Nov 9, 2011

Are you ready for your 15 minutes of fame?


Recently, a very popular national newspaper experienced a data center outage lasting 15 minutes. During that time, viewers were unable to reach the company’s news website. I bet this wasn’t the 15-minute spotlight they were hoping to achieve.

As a data center guy, 15 minutes of downtime scares me because that can be a lifetime for many businesses. For e-commerce, media distribution and transaction rich organizations that rely on their IT Infrastructure, 15 minutes has the potential to cost millions of dollars. However, N+1, 100% SLA uptime guarantees and resilient IT Infrastructure are often referred to as “checkbox items” when evaluating Colocation providers. While generators and UPS systems may appear to be standard features of all data center providers, the end user must proceed with caution; all resiliency is not created equal.

Rather than assuming a provider has designed a facility and developed a service allowing for resiliency, you have a responsibility to your organization to ask the tough questions. Below are a few that are part of my Colocation evaluation process:

  • Ask for the redundancy in the mechanical and electrical infrastructure. Ask about the generators, UPS, Transformers, PDU’s, Chillers specifically. Anything less than N+1, at every level, represents a risk to your business uptime.
  • Ask if there have been any outages in the last 3 years. What occurred, what was the impact and why it happened? Find out what preventative measures have been taken. The provider should be able to provide detailed information around each and every outage whether it was service impacting or not and offer a detailed explanation of how they plan on preventing this in the future.
  • Ask how often maintenance is performed on the key components within their infrastructure? By whom? Maintenance should be performance on a quarterly if not monthly basis and executed by certified technicians.
  • Ask about the SLA. What guarantees do they provide against downtime? My advice is to ignore the money penalties and look for a nice alignment between provider interests and your own business interests.

More often than not, we overlook the checkbox items in our evaluations and focus on the differentiators. Don’t get caught making that mistake, very minor differences can spell 15 minutes of disaster for your business. For a full list of considerations when choosing a colocation provider read this decision brief.

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