Choosing a data center to host a colocated or
dedicated server is a mission critical task that may determine your
web property's success. To help elucidate the most important aspects
in selecting a particular data center host, The Hosting
News has turned to web hosting industry experts for answers. We
asked three top experts in web hosting data centers to tell us what
they would look for if they had to choose a data center for a
dedicated server or colocation.
Phillips, is Vice President of Marketing and Sales at FastServers.Net,
a company which offers a unique combination of strategic assistance,
advanced technology and profound system administration knowledge
applied to its core products - dedicated servers and managed web
hosting. Mr. Phillips provided his '3 Key Elements' in choosing
where to place your next server.
''Element 1: The data center
needs to be redundant, you hear the catch phrase all the time but to
meet the high availability standards you should ask the following
Describe the facility cooling with specific models
and sub-systems in place. How much power per rack is provided and
how many servers do you place in a rack? (Remember servers generate
the heat, the more servers the hotter the data center will
Describe power to the racks, battery backups, and diesel
generator power and more importantly describe the specific testing
procedures in place.
Describe the network and how it is
physically brought into the building, are the network systems
redundant with divergent paths? Can a single network provider outage
bring the network down? Do you have 3rd party analytics to verify
N+1 is the key industry term you are looking
for. In selecting a data center that is N+1, the provider is
claiming not only redundancy but that "cold spares" are standing by
in the event of a double failure. The formula is a good industry
standard to get a base knowledge of knowing your server(s) are going
to be located in a great facility. In selecting the data center it
is also important to consider location - all of the above are
irrelevant if the data center sits in areas prone to flood,
earthquake, tornados, or locations susceptible to rolling black
outs. These locations are red flags that problems outside the data
center operator's control may result in downtime.
Technical Support must be available pursuant to the needs of the
customer, but the minimum should be 24x7 remote hands. The need for
more advanced support will require both remote hands and support
engineers to ensure the necessary services are being provided.
Knowing in advance what type of support is associated with the data
center of your choice should help to determine crucial deployment
strategies which will include the following:
which provides you console access to the server - meaning if you
have a kernel panic, blue screen of death, or need to adjust bios
settings you can remote into the server and have the same direct
access as you would sitting right in front of the
Remote Reboot, which provides power cycling of the
server in the event it becomes unavailable.
important part of this element is understanding your own skill set
and selecting a provider that fills in the gaps. Managed services
can include items such as server monitoring, software support,
operating system support, backups, anti-spam services, and much
more. Determining your own specific needs will help you find the
perfect provider the first time around.
Element 3: Partners
and Vendors of the Data Center or Solution Provider
often I am looking at pictures of data centers claiming high
availability and superior technical support at a very low price.
What I see in the pictures are rows upon rows of Desktop Computers
(Tower Cases). These servers are based on cost providers a fraction
of the cost by using sub-standard PC components. This is the first
red flag that a data center is less than desirable to host mission
critical applications. Lower end components are more likely to fail,
generate more heat, and utilize components that are not meant for
mission critical hosting. If the provider is providing you with
'white box' servers or computers, they most likely haven't invested
in N+1 infrastructure.
Tips for identifying these
Ask for pictures of the data center, including
where the servers are located.
Ask for a live tour, meaning
you will come onsite to view the facility.
Ask the provider
if they use rack mount servers, the brand, and the reason they
selected the specific servers.
All solutions providers are
not equal and when it comes to selecting a quality provider,
understanding the facility, your needs, and the components that are
inside the data center will help you make a wise decision. There are
plenty of budget providers that provide 'floor space', 'power', and
'white box servers' and will claim data center status. Don't be
fooled by these providers, ask them questions, ask for proof, and
make your own evaluation based on solid evidence!''
Darrell Hyde is the Director of Network
Operations at HostMySite.com, a trusted name in web hosting with
a well deserved reputation for the industry's highest levels of
support and service. HostMySite.com has been a key vendor of managed
web servers in addition to its shared web hosting services. The
company owns and operates its own data centers which were designed
based on real-world experience since 1997. The company has recently
introduced a managed virtual private server product line. Below
are Mr. Hyde's comments on selecting a web host and data center.
''What do I look for in a web host? What's interesting about
this question is that though I've been running data centers for the
better part of 10 years, I've never actually had to look for one.
What's also worth pointing out is that looking for a data center is
very different than deciding where to host a dedicated server. For
sake of the discussion, let's assume you're a company with no
interest in getting into web hosting, looking to host a server or an
application. You're not looking for a data center - you're looking
for a web host.
Web hosts basically operate in one of two ways - either they
collocate their infrastructure in a data center or carrier hotel,
leaving things like power and environmental conditions up to someone
else, or they build, run, and maintain their own facilities. Having
worked in both environments, and being someone who likes to have his
hands on every little thing, I'd have to say I prefer the latter.
Now that we have that out of the way, when evaluating where to
host a dedicated server, understanding the lights lights-out
capabilities of your prospective hosts is very important. By
lights-out capabilities, I mean what are their capabilities when
your server is down and completely unreachable. How soon can they
have a tech looking into the problem? If hardware has failed, how
soon can replacement parts be made available?
If data needs to be
restored, how quickly can this be done? The point I'm making is that
when things are going well, most hosting companies are the same -
its when the chips (or rather the servers) are down that you find
out if you're really getting your money's worth. And finally - how
willing is the host to put their claims into writing in the form of
an SLA that guarantees credit if they fail to meet their
Beyond service, there are a number of important technical details
that are worth investigating. First, how is the host connected to
the Internet? Do they have multiple carriers? What type of
media is the connectivity delivered over, and how diverse are their
What is their total aggregate capacity, and how
close do they come to maxing out during peak times? And of
course, can they survive the failure of one or more carriers with
little to no customer impact?
Multiple carriers, diverse facilities, and the ability to survive
the loss of one or more of either are a must. Fiber gets cut,
construction crews make mistakes, and from time to time upstream
routers fail - these are things that will never change. What's
important is that your host has put the time and money into building
a network (and employing the people to run it) that can survive
these kinds of events.''
Brent Oxley is the
founder of Host
Gator, a strong player in the reseller, shared and dedicated
hosting space. The company built its brand and reputation by
offering resellers the ability to host unlimited sites, backed by a
turnkey reseller solution and deep expertise in support. Mr. Oxley
is a true rising star in web hosting entrepreneurship. Below are his
thoughts on selecting a great data center.
''Years ago when
Host Gator was in it's infancy stage we chose The Planet to
provide us with three dedicated servers. The decision to go with The
Planet was made by doing research on their reputation, uptime, and
support. Our company had no way of knowing the future - so the best
we could do was examine the track record they had at the time. We've
grown from our three servers with them to over 1,700 servers and
over 500,000 domains hosted. The datacenter that houses your servers
is the very foundation of a web business, and who you choose to go
with can spread or extinguish your companies very existence.
There are thousands of companies out there so you first need
to come up with a list of candidates. The best way to get this list
is by putting it together based on those with the best reputation,
support, and uptime. You do this by asking for recommendations,
reading hosting forums, and really just getting as much information
as you can from as many sources as possible. One of the biggest
mistakes I see startups doing is going with a flavor of the month.
You can take the risk of going with a new company, but keep in
mind the longer a company has been in business the better your odds
they are going to remain in business. Smoke and mirrors only last so
long - don't fall for a flavor of the month.
recommendations and reading information online is great, but you
should also get your own first hand experience. I recommend testing
each company's support by calling and submitting support tickets at
various hours and days of the week. A hard drive can grind to a halt
any time of the day, if and when it does you are going to need
someone standing by their support desk ready to jump on your