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Data Center Shopping: Six Factors to Consider

Data center shopping has a ton of components, but once you’ve got the specifics down, it should be a breeze

Either you've outgrown your server space or you're a brand new company that needs to find a data center. What do you do? Shopping for a data center seems like a daunting process and it really can be, but if you know what to look for, you'll find the right place in no time.

First, you need to find a reputable broker and figure out your list of data center requirements, so the broker knows what kind of data centers to look for.

The specific requirements are where it gets a bit tricky. Let's break it down:

Power
You need to ask yourself how much power your current hardware uses. The average cabinet in a SingleHop data center ranges from 5-7 kw a cabinet. To put that into perspective, the average household alone uses 5 kw.

Other things to consider are your basic power redundancies and power codes. For example, to support our SLA and business, we need 2N uninterruptable power supplies (UPS) and N+1 generators with 2N mechanicals to ensure redundancies. One thing to look for is the number of utility codes the electrical system complies with. Generally, the more codes, the higher the quality, but the cost ends up being higher too.

Efficiency is key for us as we strive to "be green." We try to fit as many customers into one small space as possible to keep things energy efficient. We also really focus on our power usage effectiveness (PUE). The average data center PUE is 2.0, but we aim for 1.5-1.6 PUE. Some companies manage to have a lot lower ratings, between 0.8 and 1.2 PUE, but that's really unrealistic for us as an IaaS and PaaS provider. Our customers have a wide variety of workloads and supporting that requires a diverse range of power needs. That being said, our PUE is very efficient and we are proud of that.

Retail versus Wholesale
Choosing between retail and wholesale leasing spaces is an important component to consider. Getting a retail space within a data center will probably make your life easier because all the power and trimmings are already in place. Only downside is that it costs more per square foot, including the cost of utilities. When leasing a wholesale space, however, you get a section of the data center to build out. The cost is cheaper overall, but you have to design all of your own networking and power considerations.

Location
Location, location, location! You don't want to pick a place that's prone to natural disasters like tornadoes, hurricanes, or earthquakes, which is why Phoenix was a good choice for us. Obviously you can't predict the weather and a potential tornado can happen even in Chicago in the middle of winter, but you can be sure we preemptively flipped on our start-up generators - just-in-case.

In very specialized cases, you might need your data center located smack dab in the middle of the city, but the prices are way higher. We're content to have our Chicago data centers in the suburbs because the base, rent, and power is cheaper and our customers have zero need for city localization.

You also want to consider the data center's location to the local telehouse. If you're too far away, you won't be able to get a good connection, which ties right into carrier neutrality.

Carrier Neutrality
Carrier neutral means that your data center can connect to a bunch of different providers and networks, depending on your distance from the local telehouse. Odds are you already have a relationship with certain carriers, so you want to make sure your data center can connect to them. Being in a carrier neutral data center adds to the overall robustness of your network.

Design
The design of a data center is extremely important and obviously will differ depending on your company's scope. But you always want it to have network concurrent maintainability, which means that anything in your data center can be shut down and kept down for a period of time without affecting any ongoing processing. Basically, your customers will have no idea you're doing any maintenance since everything will still be working for them.

Reputation
The reputation of a data center can really make or break a deal. The best providers generally have the best designs and best quality. They also have the most facilities if your company ever needs future expansion.

Now that you've got a list of requirements, you go out and hire a broker who can narrow down the list of data centers that fit your bill. Make sure to verify the electric grids, backups, and all your other requirements. Don't be afraid to have multiple choices because you should be comparing all the different features, TI, redundancies, and carrier support to make the best selection.

Then comes the fun part: touring the data centers. If you find one that works for your company, go ahead and start those negotiations. Price, rent, early occupancy, right of first refusal, and power requirements are all up for grabs as far as negotiation goes, so don't be afraid to jump right in.

It's important to remember that each data center will differ with codes, such as in-unit and out-of-unit. It's good to partner with centers in different markets to lock in certain locations, vendors, and prices by location.

Data center shopping has a ton of components, but once you've got the specifics down, it should be a breeze.

More Stories By Andy Pace

Andy Pace has built his career in the internet infrastructure industry, holding positions at an early age as a server build technician to system administrator. This experience helped him become one of the industry’s most respected and well-known technologists. As the Chief Operating Officer for SingleHop, Andy oversees everything from data center operations, to server installs, to the implementation of new products.

While Andy holds numerous technology certifications, his most valuable attribute is his decades-long real-world experience in the field. Leveraging that experience, he brings a rare blend of technical know-how and operational foresight that helps him lead SingleHop’s world class operations team.

Today, Andy uses his talents to enhance the customer experience at SingleHop and keep SingleHop on the ‘bleeding’ edge of technology in the industry. When Andy isn't working on SingleHop’s operations or infrastructure, he leverages his technical expertise to master the science of brewing beer.

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