Data centres fall strictly in the business to business arena so the term data centre is therefore alien to the majority of the general public. Data centres are effectively large computer rooms or facilities dedicated to the accommodation of computer and networking hardware and associated telecommunications equipment. Data centres provide guaranteed regulated power supplies, hardware and network security and internet connectivity. They are usually located separately from the main business headquarters and can be owned by the business itself or by a 3rd party specialist service provider. Co-location and co-location hosting are terms used to describe the location of equipment for multiple clients within the same data centre. The huge growth in the demand for co-location services over the last couple of decades has been fuelled by the increasing reliance of businesses on mission critical IT systems.
Here are eight of the most compelling reasons for a business to outsource the housing and management of its computing facilities.
1. Cost savings
In house computer hardware often occupies precious space in prime office locations with rents at £50 per square foot per annum being commonplace in London. Locating computing facilities remotely allows this prime space to be better used. If office space is a constraint, then re-locating computer facilities may even allow the deferment of a whole office relocation. The cost of computing facilities extends far beyond the cost of the rent of course and may include a substantial energy bill for air conditioning, additional staffing to maintain the facilities and so on. Access to 3rd party data centre expertise may also provide the catalyst for server consolidation, enabling a reduction in the overall investment in computing hardware. It may also be possible to negotiate lower insurance premiums for business interruption policies as insurers encourage and treat favourably those businesses that take more responsibility for managing their own risk.
2. Budgeting and planning
Closely related to the benefit of cost reductions, yet a distinct benefit, is the advantage of predictability of costs that automatically ensues from contracting fixed cost 3rd party services over a period lasting typically several years. This removes all the risks of having to meet unforeseen costs and removes the headache of financial planning for the IT department.
Data centres have redundancy built-in to their hardware and telecommunications infrastructure so, in the event of failure of any component of hardware or service such as power failure, back up systems can provide virtually a 100% up time guarantee. Examples of resources increasing resilience are uninterruptible power supplies, dual power feeds, virtual server hosting and automated back up procedures. Many service providers have contractual arrangements with other data centres, so under extreme circumstances, data centres can be switched which is another example of built-in redundancy.
As with any specialist service, data centres are very narrowly focussed on their service and are likely to have invested far more in their facilities, hardware and expertise (or intellectual capital) than most small and medium-sized businesses could afford and therefore are able to provide a higher capability than businesses could develop themselves. Service arrangements with data centres are invariably also governed by an SLA (service level agreement) which binds the co-location service provider to maintain minimum standards of service on pain of penalties.
5. Scalability and flexibility
As the requirements of a business change, so too can the resources used to satisfy those requirements, without the client having to reinvest every time either to keep up with the latest technology or to satisfy the demands of an expanding business.
Data centres have help desks manned, in accordance with the SLA, by experts available at all times which means that you will not find yourself without support every time your IT manager is on leave.
7. Enable management to focus on core competencies
For any business to success in today’s fiercely competitive world, resources must be managed and directed so they are used most effectively in the pursuit of the organisation’s goals. This means that as much of the organisation’s management and human resources should be directed at the core business activities. Outsourcing the management of the IT infrastructure removes one more unnecessary distraction.
8. Business continuity planning
Data centres mean not having all your business eggs in one basket and therefore are an inherently effective component of any risk management strategy and disaster recovery plan. Physical advantages of co-location include higher protection in the form of air-conditioning systems in the server rooms, individually lockable server racks, fire suppression systems, surveillance cameras, anti-intruder systems and back up hardware. Network security should be addressed by the latest firewall technology and back up procedures.