November 16, 2010, 9:18 PM — While tech companies are trying to outdo each other in data center design and energy efficiency, small businesses still can find choosing a data center a tough proposition. Entrusting your company's data and valuable information to someone else needs additional research and a certain confidence level with customer service.
A business may need a data center to continue its growth, but there are a few things to know before signing a contract. Whether it's about security, emergency plans, or cost, here are few questions to ask.
1. How Secure Is Your Physical Site?
The answer to this open-ended question could be as long as a white paper or a SANS Institute data center checklist. Physical security is essential for data centers and is the first line of defense. Each data center should be a standalone building with at least a 20-foot, fenced perimeter and a secure, cool core of servers. It should be located a distance from your office and monitored by cameras and guards who require photograph IDs at two security checkpoints.
All employees should be cross-trained so they can handle a disaster situation immediately if one occurs. The data center should have an emergency plan in place that requires back-up generators, offsite backups of essential information, and servers at another data center than can be switched over. To prevent downtime in case of an outage, make sure the data center receives electricity from at least two separate utility substations.
2. What's Your Virtual Machine to Physical Host Ratio?
One of the ways to keep costs down is a higher virtual machine to physical host ratio. There needs to be a four-to-one ratio to break even on server costs, but most servers can easily handle more than a dozen. Using efficient virtualization will cut down on expenses on servers, electricity, and space--saving your business money.
3. What Are You Doing For Energy Efficiency?