7 Questions for your Hosting and Managed Services Provider

When Selecting a Data Centre, Hosting, and Managed Services Provider, it is important to get the full story…

At CentriLogic, we have responded to many RFPs, RFQs, RFIs, etc. and have learned a lot about what our customers look for in a partner to support their critical IT infrastructure and applications. We know that reliability, security, price, service levels, and flexibility are all high on our clients’ list of “must-haves” and we strive for 100% scores in each category.

In addition to meeting our clients’ stated requirements, we have gained several insights into some questions that we think clients would benefit from knowing. Sometimes we see customers overlook these important questions so we thought it might be a good idea to share a few.

Does your Service Provider actually own their data centre(s)?

Seems like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised.

Many hosting and managed services providers operate out of wholesale data centres or even from facilities that are owned and operated by their competitors – they buy in the service and resell it to you at a marked-up price point. While that is not necessarily a bad thing, we think customers can attain additional benefits by partnering with a provider that has complete control over their facilities, infrastructure, staff, and decision-making processes.

Why This Matters? Data Centres are constantly changing beasts and the infrastructure requires updating, maintenance, and testing to ensure maximum operational performance. By owning and operating the data centre’s infrastructure, your provider will be able to better forecast change and will work with you to ensure a resilient service.

Also, there is the idea of shared risk. When a Service Provider owns the assets involved in delivering services to its customers, they have a lot more to lose if customers are not served well and churn increases. Data Centre Resellers don’t have the insights or control over the underlying infrastructure, and as a tenant in somebody else’s facility the shared risk profile necessary to ensure service delivery and responsiveness deteriorates.

Owning and operating a data centre gives the provider complete control over all aspects of day-to-day operations. By partnering with a provider that owns and operates their facilities, you can be assured that on-site security, on-site expertise, accessibility to dedicated account executives, diligent service monitoring, and 24/7/365 access to the data centre will not be interrupted throughout the course of your contract.

From Co-Lo to Cloud: Does your Service Provider offer a full suite of Hosting & Managed Services?

Single service Cloud or Co-Location Providers may be very good at what they do, but you will likely find yourself excluded from taking advantage of the flexibility and cost savings available from a full-service provider.

While many organizations have begun their migration to the cloud, some applications and workloads are still not suitable for virtual environments. We also recognize the importance of preserving capital investments in physical hardware. As a result, many customers have mixed environments that contain combinations of physical and virtual equipment. Partnering with a full-service provider enables you to mix and match services ranging from simple Co-Location all the way through to on-demand Infrastructure-as-a-Service Cloud Computing. We refer to this process as Hybrid Hosting.

By partnering with a hosting and managed services provider with a complete solutions portfolio, you will significantly reduce the cost and complexity of knitting together multiple services from several different external providers. Additionally, a full-service provider is constantly evolving their core offerings, which provides a more future-proof environment for your critical IT systems and applications.

Quick Tip: When evaluating a provider, look for flexible service offerings and ensure you can customise your solution based on your unique requirements. Also ensure that your provider has the ability to scale your environment to support your growing applications and workloads. In addition to Co-Location, Virtual Private Servers, and Cloud, verify that your provider can deliver additional managed services to support your hosting environment, including Storage, Backups, Network, Security, Firewall, & Operating System management. Ensure your provider is solving your IT problems rather than just moving them!

Does Your Service Provider help you to Geo-Politically protect your data?

You expect your hosting and managed services provider to have excellent physical and IT security procedures in place. You should also consider the protection of your data from unexpected Government intrusion when evaluating a service provider.

Recent events including the PRISM and NSA revelations have demonstrated that data protection needs to account for the legal, but potentially unwanted and/or unannounced access to your data by the State.

Fact is that different National Governments have very different rules regarding how agencies and law enforcement can access your data. Did you know that the US Patriot Act provides the US Government with the ability to subpoena your data from any US-based service provider – anywhere in the world – and makes it illegal for your service provider to inform you? Similar legislation in the UK and other countries such as Canada provide law enforcement agencies with the right to subpoena information, but also oblige your service provider to inform you of any access requests. Depending on your security requirements, the home country of your provider could be critical.

With the prevalence of various compliance measures such as ISO 27001, PCI, HIPPA, and others, it is important to ensure that your service provider is able to support the compliance measures that directly affect your business. Ensure that you select a service provider that can guarantee your data remains within domestic borders, or at least disclose where your data is physically located if domesticity is not a top concern to you. If possible, request documentation that can verify that this process and guarantee that it has been audited by an accredited third party.

What happens when you need very high density power?

Power is the lifeblood of a data centre. It is also often the limiting factor in how efficiently rack space is utilized. If your provider is unable to underwrite a full 32A (or more) to every cabinet on the technical floor, you may find yourself limited in the equipment you deploy or may be forced to buy additional rack space just to get more power.

Blade servers, such as the HP c7000, DellM100e or IBM BladeCenter are optimized for virtual environments but are also intensely power hungry. For example, the HPc7000 supports six 2.7kW UPS’ which in a 3+3 configuration could draw in excess of 5kW from a 10u chassis. This creates inefficient rack space utilisation and increased costs.

For a simple formula, divide the number of square feet of technical floor space by the power available from the DC generators in an N+1 configuration. For example, at CentriLogic we have 5,000 square feet and two 2MW generators, so we would divide 5000 by 2000 for a KW per square foot ratio of 2.5. We don’t suggest there is an optimal value, but clearly the higher the value, the better your chances of your data centre growing with you.

Also, it is important to confirm that your provider has engineered their facility to deliver adequate cooling to your high power density environment.

Does your provider offer Premium Racks and External Patch Panels?

Standard racks offer 42u of space in a standard 600mm x 800mm cabinet. This minimal space can limit how your infrastructure is cabled and organised in the rack.

By selecting a provider that offers 47u Premium Racks, you will receive an immediate 12%+ increase in capacity for often the same price. The additional width and depth in an 800mm x 1200mm cabinet provides for easier cabling and creates flexibility for accommodating future modifications.

Additionally, if your provider offers external patch panels you will find that you will not need to sacrifice valuable rack space for patching and cable management.

Does your provider have any on-site amenity services?

Let’s face it, you may need to spend a considerable amount of time at your Service Provider’s premises if you are responsible for the day-to-day management of your Co-Located equipment.

If you don’t have a comfortable place to work in break-out and build rooms, free WIFI, canteen & coffee services, and other amenities, you and your team may be reluctant to make the best use of the facility over the long-term. As you are possibly signing a 3-5 year contract, amenity services play an important role in your satisfaction with your provider over the long term.

Available meeting rooms and even additional office space for rent will provide comfort, flexibility, and a future-proofed environment throughout the duration of your relationship with your provider.

Having a foosball table has not shown up in many RFPs over the years, but you would be surprised how many of our clients enjoy a game while taking a well-earned break.

Is your Hosting & Managed Services Provider a “Vendor” or a “Partner?”

First of all, what’s the difference?

A vendor will sell you a commodity product or service. A Partner will invest time and effort to construct an overall solution that is the most appropriate and efficient for your current and future requirements, while sharing the risk and reward that flows from an ongoing relationship.

Granted, it is hard to distinguish fact from fiction, but it is more critical than ever to work with a trusted partner who you can rely on so that you can focus internal resources on your core business. Ensure that your provider is proactively looking for ways to improve and optimise your IT systems, reduce your risk, and offer consulting and guidance as part of your relationship – not as bolt-on extras.

Look for the following clues as to whether you are talking to a Vendor or a Partner:

  1. Do they provide a product/service catalogue with defined pricing before asking how they can help optimise your environment? If so, they are probably a vendor.
  2. Can they demonstrate examples where they have brought innovation to a relationship and helped a client improve their IT? If so, they are probably a partner.
  3. Do they provide you with the ability to scale-up your environment or modify your services within the terms of your contract? If so, they are probably a partner.
  4. Do they offer limited flexibility and provide customer support/service from a centralized location? If so, they are probably a vendor.

A true Partner will understand your specific needs and work with you to get the most from the relationship. Every vendor will say that they want to be your Hosting Partner, but be sure to dig a bit deeper to guarantee that you are getting the real thing.

If you would like to further discuss these or any other questions, please Contact Us.