signing It’s vital that both parties specify upfront what’s covered in SLAs and contracts. “Don’t assume anything,” Stadtmueller says. “Unless it’s specified in the contract, the colo provider probably isn’t responsi- ble for end-to-end application performance, providing redundant network facilities, etc. If you want it, get it into the contract and be prepared to pay extra.” Also make certain SLAs are meaningful, she says. An uptime SLA calculated monthly or annually, she says, may not provide sufficient recompense for actual outages. “Be sure to compare the SLA to the ser- vices you are planning to use,” advises Brett Femrite, sales manager at Rackmount Solutions ( “Some SLAs have varying levels of cover- age based on the services that you choose. Be sure to note whether there is a redundant service offering that you must opt in to use in order to be fully covered by the SLA.” Stahl says to push for the contract to include an annual services review and ability to right- size or contract services so you don’t pay for, say, server space you don’t need down the road. Some of the best vendors do this upfront, he says, while others will with a push and some not at all. Later, he says, conduct a quar- terly operations style meeting with the vendor to discuss what you did in the space during that time, what worked and didn’t, and what you have planned in the next quarter. Ask the vendor to do likewise, which may result in learning the vendor’s scheduled outages. P Power and space are among the most important factors when judging providers. Where space is concerned, Clive Longbottom, service director of business process facilitation at Quocirca, capacity, processes, says to ask yourself what and systems that you’re trying to accomplish, can seriously impact whether it’s to move exist- your applications.” ing or new workloads out of Longbottom says the data center or phase the Brett Femrite, sales manager at Rackmount Solutions (www.rackmount that a good mindset data center out completely., stresses the importance of communicating with your to have is “we’re If you expect to need addi- doing this because tional physical space later, provider. “Understand your requirements and be able to communicate it’s the smart thing he says, get enough initially them with your provider so that the provider can respond and propose to do.  It may cost or negotiate with the pro- the best solution to solve your business needs,” he says. “Clearly com- more, but the busi- vider to leave space around municate your expectations, requirements, and timeline for completion.” ness value will your area to avoid a forklift be high, and the move from one part of the business’ bottom facility to another. This may line will improve cost more upfront, he says, because of what we but it will have less impact are doing.” A bad mindset is “we’re doing on the business later. Rate By Tiers this because we believe it is cheaper.” The Greg Elliott, director of business devel- To help narrow down potential providers bottom line may have a one-off positive opment at 1102 Grand (www.1102grand .com), says checking the redundancy level from the vast number available, Stahl says in place for HVAC, UPSes, PDUs, and the colocation/managed service providers other components is also vital. “Not hav- market can be categorized into three tiers. ing enough redundancy for your organi- Tier 1 vendors typically have significant mar- zation’s particular requirements could be ket influence and enormous geographic scale, catastrophic if there was an outage,” he he says. Tier 2 vendors generally have the says; conversely, “paying for too much same qualifications but less market influence redundancy is likely to cause an organiza- and possibly less geographic scale. Tier 3 tion to overpay for their colocation pres- vendors are basically everyone else, he says. A big caution with Tier 3 vendors is “they ence,” he says. Elliott advises requesting For SMEs lacking IT resources to provide server installation, incident logs, maintenance records, etc., don’t own multiple facilities, or they might perform ongoing maintenance, fix unexpected problems, etc., to determine how well the facility is run. own one and have another facility they “look for a colo provider that offers a ‘remote hands’ option” to “Based on meetings and facility tours I don’t control, so they’re wholesaling space acquire certain basic maintenance activities on an as-needed have been part of, people rarely inquire out of a teleco hotel someplace” or whole- about what preventative maintenance pro- sale space is their actual offering, Stahl basis, says Lynda Stadtmueller, program director for cloud grams and contracts are in place for the says. “They compete on price, and if they computing services at Stratecast. don’t compete on price, don’t do business data center infrastructure,” he says. As for power, Stahl says pricing is with them because there really is very little increasingly becoming variable. “It used to value,” he says. Because Tier 3 vendors be I could go in and get a rack and I would may not own the facility, he says, they gen- “Ask potential vendors for references specifically from companies know that for $340 a month or whatev- erally can’t offer significant, ironclad SLAs in the same or similar industry as yours and with a colocation foot- er the flat fee was, I had A-side, B-side related to the availability of the facility. print similar to what you’re requesting,” says Greg Elliott, director of power and this much commit,” he says. Don’t Buy On Price Alone “Increasingly, though, vendors are enact- business development at 1102 Grand ( Also, Although price is a factor when comparing ing power-variation pricing clauses as fre- seek out colleagues with experience with the provider for feedback quently as quarterly to say, ‘Look, if I get a providers, it shouldn’t be the driving factor. that “may prove extremely valuable to your organization, saving price increase from my supplier, I’m going As Lynda Stadtmueller, program director for time, money, and your reputation,” he says. to pass this on to you anywhere from 4 to cloud computing services at Stratecast, says, 10%, and I’ll do that on a quarterly basis.’” “There’s too much at stake . . . to go low bid.” In such cases, Stahl says obtaining full- Colocation, she says, “is not a commodity; every provider has different configurations, metered pricing can mean paying less. Most Practical Tip: ?Communication Is Key ? BONUS TIPS: ?Cover your weaknesses. ?Check reputations. ?