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Moving Data Center to Colo facility? Here are some important guidelines.

Every organisation has one major goal i.e. to reduce expenses. Operational Expenses (Opex) are more focused, as they are recurring. Capital Expenses (Capex) are one time hence we always talk about ROI (Return on Investment) which comes from long term operational cost savings. Moving Data Centers from own premises to Colo (CoLocation) Data Centers is one of the steps for cost cutting apart from moving the Data Center services over Cloud Infrastructure. Colo comes from word Co-Location which means taking some space on rent in big data center infrastructure maintained by service providers.

We get space, power and cooling arrangements from service provider which they maintain also, we are just users of those services. We place our racks, or even service provider may give on rental charges. On those racks we mount our own hardware devices like servers, switches and storage etc. and configure them as per our requirement and organisation guidelines. And finally we pay for the space, power and cooling arrangements on monthly basis to the service provider. 

During this Covid crisis when most of the employees are working from home, many organisations are looking for facility consolidation as lots of operations cost are involved just to maintain the facility like physical security, maintenance and admin team presence, electricity and water bills and other taxes. In such scenario if the facility under consolidation is hosting any Data Center, its preferred to move that to Colo to cut all the maintenance cost of facility.

Below are some key points to remember before finalizing the Colo service provider to avail their services:

  Physical location and construction of building considering:

Building should be earth quakes resistant, as far as possible avoid high seismic zones.

Structure should be able to manage flooding situation, hence under ground power and fibre cable trench shall have standard protection. Should be fitted with Water Leakage Detection System.

-  Physical intrusion/frisking of people should be highly controlled thru layers of physical security.

- Adequate fire protection system should be in place with clean agent gas, Smoke Detectors and VESDA. Refer Data Center Infra Protection Systems for more details.

- Intrusion of rodents in building through any passage may result in outages, hence shall be protected against it.

- Grid power availability should be agile with minimum failures. Underground power cabling is preferred to avoid outages during rainy season and thunder storms.

- Supporting vendors accessibility & reach should be easy. Local conveyance and route should not be of high traffic which can delay arrival of any support vendor or our own staff during emergency.

- Check for level of environmental pollution in premises, it should be 'G1' level. Building should be away from high traffic area and factories, which create lots of air pollution.

 What is the rating of Data Center infrastructure you are looking for i.e. Tier-3 or Tier-4? Lower tiers i.e. Tier-1 & 2 are very rare.

As part of sustainability initiatives, check how much renewable energy is being used by the COLO provider at the DC level where you are planning to shift and at organisation level. What initiatives they have taken for sustainability and what they have achieved so far and what is their target for net Zero carbon emission. Try getting their annual sustainability reports.

 What physical security features are expected to meet your organisation's requirements like multi layer manned security, Access Control, CCTV, visitor access process etc. 

  Refer your organisation's Data Center Operation Policy, Process & Guideline to cross check the requirements. At the end of they day its your data center, its only hosted in a rental facility. Hence any physical security breach can give non-Compliance to your Data Centers audits. Logical security is in our hands because our IT team will configure the firewalls, IPS and other devices as per your organizations guidelines.

  How many devices you want to host in Colo and accordingly how much rack space is required in Colo.

  How much is the space, power and cooling requirement of those devices accordingly you can decide the number of racks to be deployed.

  Prefer replacing old high power and bulky devices with new small form factor and low power devices to minimise rack space, power and cooling requirement.

  Try looking for new technologies which may replace multiple devices with single device or less number of devices. The aim is to reduce the power and space requirement for which we have to ultimately pay the Colo service provider.

  What level of hands & feet support is expected and is the provider ready with adequate man power to support.

  What is the kilowatt per rack of power required for moving the existing devices of Data Center to Colo. Based on future prediction, how many additional rack spaces are required to be provisioned.

  Is vendor going to charge for power on the running load or peak load for which racks are provisioned. Are all rack power sockets fitted with adequate energy meter to capture running load. What is the per unit rate that service provider will be charging us.

  Check for the overall PUE of the whole Data Center to have understanding of its efficiency.

  Check out for redundant UPS, DG and Cooling arrangements i.e. N+1 or N+2 etc. For more information on Data Center redundancy read this article.

  Ask for Data Center certifications that are awarded to the Colo facility in last few years. Refer previous audit reports to have an understanding of its quality of service. Refer their SOPs (Standard Operating Procedure).

  Which other customers are hosting their Data Center in that Colo premises. Try to collect feedback from those customers to have an idea of quality of service being delivered to them.

  And last but not the least, calculate the savings that will be achieved by shifting to Colo. How much operational cost will be reduced and how long will it take to recover the amount being invested in moving i.e. calculation of ROI.

So, these are some important points to be kept in mind before finalizing any Co-Location to move your on premises Data Center. Also we need to look on the benefits and drawbacks of moving to Colo. As I mentioned earlier its your Data Center, only thing is that it is hosted in a rental facility. As a Data Center manager you are responsible to face the audits as you had been facing earlier when it was in your premises. 

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