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Four things to look for in a colocation provider

Considering outsourcing your organization’s data centre? Here’s how to find a provider that will deliver the greatest benefits and reduce your risks.

Man looking at servers

As organizations seek infrastructure that can more flexibly, reliably and cost-effectively meet their needs, it’s no surprise that the demand for colocation solutions is surging. Data centre construction was up a whopping 43% in North America from 2016 to 2017, fueled by an increased demand for shared data centres because the total cost of ownership is lower than building, adding to, powering, certifying and keeping compliant your own traditional on-premises servers.

Colocation offers both obvious and hidden benefits for Canadian enterprises. These include ongoing security investments and network monitoring, as well as sophisticated back-up systems and redundant controls that maximize network uptime while delivering symmetrical speeds on fibre networks. Meanwhile the subscription-based fees for colocation services are predictable and can drive substantial cost savings over the real estate and resource investments of maintaining an owned data centre. Outsourcing these services can also free up IT staff to drive innovation within business operations instead of merely tending to day-to-day data centre-related functions.

But with an annual growth rate of 15.4%, the global colocation market is expected to reach $54.8 billion USD by 2020. This means organizations will have more choice than ever in selecting a colocation provider – and more to wade through to find the best fit for their business.

“With an annual growth rate of 15.4%, the global colocation market is expected to reach $54.8 billion USD by the year 2020.” BCC Research

Here are four things to look for as you consider colocation providers:

1. Data sovereignty: For Canadian organizations, there’s a compelling reason to look for a colocation provider that’s close to home: U.S. data laws. The U.S. Patriot Act, which was introduced as an anti-terrorism measure, permits American law enforcement officials to access personal and sensitive information without consent if it is stored physically or electronically in the U.S. Meanwhile, in Canada, several laws including the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) and Ontario Business Records Protection Act are among the data privacy protections in place. To ensure Canada’s sovereign control over data, the Government of Canada Strategic Plan for Information Management and Information Technology 2017 to 2021 requires that certain types of government information “be stored in a (government of Canada)-approved computing facility located within the geographic boundaries of Canada or within the premises of a (government of Canada) department located abroad, such as a diplomatic or consular missions.” Types of data covered under this policy include personally-identifiable information and program and business information.

2. Security: Types and levels of security can vary between colocation providers, which is why it’s important to look for a vendor that offers both the physical and network security features that will ensure the protection you need. Physically, data centres should offer state-of-the-art tools that ensure only authorized individuals can access the premises. These can include biometric authentication, such as iris scanners, as well as video monitoring of the perimeter and all cabinets, cages and suites. But being able to physically secure data centres is only one part of a robust security offering. Increasingly sophisticated cyber-attacks and an overall growing reliance on technology make strong network monitoring and protection more challenging and crucial than ever. Therefore, it’s vital that a colocation provider guarantee round-the-clock network monitoring, state-of-the-art security and compliance standards. Furthermore, if your industry has its own compliance standards for data protection, it’s important to ensure that your provider can meet all of those requirements too.

3. Scalability: While it’s vital to find a colocation provider that can support your current demand load, it’s also important to think about your future needs and whether your provider will be able to grow with you. Consider how innovations in technology and your business operations may change, both during the lifespan of your initial contract and beyond. It’s important to know whether a provider has the space, power and other resources to grow with you, how quickly changes can be implemented, and to understand how any changes are accounted for within your contract as well as the costs associated with changing your services.

4. Services that augment in-house IT: Colocation offers more business advantages to your business than just servers. The right provider has the potential to be a strong partner in your IT strategy by offering services and additional expertise and insights that can augment those you already have in-house, or by allowing you to offload day-to-day tasks that can free up in-house staff so they can focus on driving greater business value. Services to look for might include: proactive security monitoring, alerting and patching based on the latest threat information; dashboards that offer valuable business insights; and assistance with backup (including tape rotation and cloud-based backup) and disaster recovery plans to ensure business continuity in any scenario.

Switching to colocation can offer some important benefits to your businesses – but only if you choose a provider that meets all your needs. Keeping the above considerations in mind as you evaluate the options can help you to identify the best fit in a colocation provider.