Working through the Covid-19 lockdown: What to look for in a datacentre partner

In this guest post, Darren Watkins, managing director of colocation provider Virtus Data Centres, talks about how Covid-19 has changed what enterprises want from their datacentre partners.

More than 100 million people are in strict lockdown across Europe as governments and health systems attempt to battle the spread of the devastating Covid-19 Coronavirus pandemic. And, while normal life has effectively ground to a halt, it’s become increasingly clear that the digital infrastructure that underpins the systems and services we use is vital in holding the world together.

From coping with spikes in internet traffic as the world logs onto Netflix, to keeping a nation of remote workers connected away from the office, few can doubt the importance of the datacentre to our lives right now. So much so, datacentre operators have now been deemed key workers by the UK Government, because of the role they play in delivering critical services, vital communications and much-needed entertainment to the public at-large.

Colocation comes into its own during Covid-19

For individual businesses, the stakes are also high. Companies that have got their datacentre strategy right will now benefit from an intelligent and scalable asset that helps keep their show on the road.

This is where colocation excels. An increasingly important option for organisations wanting to focus on their core business operations and reduce their capital investment in infrastructure construction, many companies are now choosing colocation partners to take full responsibility for their physical environment when they simply cannot – either due to cost, expertise or both.

Organisations tend to stay with their selected datacentre provider for a significant length of time, so making the right decision for today and in the future is critical. Here are some key considerations.

Location, connectivity and reliability

Businesses rightly expect low-latency and reliability from colocation providers, with zero tolerance for downtime, so being connected and always-on is a fundamental requirement.

A major factor in making this happen is location. Though data itself is not physically tangible, the infrastructure and power needed to store and transfer it are. For example, how data is stored and accessed is affected by local infrastructure, power resources, and geographic location. A good choice of location means an optimised infrastructure and application environment, whilst poor location can result in unstable connections and efficiency problems.

When it comes to networking and connectivity, it’s important to ensure your provider can deliver advanced, carrier neutral, networking capabilities in line with the organisation’s needs. For companies operating a hybrid cloud model, connectivity to the right carriers is critical. Companies should be aware that whilst some datacentre providers can build the best high-performance computing platform, without connectivity provisioning on-ramp to other clouds, businesses won’t be able to adopt a hybrid cloud strategy.

In the wake of the Coronavirus, it’s important to remember that working practices, legislation and attitudes to working conditions and or safety can vary significantly from country to country. Similarly, rules regarding remote working, remote access to data, and on-site attendance can vary widely depending on where you’re operating. And when it comes to end users, whose digital usage has increased and changed during the lockdown, their demands also need to be paramount. Low latency, access to good networks and power, and guarantees of 100% uptime have become basic needs. In this respect, location has perhaps never mattered more.

Security and business continuity

Unfortunately, a time of crisis presents an opportunity for some, and there is plenty of evidence that cyber criminals are already capitalising on the fears and vulnerabilities of the oronavirus outbreak.

There has been a significant spike in phishing email scams featuring Covid-19 lures, spoof government tax refunds and numerous fear-mongering messages.

With cyberattacks on the rise, even more so in today’s climate of home working, it’s crucial that a datacentre provider can guarantee they’ll keep your mission critical company hardware safe. By choosing the colocation route, organisations benefit from 24/7 controlled access, battery back-up and diesel-powered generators that start automatically if power were lost – and compliance with the important ISO 27001:2013 certification.

During times of crisis, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, datacentre providers must have stringent Business Continuity Plans in place, which can quickly and effectively be deployed, ensuring that security isn’t compromised, no matter the external factors.

The best datacentre providers have developed specific pandemic preparedness plans. They have adapted processes, implementing changes such as shift segregation with no movement of personnel between shifts, no-contact handover, more automated operations (such as remote / smart hands) and no-touch entry where access is required. They have also identified services for deep cleaning appropriate to data centre environments.

On a broader level, providers are scrutinising their supply chains in order to ensure they’re robust and can deliver, and companies are working together in order to share best practice.

Flexibility is key

If there’s one thing that’s characterised this pandemic, it’s uncertainty. From an inability to model when the virus might peak in each country, to long-term doubt about when the nation will be able to get back to work. Or at least some level of pre-pandemic normality. It’s been difficult for experts to predict what is likely to happen next in these unprecedented times.

For businesses, and their relationships with datacentre providers, this means flexibility is crucial. Even before the pandemic, long-term, rigid, datacentre contracts were no longer palatable for many global cloud and digital organisations, where the fast pace of business and technology often required them to change direction quickly. Right now, the ability to flex and scale as required is increasingly critical.

Indeed, if enterprises and IT agility are held back by antiquated and inflexible datacentre platforms or contracts, they won’t be able to react quickly in line with fast-changing business plans – which is needed more than ever today.

As we move through this period of extreme uncertainty, it’s crucial that we effectively manage the digital infrastructure that is enabling businesses and ultimately the economy, to function. The critical relationship with your datacentre provider can be the difference between keeping your company running, and failing to survive. Consideration given to these important factors when choosing a supplier at the outset, to ensure that your datacentre partner is able to guarantee service levels performance, security, reliability and uptime – even (and especially) through the current crisis, could pay substantial dividends in the long-term.

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