A Guide To
Effectively Evaluating A Data Center
Relying on others to look after your server may not seem
like the ideal solution but it is certainly more cost
effective than attempting to establish and maintain your
own. A data center is an essential part of any hosting
company’s offering but it is especially important when
looking at colocating, or dedicated servers.
Colocating requires the purchase of your own server. You
then lease a room, a rack, or some shelf space from a
data center in order to house your server. In contrast,
with a dedicated server plan whether managed or
unmanaged, you effectively lease the server from the
host and usually keep it in their data center.
Obviously one of the most important aspects of these
types of account is the data center itself. However,
even if you are looking for a shared hosting account you
should take some notice of the data center where your
server will be located. The data center is the hub of
your server activity. Even a poor climate or a dusty
environment can cause untold damage to a server and if
this happens then the best result is that your site will
become unresponsive and slow. The worst-case scenario,
on the other hand, is that it will completely crash.
A simply plug into the local grid is not enough for a
fully functioning data center. A full power system and
ongoing power system management must be integrated.
Using an uninterrupted power supply is an absolute must
but still far from the ideal solution if used on its
own. An uninterrupted power supply can manage the power
load for a relatively short period of time ensuring that
any peaks and troughs do not cause instability. However,
in the event of a power failure it will do little or no
good to assist.
A secondary, or redundant uninterrupted power supply
should be prevalent. A redundant supply ensures that if
the main UPS system goes down then the secondary one
will automatically kick in. The redundant UPS should be
drawn from a different grid or power station to the
primary power source. This way if one grid fails
completely the redundant UPS will still be fully
operational. A redundant UPS also ensures that
maintenance can be carried out without a loss of power.
A backup generator should be provided as a fail safe for
any serious emergency. Generally these are used as a
very last resort or during the transition from the
primary to the secondary UPS. It may seem excessive to
essentially have three separate power sources but by
doing this it is possible to allow for even the most
extreme of circumstances. A generator can be battery
powered, diesel powered, or even turbine powered.
Although the latter generally costs far too much and
offers an always-on source of power which is not cost
effective as a backup power supply.
The environment of the data center is also important.
Too hot or too cold and a server will suffer damage or a
loss in performance. An HVAC or heating, ventilation and
conditioning system ensures that a data center can be
kept in perfect condition constantly. Always consider
whether the HVAC that a data center boasts is really
enough to cool the systems that are in place. Remember
that the power supplies should also, in theory, have
their own HVAC equivalent installed. Environmental
pressures really can cause server damage. While it is
generally in the data center owner’s interest to ensure
that they are providing optimal conditions for their
servers and those belonging to people collocating this
isn’t always the case.
Try to ensure that there is a redundant HVAC system
available. As with anything, there is a possibility that
the original system can go down or become inoperable. In
this case, without a backup system, your server is left
to bake in the heat and collect dust until someone can
be called out to fix it.
Servers with a power supply and a method to maintain the
appropriate environmental conditions are still only a
part of your battle in finding the perfect data center.
The first aspect is switches, routers, and internal
wiring. There are numerous manufacturers of quality
goods in these areas but there are an equal number of
poor but cheap manufacturers. Fortunately, it is a false
economy for hosts to purchase these cheap products
because they do fail easily and quickly. However try to
look for well-known names and ensure that, once again,
there are spare switches and routers available. One of
the words you will find yourself using more often than
others when looking for a good data center is the word
If you run a business website then data is key to the
survival of your business. Data centers should offer
some form of security on or outside their premises. The
biggest data centers will usually provide staffed
security gates as well as highly secure entry and exit
routes. They may also use CCTV cameras placed around the
property for extra backup. Data centers with security
staff are particularly safe, and obviously this is the
one area where the word redundancy is not a good point.
Your website is critical to your business. Whether you
are an online entrepreneur, a sole trader, or part of a
large organization you need to protect the server that
you use from damage and from potential failure. Only by
ensuring that you are using a highly effective and
professional data center can you be completely secure.
This may all seem excessive but a data center that
doesn’t provide all of this can not guarantee that your
server and subsequently your website and your business
do not suffer when placed in their hands. Do some
shopping around although obviously visiting every
potential data center in person is unlikely to be a
viable exercise so make sure that their website or their
support staff give you the appropriate information.