Shifting your server hosting to an offsite datacenter – perhaps as a collocation deployment – has a number of advantages. You can in theory sleep comfortably knowing that a team of professionals is monitoring your server infrastructure and that redundant network feeds, power backup, and cooling systems are keeping your servers up and available for your end users. Beyond a general awareness of what services a hosting provider offers and who they should be contacting in the event support is required, many organizations remain pretty much in the dark about the actual datacenter environment and operations required to host their business.
Getting to know your datacenter offers several advantages, first and foremost being that you really get what you think you are paying for. At the earliest stages of contract negotiations, it is common for mid-to-large-sized organizations to schedule on site visits to one or more of the datacenters that will be hosting their infrastructure. Doing this has the benefit of putting faces with names – allowing for easier communications in the future – as well as validation and verification of security procedures, power infrastructure, and general competency of the staff on-site. Beyond the site visit, most companies also require a detailed network schematic that illustrates all connectivity into and out of their collocated environment, taking care to highlight any and all redundancy built into the environment. If nothing else, this serves to point out any single point of failures, if they exist, so you at least know the risks and mitigation plan before an event occurs, instead of being caught by surprise at some later date. For organizations who place a high priority on green computing, it is also important to get an accurate breakdown of the energy efficiency of the datacenter, in terms of the total power being consumed by the facility, the total power being consumed by computing equipment at the facility and the breakdown of the power being consumed by your organization’s own infrastructure. For those new to collocation, do not shy away from asking for the details as these are the sorts of facts and information that most large companies insist upon before moving forward.
The final point that should be mentioned is that the best-run collocation environments typically have a very accurate and up-to-date database used to track all hardware and software installed in the datacenter, along with a complete maintenance and patch record for all of the components – often accompanied by a hyperlinked diagram that allows the viewer to drill down to the details on each component. This allows any engineer working on the environment to quickly get an accurate picture of what is in place when rapid action is required.
Even if you have a shared hosting account, it’s important to know these details. Remember, web hosting is the life-blood of your online business. If your web host has problems, rest assured you’re in for problems too. A little due diligence on the front end can save many headaches in the long run.