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always always tour before you buy.
Forget what’s on paper or on the web. Walk into your prospective data center, what you see is what you get. A tour is priceless, don’t sign a contract without first making a visit. And never ever buy colocation from someone who refuses to give you a tour or makes excuses for why you can’t see the facility–they probably have something to hide.
- Talk to their other customers first.
Ask your prospective provider’s customers how the company supports them once they’re in the door. Ask for references, but also work to contact customers who aren’t on their reference list. Colocation often comes with a service contract for one or two years, contracts that are difficult to break or carry stiff penalties. Learn what service is like after the contract is signed, because that’s what matters to your business and that’s what you’re paying for.
- How much power does your provider’s support reps have to act on your behalf in an emergency?
Most data centers route their “24×7 support” to a level-1 call center, often times off-shore. At XNet, all of our support is handled in-house by full time staff, and senior-level support is immediately accessible any time, day or night. Just ask our customers.
- How easy is your data center to get to during rush hour or inclement weather?
The Chicago area is notorious for tough winters and spring storms. The winter of 2008 has proven this to us all. When selecting a data center, choose a location you can get to quickly and easily in all weather conditions to minimize downtime in the event of a crash or equipment failure.
- Does your provider own their own space?
Take note of providers that sub-let space within larger facilities. These types of providers may offer an attractive solution with good service, but many have a history of frequent ownership changes through acquisitions, mergers, bankruptcies, etc. Tough questions to ask yourself: How do you know your facility will be around a year later? How do you know their quality of service will stay as it is now once they’re sold? Stick with a company that has a long track record of single ownership and quality service over time.
- Is their HVAC system connected to the generator?
This seems like a no-brainer, but many boutique data centers don’t have their precision AC units on generator power. If electricity is out for more than 30 minutes, UPS batteries no longer keep these units running, and there’s no more cooling in the data center. Without cooling, your equipment will overheat and possibly fail. At XNet, our HVAC system is connected to backup generator power–in a power outage, cooling will not be jeopardized.
- Where do they keep their backup generators?
Many facilities in downtown areas keep them in the basement, which renders them useless in the event of a flood (this has happened). At XNet, we keep our generators away from the building and on high ground so your equipment stays safe.
- Are they trying to differentiate themselves based on multiple power grids?
While an attractive selling point, multiple grids is not as big of a deal as providers make it seem. In major power catastrophes, often many grids in a metropolitan area go down. You can’t rely on these multiple grids alone, make sure the backup generators are up to snuff, HVAC is connected to the generator, and appropriate refueling agreements are in place.
- How well do their service reps understand your business?
For complex applications, it’scriticial your provider understand what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. This kis key to a successful long-term partnership with any provider.
- What type of carriers provide connectivity to the data center?
Different providers offer different types of networks (value, blended, etc FLESH OUT). Do your homework on the various network providers (such as Level(3), Verizon, Savvis, Covad, AT&T, etc.) and the type of network they provide. A facility with a certain number of carriers isn’t enough. Know your application and be confident you’re buying access to the right types of networks for your needs.
- Extra: Does your data center care?
Finally, Examine the people you’re dealing with. Do they understand your business? Are they acting committed to you, or to your commission check? How do you know the staff of your facility will be behind you once you’re in the door? When your equipment goes down? Keep this in mind through your selection process, and be sure to interview customer references. It’s equally important you trust the people you’ll be working with as you trust the facility you’ll be hosting in.
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