When choosing a Data Centre it is not sufficient to just shop around for the best deal. You need to put into consideration certain aspects that could be critical to your business operation.
While it is not immediately clear why the location of a Data Centre may be relevant, there are a few important factors that you need to assess prior to making the choice. One of these factors is the proximity to industrial and commercial areas which typically means that the Data Centre is in an area which is well connected to the power grid and all network providers. If you are planning to house your IT infrastructure you need to consider connectivity from your premises to the Data Centre. For small to medium projects it is usually sufficient to use a regular internet connection, however as your business grows so does your workload, and thus the need to improve the connection to the Data Centre, usually by means of dedicated fibre optic cabling which is very costly to deploy over long distances.
Reliability is a critical factor when choosing your Data Centre because system outages can severely hinder your business due to lost revenue, idle man hours, and reputation. It is therefore imperative that the Data Centre of your choice offers a reliable environment for your IT projects, providing a robust infrastructure that is resilient to system failures. A reliable Data Centre should be connected to two or more network providers via separate routes, should have duplicate equipment on standby ready to take over the role of the primary units in case of failures, and provide full uninterrupted power supply via battery racks and diesel generators which can power the entire Data Centre for several hours in the event of a prolonged power grid outage. You should look for certifications such as ISO 9001 which guarantees a level of performance and a customer-oriented quality assurance.
Your data is important to you and in many cases it is the heart of your business intelligence. For this reason it is crucial to keep it secure and private. Always check the level of security that is offered by your Data Centre. Besides the standard physical access control and CCTV systems, the Data Centre should also be certified to meet industry standard security levels such as the Payment Card Industry's Data Security Standard, which focuses on securing both physical and network access ranging from the public network all the way to the particular systems and services. A Data Centre with a PCI DSS certification ensures peace of mind and compliance to current security best practices.
Another important element when choosing a Data Centre is the networking options it provides. Ideally your Data Centre should be carrier-neutral, which means that it is not dependent on any one network provider but offers you different choices for your connection and the Internet bandwidth for your systems.
Scalability is important because your IT requirements tend to grow exponentially over time. It is therefore imperative that the Data Centre of your choice allows for such growth and does not become a limiting factor.
Perhaps the most important element in any business relationship is the people you work with. A Data Centre which offers a personalized service with human to human interaction is preferable to one which operates on a ticketing system and virtual telephone operators. Another key element is the level of expertise offered by the Data Centre staff. Always look for skilled and experienced Data Centre operators with a long track record of meeting customers' needs.
Mark Bishop is the head of the Alert eBusiness Data Centre - www.alert.com.mt