In an economic landscape which is defined by digital disruption, and where businesses are transforming at lightning speed, you can be forgiven for thinking that the IT department isn't the natural home of innovation and business leadership. But, game changing innovations like big data and Internet of Things (IoT), which have fundamentally transformed the computing landscape, have made the role of the IT department mission critical.
Due to this, the data centre now sits at the heart of most, if not all, organisations. The innovations which are transforming business - cloud computing, social media, mobile apps, the “big data” explosion and on-demand services - can only be delivered from purpose-built highly efficient data centres. Getting the data centre strategy right means that companies have an intelligent and scalable asset that enables choice and growth. But if they get it wrong, and their entire business could fail.
When things go wrong
The increasing importance of the data centre puts disaster recovery firmly at the centre of any organisations’ priorities. The most forward looking firms know that in the event of a disaster, the continued operations of their company depend on the ability to replicate IT systems and data.
But in a difficult economic climate, some organisations report a worrying trend of “risk acceptance”. They are aware of the need for a plan but have not found the time or resource to prepare for it. Instead, they are choosing to postpone or eliminate business continuity planning from their budgets, even though they may have no plan at all in place. Security professionals are trying to counteract this by promoting a modular approach to data security, but good disaster recovery is make or break for any business.
Even for those well-prepared organisations disaster recovery and its big cousin business continuity (BC) are a cumbersome duo. One of the popular strategies is to have an external site that can support business systems, applications and customer data until the primary data centre can be returned to normal operation. However, managing a mirrored data centre is time consuming and expensive. And the alternative of recovery - an always-on architecture, where resiliency is built directly into the architecture itself - is difficult to set up and manage.
The resurgence of build vs buy debate
CIOs and IT managers are faced with an all-important decision: does it make more sense to invest in an in-house data centre or outsource infrastructure requirements? In the face of budgetary pressures that make disaster recovery an impossibility for some, the “buy” option is winning in the perennial build vs. buy debate.
Whilst in house facilities give companies complete control over all aspects of their infrastructure, building a data centre is resource-intensive and requires extensive experience. And that’s not all ; once a facility is built, organisations must manage upkeep, updating, administration, and management. With high-energy costs adding to the commitment for inexperienced or cash-poor companies, the task of building their own data centre can be an overwhelming one.
The alternative of outsourcing to a third party provides the best protection against increasing data centre complexity, cost and risk, and eliminates the need to worry about uptime. Carrier-neutral connectivity, offered by many, means that companies within the data centre environment can choose the carrier service provider that best fits their needs - and leasing a facility offers a substantially lower up-front cost. In addition, data centre providers can seamlessly allow companies to scale - quickly and easily handling growing storage needs.
But perhaps most crucially the ‘buy’ option addresses reliability concerns, as well as helping firms improve their disaster recovery and business continuity strategies. With an expert team working around the clock, data is processed with great efficiency, resulting in an ultra-reliable performance. And, when outsourcing with multiple connectivity options, the potential for carrier failure is reduced, protecting critical applications and infrastructure performance. Additionally - if disaster does strikes - put simply, it’s these companies’ business to get you up and running again as quickly as possible. With business continuity and disaster recovery such crucial tenets of success, the expertise of dedicated providers is compelling.
Maintaining a sufficient level of power and cooling is often a significant challenge for businesses running their own data centre in-house. Unless the facility is purpose-built, the organisation may be reliant on mains power and office air-conditioning; both of which create a higher-risk operating environment.
Data centre companies are harnessing new energy sources to solve this pressing issue - making progress on a scale that in-house IT managers simply cannot hope to. For example, British entrepreneurs and academics are touting the possibility of small "modular" nuclear reactors, to make even further progress in nuclear power, while diminishing some of the risks.
What to look for in a provider
Outsourcing makes sense for most organisations, particularly those who want to prioritise disaster recovery and business continuity and therefore selecting a data centre or colocation provider is a big decision for any business. Before making that decision, what you should you consider?
Organisations must ask questions about location, flexibility and expansion capabilities and of course, reliability. In addition, deployment efficiency, how quickly you need to get up and running is also an important consideration. This can be difficult to quantify into a specific stat or number, but we’d advise any company considering a data centre partner to ensure potential vendors clearly communicate timelines.
One of the biggest advantages of colocation is the ability to interconnect within a shared data centre space. Before making a selection, companies must learn about the available connectivity options. Is the facility carrier-neutral? Do they have a large ecosystem of customers already interconnecting with each other?
There is a lot to consider in terms of choosing a data centre partner, but we believe that outsourcing infrastructure is the only route to success. Looking back to our original proposition, that digital disruption is the driver for business success, then we know that the data centres which power this mega-trend are also vital to business success. Now is the time to trust the experts, and harness the power of robust and reliable data centre providers.
Darren Watkins, Managing Director, VIRTUS Data Centres
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