They say that moving home is one of the most stressful things you can do in life, and if you’ve ever done it, you’ll know what they mean. There is a lot of work in finding that perfect house for you, which meets your current needs and also any plans for ‘expansion’ later in life. People move house for all manner of reasons; maybe their families are expanding, or the costs associated with the current dwelling is too high, so ‘downsizing’ is the reason.
But before finding that ideal home, knowing the location you’re moving to is as important as the house you’re moving in to, too. What are the transport links like? What about schools? Shops? And what about crime rates? This all has to be factored into the equation even before you’ve found that ideal home you’re looking for.
The Ideal Home Equation
On a personal level, moving home is a challenge, but finding that ideal home for all your data is also fraught with difficulties that are not too dissimilar. Why is this?
Firstly, did you notice when you went for your ‘viewing’, that the property was immaculately presented. Everything has a place, and everything is in its place. It’s likely you contacted the vendor, and they selected a time that was convenient for them to be ready for you.
This is exactly the same for those looking for their ideal home for their business data. You booked your appointment, and upon arrival, you’re presented with a Data Centre which is easy to get to, easy to park at and seems highly secure. You take a tour of the facility, and you’re amazed at the flashing-lights and highly secure environment on offer. On the wall are an array of certificates and perhaps awards that tell you that you’re in safe hands.
Welcome to co-location heaven.
But what exactly is ‘Co-Location’?
Many organisations are moving from having their own servers located in small server rooms (known as ‘on-prem’), to paying a Data Centre to look after the housing of their servers and systems. What are the benefits in doing this?
Firstly, you’re using a shared facility, so you’re not the only one paying for the cooling of systems, the cost of power, and the infrastructure’s support. Another factor is resilience which is often implemented in these Data Centres, including uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) and generators. Finally, the benefits also include the physical protection of the infrastructure, which is often neglected when using ‘on-prem’ services.
Of course, one of the key benefits of using a co-location service is the reduction in costs, and with organisations now looking at their physical locations and considering closing offices, they need to think about how they can turn ‘real estate’, into ‘virtual estates’.
Not all that glitters is gold
Before you select your co-location provider, however, it’s important to do your research. If you’ve ever bought a house, you’ll know it makes sense also to take a drive-by during different times of the day, just to check the transport links are what you were expecting. If you’re trusting a company to look after your IT infrastructure by co-locating it there, then you need to do the same. For example, is the Data Centre on an industrial estate that becomes grid-locked at certain times of the day? Is the reception really manned 24×7? What does the area look like at night?
Anecdote: I worked with a company that had selected a co-location provider located on a remote industrial estate. During the day, all was well. But after 8pm each evening, drug dealers and other less savoury characters moved into the area. How did I know? During a tea break, I asked the canteen staff what the area was like.
Co-locating your data means you are putting your trust into another organisation, so you need to make sure your assessment is fully rounded and fully supported. Doing your research to understand the background of the virtual estate you’re moving into is not just important; It’s imperative.
Co-location is not risk avoidance
When you select your co-location provider, you need to remember that you are still the ‘risk owner’, and therefore, responsible for the protection and security of the data you control and/or process. You need to select a provider that has the prerequisite certificates and can demonstrate a firm commitment to security and data protection (check their’ scope of certification’ to help in doing this).
You should research the organisation by looking for reviews (and I don’t just mean those on their website). Ask for references, and follow them up. Take a look on ‘Google Earth’ to see what the area is like, and review stories about the locality – is there a regional issue that could cause issues (e.g. increased crime rates, risks of flooding etc.).
It’s all about co-location, co-location, co-location
Co-location is a great way to reduce costs (virtual and physical) and provide scalability for your organisation.
You just need to take as much care in selecting your co-location provider as you do when selecting your next home. Make sure it fits your current and future needs, and be sure that what you’ve been shown in the glossy brochure, and seen on the site tour, is representative of real life.