Are you protected? Featured

7:00pm EDT January 29, 2008

Outside, independent data centers play a dual role in the protection of a company’s equipment and data. While providing security and stability to a company’s critical data, the facilities also allow companies to avoid major capital investments.

“A data center’s infrastructure is built to provide protection,” points out Margi Shaw, Chief Operations Officer of CIMCO Communications. “Data centers can offer a safe haven for your communications equipment and can also help to free up your IT resources to work on more significant business issues.”

Smart Business spoke with Shaw about the benefits of using an outside vendor, what to look for when choosing a data center and the types of services available from a data center provider.

How can a company benefit from using an outside, independent data center?

Independent data centers offer you the physical diversity of your infrastructure presence without having to buy or rent another facility. There is an extensive investment associated with building your own data center, not to mention the staff required to manage it on a daily basis. Many times, companies look at adding a data center to an existing facility, but the additional IT personnel that would be needed could increase your operating expenses. Outside vendors provide you this additional, separate location and the protective capabilities associated with it, minus the overhead costs. The significance of this separate location is that it provides redundancy and backup to your primary physical site.

What should companies look for in a data center provider?

A data center should first and foremost be able to meet the goals outlined in your disaster recovery and business continuity plans. Most plans outline location as being an influential part in the decision-making process. Many companies need to be a certain distance away from their primary location, but still have the ability to easily move staff over to operate in a hot seat environment. If your staff will not be able to do this, then it is important to consider the expertise of the staff at the data center. There will be certain applications that will reside at the data center, and it is important to know that the staff and engineers can provide advanced support when you need it. Ask simple questions. Are the data center’s technicians certified? Who is on its client list? What is the longevity of those clients? The answers will offer insight into the reliability and quality of the facility.

What type of environmental controls should be in place?

Environmental controls are an extensive component of the benefits a data center offers. They help to maintain a balanced environment within the facility and provide the most security for your equipment. Temperature is a critical element. As the facility fills up with customer equipment, it gets hotter and hotter so you want to make sure that the provider has an HVAC system, which maintains the appropriate temperature to protect your data. You should also consider the type of fire suppression agents available. A waterless suppression system is ideal and will help stop any additional damage done to your equipment. Most importantly, there should be proper alarming and notification procedures in place in the event that there is an incident involving the environmental controls.

What is the difference between co-location and managed hosting?

Co-location refers to renting space in a data center. With co-location, you get a cabinet with power but you install, maintain and manage the equipment. In some cases, a company may move its own equipment into its co-location cabinet and then use the underlying provider for application management.

Managed hosting doesn’t require you to have a physical presence at the data center. You can purchase managed applications or managed servers that are in a common space and are 100 percent managed by the underlying provider. This arrangement allows you to pull space or applications as you need them without having to invest in hardware as you would within a co-location facility. With managed hosting, the underlying provider is responsible for the equipment; if equipment requires upgrading you don’t even notice — it just happens.

How do managed services increase the efficiency of an IT department?

Managed services extend the eyes and ears looking at your network as well as the physical hands working on your equipment. With data centers, all of the backup services are handled turnkey by the provider’s staff, preventing you from having to invest in additional IT staff. The provider’s staff essentially becomes an extension of your staff. By alleviating the amount of time it takes to maintain hardware and platform connectivity, you are allowing your IT staff to focus on more significant business issues.

MARGI SHAW is Chief Operations Officer of CIMCO Communications. Reach her at (630) 691-8080 or