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Green Tech—The Future of the Data Center

t2-december-2In the past few years, there has been an incredible surge in data center construction around the world. Companies like Microsoft, Facebook, and Amazon are spending huge amounts of capital to build them in places like Singapore, Taiwan, and Tokyo. The reason for this unprecedented growth is the expanding global need for both business and personal connections.

However, the amount of energy used to operate data centers is extreme. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, data centers are “the energy hogs of the computing world,” and a study released in June 2016 found that “US data centers consumed about 70 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in 2014… representing 2 percent of the country’s total energy consumption… equivalent to the amount consumed by about 6.4 million average American homes that year.”

This type of energy consumption places huge drains on global infrastructures. Therefore, a push to develop energy-efficient data centers is at the forefront of IT concerns.

The Definition of a Green Data Center

Green data centers are those that are designed for maximum performance and efficiency, using a minimal amount of resources. Basically, that means that all of the hardware (the mechanical, electrical, and computing equipment) is arranged and operated in a way that reduces the environmental impact of the data center. There are a number of energy-saving strategies used to reduce consumption in data centers, including:

  • Low emission building materials
  • Water reuse and recycling systems (much water is required for cooling purposes in these industrial-scale facilities)
  • Alternative energy technologies (new cooling systems, photovoltaics, and innovative heating units)

Reducing energy consumption at the data center does more than help our environment; it offers OPEX reductions for the owners.

Current Data Center Condition

Over the last decade, there has been an incredible surge in the need for industrial facilities housing large amounts of server and other hardware equipment. Designed specifically for the needs of electronics, these structures require massive amounts of environmental and security controls. However, their proximity to users does determine certain latency issues. Therefore, the abundance of affordable smart devices and increasing ranges of connectivity, combined with a plethora of new “as-a-service” offerings, has generated high demand for more data centers around the world.

The fact that cloud connectivity presents a number of cost-saving and performance improvement strategies for enterprises has also contributed to data center expansion, and even the number of providers who are “born in the cloud.” According to Gartner, IT is projected to shell out nearly $1 trillion over the next five years transitioning to cloud computing services. That type of infrastructure will depend on more data centers for support.

Green Futures

Data center development has increased, and likewise the energy required for operation. The good news is that the global commitment for developing more green facilities is strong. By investing in conservation and reuse equipment, providers will be able to transfer the savings on to the end user. In addition, although the initial capital expenditure is higher than traditional construction, a green data center delivers measurable ROI and long-term reductions in operating costs.

Finding the Right Provider for a Successful Data Center Migration

shutterstock_328634297There are several steps that businesses should consider when migrating to new data centers. Following are ways to ensure that the right colocation provider is chosen prior to migrating to a new facility.

Learn How the Provider Got Started

A data center colocation provider should have a solid understanding of the industry. Reliable providers that know what they’re doing will have a long record of operating colocation data centers and will be able to demonstrate an extensive knowledge of the industry. A good provider will not have gone through the mergers and acquisitions that other less reliable providers may have experienced.

Providers should also own their own facilities rather than leasing from others, as they may charge customers more to help pay off the facility owner’s costs for additional space.

Make Sure Providers Offer Sufficient Customer Service

Dependable colocation providers usually offer on-site customer service with localized experts. They should also be able to provide a complete track record that proves the effectiveness of their response. Providers with unskilled employees and a history of too much acquisition aren’t as likely to give customers what they need.

Pick a Provider with Consistent Facility Relocation Strategies

If a provider purchases or leases another facility, it may decide to move out of a previous one, which can be inconvenient for customers that benefit from existing local facilities. To avoid this, it’s best to choose a provider that owns its own facilities and puts the needs of customers over relocation needs.

Avoid Providers that Deal with Third Parties

Another important aspect to consider is the use of third parties for multiple capabilities. For example, a provider may partner with another company for network connectivity. If that partnership falls through, customers will need to turn to a different provider for network connectivity. To avoid this headache, it’s ideal to select a provider that offers both network connectivity and facility resources in a bundle on its own, helping to guarantee that dissolved partnerships won’t negatively affect customers.

Check for Vulnerability to Outages and Other Risks

Another element that can devastate data centers is the tendency to experience outages. Customers can suffer from severe loss of revenue if outages are frequent and last long enough. To prevent this issue, make sure providers experience minimal outages by looking at their history. A good provider will also remain transparent about any history of security breaches, fires, and other aspects of their company such as its environmental footprint. Providers with few issues are likely to help customers benefit from effective procedures and innovative systems.

With these elements in mind, businesses can better determine which data center colocation provider is right for them.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Between Colocation and Cloud Services

shutterstock_328634297When it comes to storage options, colocation and cloud services both offer tremendous cost savings for budget-minded businesses in need of an affordable and effective data storage solution. However, there are a number of pros and cons for businesses to consider as they determine which solution offers the best fit.

Consider Talent and Equipment

Businesses that already have considerable IT talent may consider the choice between colocation and cloud hosting from a cost/benefit point of view. Businesses with the skill set and budget to purchase and maintain their own equipment may see colocation as a better fit for their needs. The cost of leasing shared data center space may be more reasonable than building and maintaining in-house server space, especially when power and cooling costs are factored in.

On the other hand, businesses with a limited IT talent pool may find colocation to be a tremendous burden on staff and a drain on resources. In cases like this, cloud hosting may prove to be a more attractive option.

Room for Growth

As long as a business has the equipment budget and IT talent, colocation can offer an extremely scalable option for quick growth. However, some businesses may find it more financially advantageous to purchase additional storage in smaller increments from a cloud hosting provider.

Although the majority of cloud providers are flexible enough to accommodate fast growth among businesses, others may assess additional fees and penalties for clients who scale up heavily.

Compliance Requirements

Businesses that are required to comply with HIPAA, SOX, and other regulatory requirements should consider the risks of non-compliance when choosing between colocation and cloud hosting.

Colocation places the burden of compliance on internal IT staff, whereas most cloud providers are experienced with handling compliance issues. Colocation can also expose businesses to compliance-related liabilities, which could reach up to millions of dollars in penalties and lost business in the wake of a failed audit.

Assistance and Support Options

Support options for colocation and cloud hosting services can vary among providers. Some offer genuine 24/7/365 service, while others offer support that’s strictly limited to business hours. It’s crucial for businesses to consider their support needs before committing to a particular provider.

Some colocation providers offer “a la carte” services that provide on-demand assistance with installation, maintenance, and upgrade tasks. These services can be advantageous during periods when internal IT staff is unable to attend to those tasks.

For businesses interested in colocation, on-demand support services can be affordable for intermittent periods. However, heavy reliance on on-demand support could result in costs that exceed that of a hosted cloud.

Uptime Requirements

When it comes to near-100% uptime, self-managed hosting options may not offer the best choice unless the client has the IT experience to enforce data availability. Cloud hosting providers, on the other hand, can offer uptime guarantees that ensure continuous access to critical data. Businesses should make sure that their chosen provider has an established track record of meeting or exceeding their stated uptime guarantees prior to finalizing a service level agreement (SLA).

In the face of tight budgets, businesses are under pressure to keep their IT infrastructure intact using existing resources. These and the above mentioned issues may factor into a company’s choice between colocation and cloud hosting.

Important Considerations When Setting up a Data Center

shutterstock_388249231The requirements for storage and handling of business data have changed rapidly and dramatically over the past decade, and the amount of data and the number of ways in which businesses need to interact with it will continue to increase. This is why data centers are becoming a more vital part of business strategy every day. The decisions made when implementing a data center can mean the difference between success and failure. Following are some issues to keep in mind when setting up a data center.

​Location

There are two location options available for data centers: in-house or off-site. The need to lower costs and increase reliability and security is quickly turning the in-house data center into a thing of the past. Unless a business has specific needs that can only be met by having its data center on-site, there is really no reason to take on the equipment, setup, and maintenance costs that go along with it.

​Reliability

When selecting an off-site data center, make sure to consider the provider’s track record and infrastructure with regard to power supply, networking, and geographic location – both in terms of how likely natural disasters are to affect the data, and how easy it is for IT staff to physically visit and inspect the site. Ask about a service level agreement (SLA) and guaranteed uptime, keeping in mind that 99.999% uptime is an industry standard.

Security

In addition to the standard questions about point to point encryption, firewalls, and other software-based security measures, make sure to look into the physical security employed by off-site data centers. All the network security in the world won’t help if it is easy to gain physical access to a company’s data.

Network Capacity

In addition to looking at current bandwidth needs when setting up data centers, consider future needs based on growth projections. Further, be aware of the possibility of changing needs due to increased functionality.

​Scalability

As the business grows, downsizes, or shifts from one market to another, how easy would it be to make changes to the data center? It is important that data centers are as responsive as possible to accommodate changing needs.

Backup

One of the key components of a data center is data backup. If disaster strikes, are there copies of the data? How many iterations are kept? Are backups stored at a separate physical location?

Every business has its own unique needs that must be taken into consideration. Contact us for more specific advice on how to account for your business’s data center requirements.

Weighing Your Cloud Computing Choices

shutterstock_107141402Cloud computing continues to gain attention and momentum as companies learn about and experience the benefits of Internet-based solutions. The use of cloud solutions is increasing exponentially while traditional data center computing models are declining for the first time.

Virtualization via cloud computing creates business efficiencies, adds flexibility, increases server capacity, and provides companies with the benefits of distributed data. The positives of the cloud are universal and the cloud computing market has evolved to support four primary models for cloud deployments. Each model has its own benefits and drawbacks that must be weighed when making a cloud choice.

Keep It In-House

The idea of “the cloud” gives rise to images of equipment housed and data stored in some vague place. In reality, the cloud can reside within the physical confines of a company’s premises or at a private data center.

Private cloud solutions allow companies to provide the benefits of the cloud to employees while maintaining tight control over the network equipment and applications available to them. Companies with the resources to deploy the necessary equipment and maintain it over the life of the network may gravitate toward this option, especially if in-house control of assets is a primary concern.

Third-Party Options

Some companies, particularly smaller organizations or companies that only need the cloud for a limited time, may not have the resources or time to deploy and maintain an in-house private cloud network. For these companies, the ability to flip a switch and activate cloud services without the startup cost and work is attractive.

Public cloud offerings hosted and maintained by a third-party provider might be an ideal choice for this segment. The provider services many end users with the same resources, thereby aggregating the costs among those users and allowing each to pay only for what they need, when they need it.

The Best of Both Worlds

Many companies want the simplicity, flexibility, and scalability offered by public cloud solutions, but they are hesitant to cede such a high level of control to a third party. Enter the hybrid solution, which gives companies the benefits of both models.

Using a hybrid approach, a company can still tap the resources and benefits built into the public cloud model while retaining some control within the company. This model allows a company to adjust the network to meet its changing needs. Companies can also use a hybrid approach to offload traffic during peak usage on the private network temporarily to the public cloud.

Community Cloud

A relatively new concept, the community cloud model allows equipment to be hosted either privately or publicly. Companies may use this model to test public-cloud products and features. Within this model, servers do not have to be dedicated to specific users, but can be logically segmented among several end users while maintaining the security of a dedicated environment.

Making the Choice

Choosing the right model will depend on each company’s business environment and needs as well as the type of data that will be hosted on the network. A careful evaluation of the company’s needs and how each cloud model might fulfill those needs is crucial when deciding how to deploy cloud services.