Do I Move to a Data Center?

Don Cox, Deputy, CIO, Philidor Rx Services
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Don Cox, Deputy, CIO, Philidor Rx Services

Ask yourself... Do I speak Data Center? Is that a core competency of my business? Bringing about change...

"Choosing a data center isn’t negotiating an enterprise agreement, but it should be something that meets your current needs with room to grow"

A collection of servers in a closet or room with a water sprinkler over the server cabinets. A large room with servers in cabinets that is cooled, powered through uninterrupted power supply, and backed up by a generator. Variations of this exist in most company’s business. What should I consider before moving (Yes, you should move) to a data center?Where should I put my business servers, data closet, or ‘if you must’ data center?

Is it really CapEx vs. OpEx or given the economies of scale and redundancies a data center the logical cost savings choice. Everyone has access to the resources to build a reliant and redundant data center/room. The revenue needed varies on due to a number of factors. Let’s suffice to say and given my experience that the cost to build and manage your own doesn’t come close to what you will pay in a commercial data center.

Drawing upon my experience. I have managed data closets, rooms and centers. However, it wasn’t until I managed the construction of a data center working with and mentored by some of the best in the industry that I became a believer and advocate.

Where do I start? First, create an inventory of your servers. This is a great time to do some spring cleaning. Servers, three years or older aren’t worth moving. Repurpose if possible. Sell your old servers. You may see 20-30 percent of the depreciated market value.

Next, determine your electrical needs. Document the amps/volts for each piece you will need to put in the data center. Newer equipment may use less electricity and give you better performance. If you are unsure, send the inventory to the data center hosting company for them to do the work for you.

Start the shopping. Why get multiple quotes? Just like any other purchase competition creates cost savings. Overhead gets added to the cost, these include mortgage or lease, electricity, insurance, data center mechanical and electrical components, cross connects, sales bonuses, industry certificates, 24x7 staff, smart hands, and more. Every data center vendor differs on what they pass through and what they don’t. These can impact the price.

Also a factor is location. Data center site selection has grown in sophistication over the years. Whether an enterprise user or a tenant in a colocation facility, for maximum savings chooses data centers its using the following—power, telecom, geography, and climate.

• Power: Cost per kWh, carbon footprint, fuel mix, and infrastructure;
• Telecom: Fiber providers, latency;
• Geography: Proximity to headquarters or airport locations, population size, labor force, water;
• Climate: Environmental risk (i.e. Floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, and more.), and the most ambient air cooling

What if you find yourself saying—All things being equal how do I choose?

You can look at data centers that reside in a state that provides rebates. CBRE has put together a document that shows the Impact of Taxes & Incentives on Data Center Locations.

Ask what is in the price? A price will be quoted as price per square foot for secure cage or per cabinet. Each will include Monthly Reoccurring Cost (MRC) and Non-Reoccurring Cost (NRC). MRCs that can add cost are cross connect charges and rented power distribution units. NRCs are charged to set up the area you will store your servers. An example of how to save costs, look for a data center that uses track busway systems used for power distribution system. These are installed without outages and with minimal effort. Install charges for initial or added whips should be zero or very reasonable. Look up track busway systems to see why the effort to install a circuit should be low.

Do I want to be in an NFL city? This refers to a city that has a National Football League team. This should be obvious. Real estate, electricity, insurance, staff, and others, will be more expensive.

History of the facility? One must do their due diligence. Who owns the facility and what are its sources of funds? What is the uptime without outage? Are here maintenance records?

Next look at the cost of power? Large data centers will receive better rates than commercial office buildings. The U.S. Energy Information Ad-ministration publishes a state by state by sector price comparison. Data centers may be willing to divulge their electrical costs. Details can be obtained by visiting local power regulators or providers. Be sure to ask for the taxes and tariffs that will be added to the rate. This will be passed on to the customer. An additional tip, ask if there is a peak and off peak rates. You may want to run your heavy processor jobs in off peak hours.

Ensure the facility is carrier neutral. Competition lowers prices. Redundant data services keeps the business connected and making money.

Some of the more specific items to review if you find a facility that meets your needs would be Standard Operating Procedure, staff training program, and inquire about their Service Level Agreements.

Least, but may be important to your organizational data is the need for certifications such as Service Organization Controls (SOC 1, 2, 3), Uptime Institute (Tier 1, 2, 3), or ISO 27001. There may be a certificate specific to you. Be sure to ask or willing to help pay to obtain the certification. Check with compliance or legal for guidance on must have certifications.

Choosing a data center isn’t negotiating an enterprise agreement, but it should be something that meets your current needs with room to grow.

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