It makes a lot of sense to outsource your data centre to a third party. Regardless of what flavour of compute, server, data storage or management you choose – private cloud, public cloud, co-location, managed hosting – it all requires specialist skills, specialist knowledge, and dedicated facilities and management. But considering the critical role that data plays in the modern organisation, and the complexities involved, how do you know if the facility your DC provider offers is up to the task?
Not every data centre is the same. They offer different services and service levels that reflect their capability to support your business. Determining the right data centre for you starts with understanding your business requirements.
Depending on your industry you might find that due to heavy regulatory compliance around the storage and management of data that your requirements are quite prescriptive, for example:
Once you’ve worked out the non-negotiables you can match those to the capabilities and competencies of the providers vying for your business. At this point though, how do you know if what’s on offer really fits the bill? Salespeople say a lot of things, and the last thing you want is to find out that your data centre doesn’t offer the assurance you thought it did by way of an extended and costly outage.
Luckily, there are trusted and highly-regarded accreditations you can look to, to reduce the risk. The most well-known data centre standard and accreditation is that provided by the Uptime Institute.
This accreditation uses the concept of tiers to describe a minimum level of standards that reflect the design quality, performance and reliability of the data centre. By choosing a data centre provider with a particular Uptime Institute tier accreditation you have the certification which outlines the defined level of service you will attain. (You can include a minimum Tier accreditation in your Request For Tender as well.)
Tiers refer to the separate operational and design standards that are used to compare the key functional and desirable characteristic of a data centre – its availability or “uptime”. Essentially, the tiers provide a set of standards that can be used to identify how much redundancy is designed and implemented in a data centre’s operations.
The more redundancy there is in a system, the less prone the system will be to outages and the more likely it will be to remain available. Thus, the higher the tier, the more comprehensive the capabilities will be for data centre reliability. There are four different levels of tiers, with each encompassing and exceeding the level beneath it.
Note: The information provided below is intentionally high level. For more detailed definitions of the tiers, see the Uptime Institute’s Tier Standards for Topology and Operational Sustainability
Again it comes down to your business requirements and the regulatory framework to which you belong. There are costs to consider as well – understandably costs increase as you go up the tiers and there’s no point paying for a Tier IV centre if your business’s critical operations can withstand weeks of downtime without significant costs (unlikely but possible).
Increasingly a Tier III data centre is the baseline for modern business. In reality a Tier III data centre means reliability in the form of almost continuous uptime for real-time, mission critical applications. Tier III is often the minimum bar for regulatory compliance, as in the example industries we mentioned above – digital government, resources and financial services. (Of note, Metronode, data centre provider and part of the Nextgen group, have 5 data centre facilities which are Tier III certified and have offered customers 100% uptime for over 12 years.)
Obviously, there’s always some risk when you choose to outsource critical operations to a third party. But luckily Uptime Institute Tier accreditations can offer you the confidence you need to make the right decision, meet regulatory compliance commitments and take advantage of the certified performance assurances.