Spot the Difference | Data Centre Blog | Next Generation Data

Spot the difference

By Generate UK 21 | November | 2018

Partnering with data centre providers that are fit for the digital economy is increasingly vital - but not all facilities are the same. NGD’s Simon Bearne offers some food for thought…

These days, when it comes to data centres, most organisations should not attempt to do it all themselves; as witnessed by the general underestimation of the TCO  by the enterprise and the current trend towards the sale and lease back of enterprise facilities.

Put simply there were historical reasons why enterprise own-sites made sense, but there is now more choice in the market and therefore fewer reasons why data and assets need to be on-premise or in-house. In fact, far from it, as best practice is driving towards the distribution and separacy of data assets. Increasingly, CIOs are reconsidering and seeing that a sub-standard facility at arm’s reach is inferior to an optimum facility operated ‘lights out’.

However, while third party data centres may appear to be a commodity these days, the reality is very different. In part this is due to the way enterprise buyers tend to focus on particular criteria, only to find down the line there is huge unconsidered nuance underpinning the quality of data centre services. The industry typically focusses on a select few criteria such as ‘Tiering’ which can often be poor indicators of how well positioned, invested and operated a particular site is.

How to differentiate

There are more differentiating factors than one might imagine. Obvious ones are size, power and levels of M&E redundancy. But a key emerging factor in the digital world is levels of connectedness; the best data centres are hyper connected with a plethora of carrier and gateway options. The worst are isolated sheds with little connectivity. All of the above directly influence if and how far you can expand at the site in future.

Security is also key but varies enormously. It is a combination of physical barriers but includes too the operational regime and diligence of staff. And when it comes to location carefully consider the environmental risk factors such as proximity to a flood plain, flight path, and terror threat level -  geography and local environmental factors have a huge influence on the ‘what ifs’ and contingencies at a data centre. Location is also going to impact on space and service pricing due to cost of real estate and labour.  With this, out of town locations that are free from the risks and constraints of metro locations are on the rise and often offer lower unit costs.

Consider too if data halls come pre-built or custom designed. In the former you have to accept how they’ve been fitted (inflexible) while with the latter they fit your precise requirements (customised). Is the facility clean, ordered and administered with pride? Is the operator focussed where it counts on excellence in what they do? What about the extent and quality of site facilities and services on offer and track-record of continuous investment in plant and service delivery?

Then there’s the operational regime itself – there’s a huge variation in the thoroughness and regularity of relevant testing, planned preventative maintenance and reinvestment from none at all through to excellent. Be sure to ascertain the actual service record at the site. Have there been failures and why?

Last but not least, there are the financials to think about. Is the asset being squeezed for a return or approaching end of life on its plant/fitments? So check who owns the facility and the land….how does that legislate for what might happen in the future?

If you’re still not sure, visit a large quality facility like NGD and see just how much expertise, effort and financial resources goes into running a world class data centre.