How to be the perfect host

Are you looking to put your customer’s data up at the Hotel Colo? Nick Booth has some tips for finding the perfect host

When technology resellers morphed into service providers, nobody really advised them on the etiquette involved. The disciplines of box shifting - pushiness and a personality unconstrained by empathy – don’t work that well in the cloud service industry. Customers want constant hand-holding. (To be fair, they always did, but these days they can expect to get it.)

Some of the channel players we’ve met over the years possibly lack the charm to be a perfect host. At least one distribution boss I used to drink with – catch phrase “I don’t suffer fools gladly” - has taken up property development instead.  

He got out because these days, customers don’t want to feel they’ve dumped their data in a dusty depot. They want to feel like their precious assets are staying in a hotel. So if you are a reseller-turned service provider looking for a charming co-location partner, here are some tips on finding the right host for your customers’ data.

1. Charm

The most important quality in a host is charm. You need to reassure your guest that you are sensitive to their needs and aware of your duties to keep them happy. The acid test of a sensitive ear is a straight answer to a question. Ask any IT company “what do you actually provide a solution to?” If they can’t tell you what business problems they solve, why on earth do they call themselves ‘solutions provider’?

2. Immaculate Floors

When companies come to visit a hosting company, they’ve got no idea what they’re looking for. To the untrained eye, a clean data hotel and a hazardous one look more or less the same. (The air born particles that will do the damage to their circuits are too minute for the naked eye). So it’s always good to give them a visual hint. Polishing the floors is likely to impress visitors although, ironically, this can actually kick up dust off the floor and put it in general circulation, which is more likely to dampen the performance of all the sensitive electrical equipment.

3. Cleanliness

You can tell a good hosting company by looking in their cleaning closets, says Brendan Musgrove, managing director of specialist data center cleaner Cordant Specialist Services. “If their vacuum cleaner isn’t a five stage HEPA then forget about them,” he says. Hosting aficionados will know that a HEPA is a high efficiency particulate arrester. Didn’t you know that? Well I hope you’re not in charge of hosting!

4. Bedding

You data will be bedded down in some servers, but unless they get a good airing, your poor little processors could risk being choked by dust or over heated.  According to Musgrove, you can tell a lot about a company by the way their cables hang. The server may look lovely and pristine but go round the back, he advises. If it’s a tangled knot of unmarked cables, that’s a Medusa which –like the mythical greek beast - could one day turn your business processes to stone. Look away immediately!

While averting your gaze, you might want to look at the state of the place ‘under the bed’ in the ducts below the floor. You see some horrifying sites in some data hotels, which should be enough to see a host marked down by any vigilant cloud hotel inspector. Cigarette packets, old drinks cans, sometimes even sandwich boxes get chucked away. The engineers think nobody will see them. Oh, but they do!

5. Chemistry

A good host will always make sure the right chemicals are available to help out their guests at ease.

But nothing corrosive, mind you, because that can lead to a collapse of your party. In fact it could lead to a total wipe out. For example, the wrong fluids, when applied to certain parts of the equipment, can cause flaking, warns Musgrove. Some cleaners, in a bid to impress, actually apply corrosive fluids to their client’s chassis. This can cause Zinc to bubble up. If a zinc flake should get whipped up by the circulating air, it can land anywhere. Though fragile and light enough to be carried by the wind, these bit of metal are sufficient should they land on a motherboard, to cause a short circuit between the components and crash the system. So an entire cloud could be brought down by a flake!

6. Decor

Your customer’s data won’t be bothered what the hotel building looks like, but you should. There must be no static at all, says Mick Higgins, managing director of H&S Decorating Specialists. Few laymen would have imagined that interior design was important in a data center, but the choice of paint is crucial. Anti static paint is a must, and that will show up on your bill.

7. Deportment

The choice of personnel is even more important, says Higgins. Never trust a company that skimps on security guards. “You need people who are reliable, know the environment and know how to behave,” says Higgins. Ex-military staff make ideal data hotel porters and doormen.

According to Andrew Hillier, co-founder and CTO at automated resource juggling company CIRBA, checking data in and out of facilities is run on the same principles as a well-run hotel. Like any hotel, first impressions count.

So do your best to be a charming host. Anyone who lacks human empathy, language skills and the ability to listen should follow my distribution friend's lead and get out of the IT service industry.

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