As I have been visiting customers for many years to discuss various IT-related matters, I have also been shown around in customers “server rooms”. I have seen everything from saunas to kitchenettes been used as server rooms (yes, in Finland some offices really have a sauna). This has lead to that I think there is a real and actual need for datacenters and server hosting, not only for large-scale international conentproviders but also to fill small- and medium sized corporates needs.

In many cases the need to get some servers for a specific purpose have been solved by contacting the “IT company”, who then of course have sold the company the hardware and dedicated servers they need.

The server-environment is set up in the customers “server room” to do what it was purchased for, without thinking too much about how it fits in with the corporates other IT-solutions. After a few years something breaks or just slows down, the “IT company” is contacted again and spends some time to figure out what’s wrong (was everything documentated ?) and suggest that the best solution is to get some new hardware because the old hardware just doesn’t have enough capacity or even broke down due to overheating that really hot week this summer, when the AC in the server-closet just wasn’t enough.

The hype about cloud services might be a bit torn out, but the idea of hosting servers in the cloud still stands – you don’t have to worry about the practical issues regarding the environment for the in-house servers.

A few things to concider when you have critical data in-house:

Security

Do you know who really has access to that server-closet at the office ?  Is it even locked, or can the server-hardware also be picked up by burgelers entering the office to steal laptops, computers etc ?  Servers looks expensive. A server isn’t really that expensive, but of what value is the data stored at the server to the corporate loosing it ?  Maybe there is the whole customer database, all manufacturing documentation, blueprints and maybe even accounting-data including payroll data. And even if the data is backuped somewhere else – how long will it take to restore the data that given that the part-time IT-guy remembers how it is done ? (and the backup-routines really has been working)

 

Electricity-feed

If the office looses power-feed for an hour or two that isn’t by itself a problem, no one at the office still can do any work.  But say the servers in your closet serves external customers – like a webshop, that your whole business is about ? If the other server is just for internal use, it might not be that bad to loose power for a few hours – it just stops when the UPS drains out (did someone remember to check the UPS lately ?). However, when a server looses power there is always a risk in something eg. a harddisk breaking and failing – causing again a lot of work to fix and can have a great impact on your business while the webshop is down. You may be loosing some deals and some money that can be a calculated risk, but the reputation of your company when your popular webshop is down can’t really be accounted for.

 

Cooling

Many of the “closets” I have seen, have a pretty low-end AC installed. That’s fine, it works. Did you remember to order maintenance service for it to keep it going ?  Did you think about what happens when it for some reason stops working that friday evening after a couple of years ? The heat produced by a few servers can really do severe damage to the hardware, and the temperature in a small room raises very fast without cooling.  During the summer the AC needs to work hard 24/7, and the consumer-targeted AC might not be designed for that load. If you installed two separate AC-systems you are better of, since you are continously monitoring the ACs and gets notified if one breaks. Did you notice that one of them haven’t been working for two months ?

 

Backup

Even when your in-house datahall is the best ever built, it would be foolish not to use some cloud storage or hosting-service for locating copies of your data-backups. In a worst case scenario, you can run your website or webshop out of the off-site location while rebuilding your environment if a disaster really occured. Ofcourse the same goes the other way around, always think about locating a copy of your data-backups in some other data center or at your office – you still have somewhere to place a non-critical hardware for backups as long as you monitor that it is working.

With todays access to high-speed fibre connections at a fragment of the cost compared to say 10 years ago – it really doesn’t matter practically if the corporate server-environment is physically located in the office or outside the office. What is more important is that the server-equipment is located in a space where the environment is ideal.

So, if you haven’t already started thinking about locating your servers in a secure and purposly built datacenter, maybe it is time to start thinking about it.  There are a lot of datacenter providers out there and none of them is perfect for all.

Pricing is one thing. Flexibility is another.

You can move your physical hardware to a datacenter (“Colocation”) or you may be in a time when you need to renew the hardware. At that point you should really look in to a datacenter solution with virtual servers (“VPS”), which gives you ability to “pay as you grow” and increse capacity when your needs grow.  Also you don’t have to think about investing in new hardware say every three years. That part would be some one elses problem – you just get the capacity you need and can combine existing solutions with the new one and do a controlled migration over time.

Another aspect is the size of the datacenter provider – is it just another startup trying to get some quick bucks with cheap VPS-services or a really serious player backed by real experience. Is it a really large player where you as a customer will be lost in the crowd or a smaller player where every customer matters and will be served there by.

If you need help figuring out whats right for your company, North Shore DC can be there for you. We can provide the services for you or if we are not the right provider for you we can still help you find the optimal solution with another provider – as mentioned, one doesn’t fit all.

Please do not hesitate to contact me – I would love nothing more than to come and see that your server-room is state-of-the-art 😉

 

William Lindén,
CTO & Director of Sales
North Shore Datacenter