10 Tips for Choosing the Best Data Center

Making a decision on which data center to use can be a tough one. There are a number of considerations which need to be thought about.

Here are 10 tips for helping to choose the best data center.

1. Tour the Data Center

Whenever possible, it is a good idea to make the extra effort to take a tour of the actual data center. Looking at the quality of the servers, RAM manufacturer, processors, LAN storage, server configurations, HVAC air-conditioning system, and diesel backup generators all has a value for companies serious about their infrastructure needs.

Asking key members of technical staff some tough questions can be informative about the quality of the personnel who manage the infrastructure day-to-day. Book a hotel for at least a couple of days and then have a look around. Get a good sense of response times, especially at night, for server, hard drive or other problems that can arise suddenly.

2. Internet Connectivity

It is always useful to get a good understanding how many internet carriers are cabled into the data center. It is important that there is more than one carrier with sufficient capacity to more than comfortably handle all the current levels of traffic.

The list of Tier-1 internet providers in the United States is a fairly small one which includes Telia, Cogent, NTT and Level3. At least two providers should be available, but if you are wanting to handle higher surges in internet activity then a third or fourth provider is not a bad idea.

3. Security Standards

Data security is an important consideration for all data centers. This includes both security using hardware and software firewalls, and also physical security with the building and its staff.

There should be buffer zones in place for the facility which prevents people from gaining access to the premises directly. CCTV should be in place at key locations. Barriers and gates should be present and either controlled electronically via monitored CCTV or with a physical guard being stationed there. Biometric sensors should be used to check for fingerprints and possibly retina scans. Sometimes one or more “Mantraps” are advisable to lock unauthorized personnel in place when it is discovered that they haven’t passed the security checks.

Utilities should also be managed with multiple options for power and other services. This ensures that the lights don’t go out, which could contravene security at the wrong time either unintentionally or on purpose. Emergency lighting should obviously be present.

With the hardware, physical cages should be used to store the equipment. These should be locked with only the authorized personnel having access to the servers that they personally manage.

4. Power Management

Power and the cost to cool the equipment often exceeds 20 percent of data center running costs, so look for an energy-efficient data center that does its best to reduce energy usage. Less energy usage translates into lower hosting fees.

5. Slab Floors vs. Raised Floors

Check whether the data center uses slab floors or raised floors. The reason for the question is that there are pros and cons for each type of setup. A raised floor helps with cabling, protects from flooding, and makes cooling easier. Slab floors provide greater protection from earthquakes, but can be messier with cables and cooling arrangements.

6. Find a Trusted Hosting Provider

It is important to work with a company that you can trust. This usually means one that has been in existence for a number of years without a major incident which shut down the hosting service.

7. Out-of-Band Network Management

Out-of-band management (OOB) offers a separate channel for administrators to remotely control the equipment in the event of a disaster disabling all other options. This will cost extra money, but for mission-critical infrastructure requirements, it is necessary.

8. Get the Location(s) Right

Ideally, a web host should operate multiple data centers rather than just one. In the United States, this means they can operate on both coasts and for larger web hosts they may also have a data center in the Midwest. Better still, web hosts could also have international data centers in the UK, other parts of Europe, and Asia to provide customers with the option to locate the server where most of their site traffic is likely to originate.

9. Flexibility and Scalability

The data center needs to not be near their total capacity. If they only have servers that are mostly already fully utilized with little space to add new servers or new server racks within the existing data center, then expansion to scale up will be difficult or impossible unless they move into a larger facility.

If the company already offers cloud computing or cloud hosting solutions then they are likely to be on the right track.

10. Multiple Data Center Competitors Nearby

A great deal of local competition for the data center customer is generally a good thing. It usually means that there is an excellent infrastructure, internet connectivity, and a rich pool of talented, qualified network engineers to manage the network.

If you follow these tips when looking for a data center, you shouldn’t go too far wrong.

He's an avid gadget geek and spends most of his time reading or writing.

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