Selecting the colocation facility to store your essential IT infrastructure is one of the most critical decisions you'll make for your business. The facility design, location, connectivity, and provider support model directly impact resilience, scalability, and costs over both the short and long-term.
Rushing this decision or making the wrong choice could introduce risky single points of failure and service interruptions down the road. Not to mention significant costs to relocate if your needs change over time. As the saying goes, measure twice and cut once.
To help simplify an inherently complex process, we've created an essential step-by-step guide on the key criteria to assess when exploring your options in the data centre space.
Vetting the data centre provider
While the data hall infrastructure might seem most important, the organisation behind the facility plays an equally critical role in the success of your deployment. Start by validating basics like UK business registration, headquarters, and staffing across key functions like on-site engineers and customer service. This ensures you have adequate local support, instead of dealing with faceless multinational providers.
Ask for documentation confirming industry certifications for quality management, information security, and regulatory compliance. Common auditable standards include ISO 9001, ISO 27001, PCI DSS, and GDPR. Annual audits should demonstrate continued adherence to physical security controls and environmental systems.
Evaluating facility infrastructure
Even minor weaknesses in the underlying infrastructure can quickly escalate into major outages or unnecessarily costly overheads.
Leading operators design and build to Tier II or higher standards, though we've written before about taking a holistic view of a data centre provider rather than looking up Uptime Institute Tier ratings This includes uninterruptable power supply units (UPS), generators, cooling, and network distribution paths. Ensure the facility's systems are resilient and allow room to scale compute power over time.
In addition to complete redundancy, inspect fire suppression systems, smoke detectors, fuel storage, and DCIM monitoring. Battery backup runtimes should provide at least 10 minutes of buffer before generators start. Look for modern modular designs supporting fast maintenance and concurrent capacity upgrades.
Examining physical building attributes
While server hall infrastructure gets more attention, building construction, geographic placement, and security precautions are all essential criteria to consider.
Start with risk assessments including proximity to flood zones, flight paths, highways, public transit, and crime history. Well-designed facilities mitigate environmental threats through durable materials, secured perimeters, stringent access policies, CCTV monitoring, and offsite data retention.
Review cabinet dimensions, raised floors, loading bays, and available amenities supporting equipment installations and maintenance. A convenient location with strong network connectivity allows easier access to your hardware.
Evaluating network connectivity and services
The underlying network fabric connects your infrastructure to users and other vital systems. Evaluate carrier diversity, low-latency connectivity options, and access to public cloud onramps.
Many providers also layer on valuable additional services, including security, storage, backup, and disaster recovery services. If available, consider bundling managed solutions to simplify deployments and operations leveraging shared facility infrastructure.
Understanding account management and SLAs
Once you select a facility, the provider partnership just begins. Dedicated account management, quarterly reviews and defined service commitments ensure continuity. Evaluate flexibility to scale, relocate, or consolidate racks across locations under a single agreement.
Compare historical uptime track records and SLA penalties that hold providers accountable to quantitative reliability and performance standards. Ask to see available capacity, growth roadmaps, and specimen contracts outlining policies, pricing, and exit options.
While no two organisations share the exact requirements, ServerChoice's exhaustive colocation checklist serves as a model framework helping simplify diligence. Ultimately finding the right data centre hinges on asking the right questions upfront before cementing long-term commitments.