What should you look for in a data center facility?


We are looking at a couple companies for data backup and business recover solutions. Of course, every company has a "state of the art" facility, but here in the real world, what certifications and design choices are actually meaningful and important? I'm not talking about the hardware/software in the facility, we have plenty of people available who can evaluate that, I mean the actual physical design/construction/standards. As one guy here put it, the greatest hardware in the world isn't worth much if it's in a cardboard box in a rainstorm.

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Following up on what Christopher said, I would make sure that the physical construction and design of the facility were in line with the types of weather/natural disaster events one might expect in that location. For example, if it is located in an area that is prone to hurricanes, it should be constructed to withstand high winds and large volumes of rain (and not be located in a floodplain). Backup power should be sufficient for days, not hours, which generally means large diesel generators. Another thing that is sometimes overlooked is the physical security of the facility. The company we contract with for online back-up and recovery solutions has 24/7 physical security, and is fenced and gated. One thing that you can look for to help ensure that the data center is reasonably secure is SAE SAS70 certification. 

Christopher Nerney
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I'm assuming you've visited these locations. If not, that's the first thing you have to do.

I recently talked with several data center managers for a white paper. As far as the physical facility, they all said it's critical to make sure the DC can't be flooded, whether it's a cardboard box in a rainstorm or a large room in a basement.

You also want to see how the data center is maintained. Is it being used as a storeroom? Is it restricted to appropriate personnel or is it a free-for-all, with people coming and going, hanging around, eating and drinking, etc.?

This is all above and beyond making sure the data center has enough available power and cooling, as well as a disaster back-up plan.

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