Rik Williams, Data Centre Operations Manager at Node4, talks to Intelligent Data Centres about key considerations for organisations when looking for a data hosting provider.
It’s no secret that data is an organisation’s most important asset and the way that it is stored, managed and processed can play a critical role in the success of a business. This is being reflected in the growing trend to move away from on-premises server rooms, to cost-effective, scalable data centres off-site. And, with over 250 data centre providers in the UK alone, businesses are spoiled for choice when it comes to selecting the most suitable provider.
With so many different and diverse data centres and hosting providers out there, here are six considerations businesses need to be looking out for when choosing the right data hosting provider.
1) Why it’s better to keep it local
The main focus of a dependable data centre should always be uptime, as this is the most crucial element of being a successful data host. Choosing a data hosting provider that aims for 100% availability – and gets as close to this as possible – should therefore be a top priority. It is also important to recognise that location plays a key role in this; networking costs will be cheaper if your data centre is closer to you, so choose a provider that has a good, local data centre with strong connectivity for your area. Additionally, while many data centres now offer remote hands services, it is also much easier to get to the physical data centre if it is local, for example if installation is required or in the event of a fault.
2) Compliance matters now more than ever
Linked to location is the importance of compliance. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has made a serious impact on almost every business in the UK since it was introduced in May last year, as data from customers throughout the EU is now being regulated much more stringently. Data hosting providers are no exception to this, and have a responsibility to ensure that the data they host is kept safe and secure at all times. However, ensuring that systems are GDPR compliant – and continue to be so – is not a small task and so, when choosing a provider, businesses should enquire into the provider’s compliance expertise and only select one that has sufficient measures in place to meet GDPR.
3) High availability is mandatory
High availability is one of the most important aspects of a good data centre. Being able to provide a full time, 24/7 service is crucial for enabling the businesses that work with the provider to function optimally. Not only is reliable power needed, but also having redundant components installed to ensure that the centre can operate continuously will ensure that downtime is kept to a minimum. A data hosting provider that has high specification and resiliency in cooling, power and connectivity gives businesses confidence that their data is in good hands.
4) Keep security top of mind
Another main priority not just for data centres, but also for every aspect of IT, should be security. In today’s technological society, data centres should have dedicated facilities teams that are able to offer 24/7 monitoring and support, to be on hand for any issues that may occur. Even the best and most secure data centres need to be prepared in case of an emergency, so it’s important to work with a team that has alternative solutions in place, such as secure backup storage, to ensure that all of the data they store is safe no matter what.
5) Cost has got to be considered
With budgets under ever-increasing scrutiny, and businesses having to rein in their expenses wherever possible, many will not be able to spend excessive amounts of money on their data centre choice. However, hosting their own data on-site can often prove to be more costly than moving this to an off-site location, and therefore businesses should consider whether working with a data hosting provider that offers good value for money is the most cost-effective solution. And while cost should never be the sole factor when deciding on a data hosting provider, businesses should not assume that the most expensive service is the best, as different options will suit different companies.
6) Data centres should promote environmental efficiency
Whist cost is important, businesses should also take environmental efficiency into account. In today’s society, organisations of every size should be helping contribute towards improving the environment worldwide, in whatever way possible. More businesses are now putting their efforts into reducing their environmental impact, and data centres can be one way to address this. Many providers are able to deliver a more environmentally-friendly service, thanks to economies of scale and the ability to deploy the latest cooling technology. This is just one of the ways that a data centre can reduce its energy consumption that a business may not be able to do itself. It should be noted, though, that a balance should be struck between choosing an environmentally-friendly data centre and one which meets all of the other criteria.
Why colocation can be a key approach
Colocation can be an excellent option – particularly if the provider adheres to the six points above – for businesses that either cannot afford data centres of their own, or that simply would rather not have to manage this themselves. Enterprises with limited space and resources may opt for colocation, as it is often a cheaper and more effective use of the space available. Depending on the location this could be particularly valuable, and would allow for more on-site space to be dedicated to other areas of the business.
Choosing a data hosting provider can be quite a complex decision, and should not be undertaken lightly. However, considering the six tips discussed here should help to form the foundation of the choices that IT leaders have to make. If a data centre provider is found to be weaker in any of these areas, then the consequences can be disastrous if something were to go wrong.
With businesses increasingly relying on data hosts to manage and protect their precious data, making the best decision while keeping business objectives in mind is crucial for enabling the company to grow.