The Colocation Provider Selection Checklist

February 2, 2016
Mitch Fonseca

For businesses considering moving their data to a third-party data center, the benefits of colocation are clear. It often saves money, it mitigates risk, it allows companies to focus on their core competencies, and it enables connections to other businesses all over the world.

That’s the easy part. The tough part is deciding which colocation provider to use, and after that, which data center(s) to colocate into.

Today, we’re going to have a look at what we’ve called the colocation provider selection checklist; that is, the major things you should consider when you’re selecting a data center services provider for your company. Have a look below:

Location

We've said it before, and we'll say it again: location is everything.

The most obvious thing to look for when selecting a data center colocation provider is how close the data center is to the networks and customers you’re looking to reach. If the location you’re looking at doesn’t provide the opportunities you need to take that natural next step in the evolution of your company, look elsewhere.

This is more important for some types of businesses than it is for others. Financial services firms, for example, want to be as close as possible to financial exchanges—milliseconds matter. For other businesses that don’t rely as much on extreme low latency, this isn’t as much of a problem, and it may not matter that much if the data center isn’t in the exact center of activity within a market.

If you have a strong foothold in your local market but are looking to expand, see which data centers offer the most competitive locations wherever you’re looking to move. While Dallas or Phoneix may have more real estate available, busy cities like New York and Chicago place a high premium on real estate. Not all locations are created equal, and companies with data centers in good locations within those premium markets can give you a competitive edge.

Throughout this entire search, remember that finding a "good" location isn't as easy as just picking a city and pinpointing an address. It's essential that the data center you're looking at offers resilient power connectivity, and is located outside flood zones. A location that is theoretically better in good weather becomes a lot less useful if it floods during a severe storm, or if infrastructure around the data center becomes unusable in an emergency situation.

Location may seem like the most obvious factor in your search for that perfect colocation data center, but it’s far from the last factor that should be on your checklist.

Connectivity

This brings us to the lifeblood of the modern data center: connectivity. It doesn’t matter if a data center is home to the world’s most cutting-edge hardware, and is staffed by brilliant engineers who anticipate problems long before they arise. If your colocation data center doesn’t provide a wide range of connectivity options, it’s practically useless.

Does the data center you’re looking at provide seamless connectivity to your company’s data center (if you have one) and to other key facilities? How easily does it connect with other data centers within your colocation provider’s portfolio? Is the facility carrier-neutral, or is it tied to a single service provider? Are you able to connect to other businesses located within the data center, or is everything kept “under wraps”? If international expansion is on the horizon for your business, how easy is connecting internationally from the data center you’re looking at?

Ultimately, a data center must offer robust connectivity options in order to even be considered for colocation. Look closely at the connectivity offered to, from, and within the colocation data center before you make a decision.

Security and Compliance

Let’s face it: today’s connected world is home to more digital threats than ever before. Your organizational practices make up the large majority of risk mitigation, but it’s essential to ensure that outside vendors can meet or supplement your approach to security. An outside vendor should never be the weak link in your overall security strategy.

Though your colocation provider isn't necessarily directly responsible for the security of your network or data, security is most certainly at play in colocation. For example, a data center's compliance to industry standards like SOC 2 or HIPAA is generally a good sign—but only if that supposed compliance is backed by third-party audits.

Don't underestimate the importance of physical security, either—you must ensure that the provider uses systems, equipment, and controls to monitor and record access throughout the facility. We may live in a predominantly digital world, but it's still important to mitigate physical threats, too.

Again, the colocation data center is far from the only element of your overall organizational security or risk. Even so, partnering with a colocation provider that values security and prioritizes compliance is a must.

Additional Services

Just as connectivity (or lack thereof) can have a significant impact on the quality of a colocation data center, so too can additional services directly impact your experience with a colocation provider. If bare-bones colocation service is all you’re looking for, there’s no shortage of providers out there willing to give it to you. But if you’re looking for well-rounded service that goes above and beyond colocation services, the selection process is more difficult.

Additional services could include anything from annual conferences for clients, to tools which enable client connectivity, to office space or meeting rooms within data centers. Along with breadth of connectivity, these additional services are where you really start to see value from your colocation provider.

Cost

Of course, no conversation about selecting an outside IT vendor would be complete without discussing cost. Cost may not be the most (or even second- or third-most) important issue when you're talking mission-critical data, but that doesn't mean your colocation provider should be cost-prohibitive.

As with most business agreements, when going through your checklist to select a colocation provider, you should think about two elements of price: actual price, and what you get for the cost. Just because a colocation provider is more expensive than other options on your list doesn’t mean you should count them out immediately. If they offer more for that price than their competition, the additional expense may be worth it. Much in the same way, selecting the cheapest provider can have drawbacks, too.

Even though cost isn’t the be-all-end-all factor in your decision (or at least, it shouldn’t be), it’s still an important consideration that must be taken into account when you’re selecting a colocation provider. Look for a colocation provider that offers a competitive price and adds a significant amount of value to your organization.

Every organization has its own way of vetting outside vendors, but this checklist highlights some of the most important factors for any company to consider when selecting an outside colocation provider.

Interested in learning more about partnering with Telx, or have another question about our capabilities? Don’t hesitate to reach out to us via the contact page of our site, or by Facebook or Twitter. We’d love to speak with you and answer any questions you may have.

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