Guide Your Clients to the Best Colocation Deal

As a Managed Service Provider, your clients rely on you to guide them through the complex world of colocation solutions. At Data Canopy, we understand the critical role you play in helping your clients make informed decisions. That’s why we’re committed to supporting MSPs like you with expert guidance and personalized service, ensuring your clients get the best colocation deal possible.

Key Questions to Help Clients Identify Their Colocation Needs

Before engaging with a colocation vendor, it’s essential to have a clear understanding of your client’s specific requirements. Consider the following key questions:

  • Space requirements: Do they need RU, cabinets, or cages?
  • Power needs: How many kilowatts will they require, and what is their actual usage?
  • Bandwidth speed: What Mbps or Gbps speeds are necessary?
  • Compliance standards: Do they need to meet HIPAA, FISMA, or PCI-DSS?
  • Cloud connectivity: Will they require integration with AWS, Azure, or other cloud providers?
  • Contract length: What balance of long-term stability and flexibility do they need?
  1. How much space do you need?
    • This could be presented as RU (Rack Units), or as cabinets or cages. “Cabinets” and “Racks” are interchangeable terms and are standardly 42 or 48U, with variations available. Cages are enclosures built around a set of cabinets/racks.
  2. How much power do you need?
    • Power in the data center is measured in kilowatts (kW), or 1000 Watts. There are a couple of ways to calculate this, whether it is based on current measurable load, or for new gear, they all list their max wattage output. Keep in mind that most hardware does not run at max wattage consistently. Your vendor can help you further assess this.
  3. What bandwidth speed do you require?
    • Speed is the important piece here, not amount of data transferred. This is measured in either mbps, or gbps. One can typically measure current usage if there is a current environment. If that is not the case, one thing I always suggest is start low, and grow. Most bandwidth solutions within data centers are burstable, meaning you can exceed your committed limit from time to time, and can be measured and increased as needed
  4. Are there any compliance requirements?
    • Most data centers have some level of compliance, but what does your business need? Some examples are HIPAA for healthcare, FISMA for government work, and PCI-DSS for financial services companies. Different industries require different compliances, but this can help to narrow down your data center search
  5. Do you currently or do you plan to connect to a public cloud?
    • This matters if you will need access to Direct Connect into AWS or Express Route into Azure. These can help to connect data center environments to public clouds and reduce overall data transfer costs. Even if you don’t have public cloud today, it may be valuable to have the option available in the data center you select for the future.
  6. How long do you plan to reside in the facility?
    • The average data center customer stays in a chosen facility for 7-9 years. If you know you don’t plan to move in the shorter term, you can typically negotiate a better cost on longer term leases.

Once you, or your customer, can answer those key questions  when planning for a data center move, you will be positioned to get the best possible solution for your needs.

Helping Clients Compare Colocation Quotes

Once you have a clear picture of your client’s needs, it’s time to help them compare colocation quotes. Be sure to:

  • Read the fine print and identify any hidden costs
  • Evaluate cabinet details, power billing structures, and bandwidth billing
  • Assess add-on costs like cross-connects and remote hands
  • Empower your clients to make informed decisions based on their specific requirements

When procuring a new IT solution, it’s common to find that each quote received from different vendors can vary slightly, and sometimes significantly. This guide aims to highlight what to look for – and what to be cautious of – in data center quotes for those navigating this process.

Cabinets

Whether it’s a locking cabinet, ½ cabinet, or several cabinets in a cage, you’ll always want to make sure you know where your equipment will be stored and how much space you actually have. Most facilities will also let you bring in your own cabinets, if you’d prefer to bypass rental fees.

Watch out for:

  • Not all cabinets are made alike. Make sure you know the height (in rack units), the width, and the depth of the cabinet. Also understand if you have access to both front and back doors, as well what the locking mechanism is, code, badge, biometric, or key.

Power

The end-all, be-all for power is kilowatts, which is calculated as (Volts x Amps x 1000). 1000 is a unit conversation to “kilo”watts. A lot of the time you’ll see power circuits described as 120×20 or 208×30. The first number is the volts, the latter is the amperage. When determining your usable power, take 80% of the total kilowatts on the power circuit. All data centers use that to determine usable power in order to safeguard the circuit with 20% overhead on the available power.

Watch out for:

  • Quotes that show the available power, not the usable amount of power.
  • Make sure you have redundancy built in, i.e. two power circuits per cabinet.
  • Most customers over-estimate power usage, make sure you aren’t contracting for more than you need.
  • How the power is billed, as an all-in rate, or a consumption based rate (metered power). This is going to be the #1 cost driver of your quote. It’s very important to understand if you will be receiving a static, or variable bill monthly.

PDU’s

Power distribution units are easiest explained as 6 foot tall surge protectors with lots of outlets to plug your hardware into. These connect directly into the power circuits. There should always be at least two of these as well per cabinet

Watch out for:

  • That the receptacle type, matches the circuit receptacle, and the outlets match the cables you need to plug in your gear.

Bandwidth (Data Transfer vs Speed)

Direct internet access can be achieved through an on-net carrier, or through a blended bandwidth solution provided by the facility, typically measured in mbps or gbps. The “ps” is per second, and denotes speed. The other way bandwidth can be provided is by data transfer or the amount of gigabytes or terabytes moved over a period of time.

Watch out for:

  • Data transfer is often a way to limit usage, and can easily result in overage fees. It may work best for you to have a rate where you are limited by speed, rather than the amount of data.
  • It is very common to overestimate bandwidth and pay for speed you don’t need. I recommend to start low and grow as you need it. Keep in mind that overages may apply though if you exceed your contracted amount.
  • The ability to burst to a higher speed can come in handy, but keep an eye on this or ask for monitoring/alerts, as this can cause overages as well.

Cross Connects or Trunk Lines

Cross connects are connections charged by facilities to connect your cabinet to another part of the data center, typically an MMR (Meet Me Room) where network carriers are located. These fees typically carrier an NRC and MRC charge. Trunk lines are pre-run groups of fiber/copper cross connects.

What to watch for:

  • These are the most common add-on items in colocation facilities, be sure to understand the installation and recurring charges for cross connects before you start.
  • Trunk lines have their purpose, but sometimes facilities make you purchase more than you need to start. Tally up your current and expedited connections before signing for those.

Cost of Remote Hands and Eyes

Most data centers have 24/7 remote hands support. This can be used for shipping and receiving, rebooting gear, testing out connections or faulty hardware, etc.

What to watch out for:

  • Are these billed as a use-it or lose-it bucket of hours? Hourly? If so, in what increments?
  • Can you get a better rate by committing to a certain amount of hours?
  • Does the hourly rate change based on the time of day or day of the week?

Services

Some data centers offer tangential services, such as backups and cloud connectivity, or infrastructure as a service.

What to watch out for:

  • Associated costs for each item.
  • Make sure you know what level of redundancy those services provide.

If you have multiple quotes and need help deciphering between them, give us a call at 703-594-5200. We’re happy to help you find the right fit for your infrastructure requirements.

Guiding Clients Toward Future-Proof Colocation Strategies

Help your clients plan for the future by considering strategies such as:

  • Accommodating potential growth with ROFRs and ramp deals
  • Exploring flexible contracting options for colocation and cloud
  • Considering Hardware as a Service to reduce capital expenditure
  • Ensuring access to direct cloud connectivity for future needs

It’s very difficult to plan for every possible circumstance for your critical infrastructure and where it lives, but we can sure try. Below are a number of items I recommend you consider when procuring your data center space:

Right of First Refusals (ROFR’s)

  • If you believe you may need more space soon, but don’t want to be on the hook for it if your infrastructure growth doesn’t go as planned, you can ask for a ROFR. The way a ROFR works is it allows you to have essentially first dibs on a certain number of adjacent cabinets, or floor space. The facility then reserves the right to call in the ROFR, when they have another customer that may want that space, and you’ll have a negotiated period of time in which you have to either decide to take the space or relinquish your rights to it. It’s a good way to plan ahead if you don’t have a definitive answer if you’ll need the space or not.

Ramp

  • A ramp schedule allows you to plan out an increase in space/power over the course of a designated period in time. If you know or have a good idea of when you are going to grow, this is a great opportunity to tier out your spend over time with a facility, so you are not paying for a glut of space you won’t need for a period of time. Most retail customers would see this over a period of months, whereas this may be over the course of years for a more wholesale type of deployment.

Cloud-Flex Contracting

  • If you have plans for future cloud deployments, but just aren’t ready yet or are still getting value out of purchased hardware, some facilities will allow you to decrease your colocation spend over time, and increase your cloud spend. This is mainly for facilities that provide cloud services in-house, but as you start to decrease your power usage, and increase your compute usage, those costs can counter one another. This is a great option for virtualizing servers, as they become end-of-life

Hardware as a Service (HaaS)

  • This is a great way to reduce cap-ex in turn for op-ex. Typically, the largest cost of a data center deployment is the hardware that goes into the cabinets. One of the easiest ways to defer that cost is to use an HWaaS model, wherein the provider, on top of providing the power, cooling, and network, can also provide custom spec’d equipment, and bundle that into the cost of your colocation deployment. This also works with cloud servers and storage devices.

Cloud Connectivity

  • As the market share of the hyperscale cloud providers, such as AWS and Azure, continue to increase, it is more evident that a majority of organization will have at least some portion of their environment in those cloud platforms at some point. Knowing that your facility can directly connect you to those clouds and help to reduce some of the variable costs that are infamous of those deployments, is a major plus.

If you would like to learn more about how to future-proof your colocation solution, give us a call at 703-594-5200. We’re happy to help you find the right fit for your infrastructure requirements.

Video Learning Series

Watch our 3-part video series to delve deeper into the topics discussed in the sections above. Each video corresponds to a section, providing you with more detailed insights.

Partner with Data Canopy

At Data Canopy, we pride ourselves on our ability to handle colocation deals of any size while still providing the personalized attention and care your clients deserve. We understand that MSPs need a partner they can trust to take care of their clients in a way that other data infrastructure companies simply can’t match.

When you partner with Data Canopy, you can expect:

  • Competitive pricing and flexible contract terms
  • Responsive, dedicated support for you and your clients
  • Customized solutions tailored to each client’s unique needs
  • The capabilities of a large corporate brand combined with the personal touch of a smaller provider

We’re here to support you every step of the way, ensuring that your clients get the best possible colocation solution for their needs.

Learn how Data Canopy can help improve your client services.

Schedule a consultation today with our team of experts. We’ll work with you to understand your clients’ unique requirements and develop a colocation strategy that sets them up for long-term success.

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