Monday, October 7, 2013

Datacenter Colocation in Northern Virginia for Small, Medium Businesses - Business Requirements and Reasons for Local IT Outsourcing

Colocation of business IT assets (servers, storage, networking) at Washington DC regional and local Datacenters in the Northern Virginia area is big business – and entirely appropriate to consider for small to mid-sized businesses of all shapes and sizes.
What do you need to know, where to start?

(Reprinted from KME Internet Marketing - Northern Virginia and Loudoun Datacenter CoLocation Retail Providers – please send your updated contact information to us if we don’t already have it, for more information about leads and demand generation, and to participate in our local datacenter colocation marketing and outreach activities).

Your Business Depends on IT
You’re a small to medium-sized business in Northern Virginia, the Washington DC metro region – maybe even a larger, regional business, nonprofit or government entity. You operate and maintain, yourself, a growing, aging, critical inventory of information technology (IT) assets, that run the computer programs and online data services your employees and customers depend upon, and connect to the phones, computers and laptops they use. Both your capital and operating expenses on IT are consuming your budget, with little impact to show regarding support of business growth and market opportunities.

I Need Help – Converting Business Requirements to IT Requirements
This article and support is for you, the business owner or manager responsible for controlling money spent on IT, understanding and mitigating the risks to your company if the IT isn’t properly managed. You may also be a buyer of IT services, particularly colocation services – and you know about business requirements and value, but not about cabinets, circuits, carriers and certifications.  That’s our expertise, connecting the buyer to the provider, shaping and translating business needs to useful IT requirements and ultimately helpful IT services and trusted provider relationships. Are you a sysadmin, IT manager, or infrastructure engineer? Reading further might help you better understand how your business actually values IT infrastructure services, how they value your time and expertise.

IT Infrastructure Isn’t Your Business
It’s a heavy, costly burden – keeping internal or customer-facing IT systems performing well, updating them to keep up with growth and new requirements, taking advantage of new technologies all the competitors are using, and most importantly, protecting your company and customer data and information assets from damage, loss or misuse. You may also be paying a premium to retain and continually train your IT staff (of 1?), as they spend countless unproductive hours maintaining the systems, vs. improving them and finding ways to cut costs or increase output. Without sleeping.
IT devices and systems are also always changing, evolving, getting better or different.  Particularly the technologies used to main “high availability, highly-secure” systems, with redundancies and overlapping capabilities at every level. Who at you company stays apprised of recent advances and opportunities in engineered systems, memory-only databases, caching, low-latency internal networking?  Probably nobody.  But your local Datacenter colocation folks do, along with us – and they’ll likely have some very good insight and advice for you, as you contemplate moving the old stuff into a new space.

Your Office Isn’t a Data Center
Additionally, your actual IT equipment and network, including connections to the Internet and other systems, may not be as stored and operated in a facility that can preserve and protect it – perhaps there’s not enough space, cooling and fire suppression systems probably aren’t effective (do you know?), telecommunications changes are really difficult and power utilization is completely unmanaged and expensive. What if your facility or IT equipment suffers significant damage, lack of access or long-term power outages – what’s your fallback?

Your Business Risk and Legal Exposure is Significant
This is a quickly growing risk to the profitability, reputation and ability of your company to grow and succeed in today’s information-driven economy.  It’s also a risk to those who depend on you to protect their data, privacy and investment in custom knowledge and services.  Who depends on your IT systems?   Customers, employees, investors, partners, members, the local community you support. Managing this risk is bigger than your business, and probably isn’t part of your core business skills or capabilities.

There’s Great Help Available, Nearby
“IT outsourcing” is a loaded phrase, with many definitions.  Fundamentally, for organizations who fit the profile above, it’s about getting rapid, competent, local help in taking care of the basic IT support – that’s beyond your organization’s skill, budget or, frankly, interest. It’s not a core capability of your organization – but it is a core capability of your local CoLocation data center providers, all of them.  This doesn’t mean everything should be outsourced – most local business models and requirements generate a mix of IT solutions, some that should be outsourced, some that should not.

Local CoLocation Data Center Services Are the Best IT Outsourcing Option for Northern Virginia Businesses
There are indeed many types of IT outsourcing strategies for your type of company – using “Cloud” infrastructure or software services, hiring offshore or remote developers and administrators, paying for completely-managed computer services – basically, letting other IT professional services take care of your IT equipment and needs, with or without the hardware, software and expertise you’ve built up over the years.  The answer sometimes is a mix of many of these solutions, or a “hypbrid” approach – particularly when considering remote Cloud solutions.
How do you choose the right approach, plus hire and manage the right kind of help? Adopting a colocation strategy is a perfect first step – read on to find out why.

What is CoLocaton?
A colocation strategy for your local business IT assets and services simply means hiring and trusting a local Data Center (an IT Services Provider and Facility) to own, operate and manage the commodity IT and computer server facilities.  The local Data Center has made a very large capital investment in industry-leading technologies to house, protect, and monitor your computer equipment, plus provide absolute protection and nearly unlimited access to power, cooling, parts, telecommunications access, network security and all kinds of other “care and feeding” options for the computer servers that run your systems and house your sensitive data.  This includes physical protection of the machines, behind very advanced 24×7 biometric-enabled physical security measures.

Your servers and software (the assets you’ve decided are most cost-effective to run your business) are managed under the same roof as many other companies (they’re colocated), but you alone control your business and customer applications and data.  A colocation provider is like a trusted auto repair shop – it’s your car, but the mechanic owns the responsibility for maintaining the expertise, equipment, facilities and vendor-relationships to cost-effectively take care of the parts you don’t see, don’t want to fix yourself.

Note that local and regional Data Centers provide many more very private and fully-managed services for IT consumers of many types and sizes – this article is focusing specifically on the business need described above, the most appropriate solution strategy therefore being colocation.

Why is CoLocation in Northern Virginia the Best IT Outsourcing Solution For You?
It actually might not be.  However, if the following benefits match your business objectives, it absolutely is the right solution – in part (i.e. a “hybrid” approach), or in whole. The key benefit is a new relationship with a trusted partner in your local, stakeholder network – a partner who completely understands the local market and cost pressures, the local IT community and workforce, plus the local climate with respect to business and IT risk, legislation and compliance, business success factors and competitive pressures.

Did you know that Northern Virginia is the 2nd largest colocation market in the U.S.?  For lots of very good reasons, and this high profile and success among the datacenter community tends to keep the area on the receiving end of the very most advanced supporting technological innovations and expertise, from all-fiber infrastructures to environmentally-sensitive cooling and power solutions and the resulting innovations therefore in actual datacenter design and operations.

Northern Virginia CoLocation Benefits for Local Businesses
In this area, the Washington DC metropolitan region – and in particular Northern Virginia, including the very attractive Loudoun County “Data Center Alley” region – the reasons to choose a Northern Virginia CoLocation provider are hyperlocal, peculiar to this specific area of the country and the community of businesses and IT providers who engage in commercial, nonprofit and government activities.  Some of the best providers are the retail operations of the data centers themselves, or perhaps “wholesale” colocation providers, who rent space from the data centers and resell the space and services to you.
We have operated within and among all these local stakeholders (small to large) for a very long time – over many generations of IT advances and service methods, and we can confidently boil down the key reasons to choose a Northern Virginia colocation datacenter to these factors:

- You are a “server hugger” – this simply means your business, your IT staff really don’t want to relinquish physical control and access of your servers, and the information on them, to 3rd-party, non-employees.  There are many good reasons for this, ranging from legal mandates to peace of mind. Simply put, if your business needs to routinely touch and update your servers, or access them quickly for any kind of recovery or reconfiguration need – local colocation is for you. This also applies to your datacenter facilities inspection – you likely want to first-hand, in-person evaluate the actual datacenter space, security, employees, building – before actually shipping or installing your valuable equipment to the datacenter. You want to be sure your server is protected from issues relating to surges & power overloads, network outages, ventilation, ambient temperature, theft, incompetence, uncaring or unprofessional attitudes.

Social, local, professional reputation of datacenter and its personnel – the 3rd-party retail and wholesale datacenter community around Washington DC and Northern Virginia really isn’t that big, and word gets out fast (among IT professionals and local business customers) about superior service, expertise, collaborative helpfulness – or not.  Some local datacenters are fully invested in their local businesses and regional economic development, engaged and helpful to the entire business community – and are willing to actively establish and maintain custom, hyperlocal dialogue to completely satisfy the unique needs of Northern Virginia customers.  You may know the employees and managers from the local soccer field or ball game, see them at local civic events – working with local data center owners and staff who are fully invested in your business and social community is simply the right choice to make, a choice that helps both your business and the entire local business economy in the long run.  Shop local, buy local as they say.

Physical, area proximity to both your IT staff and your business leadership – yes, a primary advantage of local colocation sevices is that your own IT staff can get there fast, access the equipment quickly, at any time of day or night.  Particularly if the datacenter is close to a major airport (for expertise needed to be flown in), and outside of the major commuter arteries, traffic choke points and other bottlenecks of the region.  Loudoun County datacenters, in particular, are easy to access, easy to get to, easy to live near – for both customers and staff of the datacenters.  Another, more frequently required proximity advantage is the need for your business planners, managers or strategic business and IT architects (like Enterprise Architects, System Architects, etc.)  – to be able to work closely, in person, with the data center planning and IT strategists on project plans, business value planning and longer-term growth strategies.

Value-add services from your local datacenter make your IT activities more  efficient – gone are the 
days where your IT staff, project or business managers need to stuff all their equipment in the car, sit in the computer “cages” inside the datacenter, and end up traveling back and forth between you business location and the datacenter as the work progresses.  Many local datacenters are establishing onsite business service amenities to, in effect, bring your business closer to your equipment.  Office space and communications facilities, custom shipping and receiving services, access to local SMEs and business services assistance, office productivity facilities like videoconferencing and  document storage, and help with remote access software, processes and mobile devices are coming your way soon from your local data center provider.

Disaster recovery and business resilience -  recovery testing, preparation, configuration and actual implementation (when there is some kind of failure or outage across your systems or facilities) usually includes a lot of physical asset movement and data access, high-volume data loads and movement, transport of removable media like tapes and disk drives, rapid delivery and installation (or removal, disposal, recycling, wiping) of equipment due to damage or upgrade requirements, and physical coordination of people and operations procedures that are best facilitate by onsite, in-person collaboration. If your systems and IT equipment are physically threatened or sustain physical outage or damage – recovery is always easier if you’re close by, and have access to redundant modes of transportation, access routes, power, water and telecommunication services supply.  This convergence of high capacity, redundant services and facilities to support your IT infrastructure needs is exactly what makes Loudoun County colocation facilities so very attractive – to both users and providers.

Local IT support services, local parts and equipment supply or production, local removal, waste management or refurbishment agreements can be cheaper and easier to both negotiate and manage for your IT asset inventory – vs. remote shipping, out-of-state 3rd-party services or commodity, online service and parts suppliers.  Simply put, local datacenter services, product and facilities providers are extremely motivated to provide cost-effective, efficient solutions to local customers – earning healthy feedback, reviews and community goodwill in the process.

The local network backbone and power grid - simply put, this Northern Virginia region, and in particular the Ashburn VA area, is very attractive to datacenters because of the multiple, redundant and very cost-competitive services available from power suppliers and telecommunications carriers (over 50!) – that deliver exceptional value for low-latency, high-bandwidth requirements.  In non-technospeak, if part of your business needs access to really, really fast, “always-on” Internet or private network connections, for huge volumes of data, images, video…then a colocation provider right here in Ashburn, Northern Virginia is a superior alternative to nearly any other area of the country. Capabilities are also available to establish secure, high-bandwidth network connections among and between datacenters all over this region – which can be hugely important for large data or system migrations, upgrades, distributed content requirements, etc. This area is also not as exposed to natural hazards as others – aside from the occasional “Snowmageddon”! Because of these factors, major companies and government agencies from Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security make this area their home for critical datacenter needs.

Northern Virginia CoLocation Services – Who Are They?
Suffice it to say, there’s a mind-boggling number of choices in DC and Northern Virginia colocation service providers – from direct, retail offerings of the major telecommunications carriers and independent datacenters, to the smallest independent owner/operators of leased colocation spaces within the larger datacenter wholesale spaces.  Following is a partial list – our suggestion in reviewing this list, is to FIRST put together your BUSINESS requirements and relationship expectations for a local colocation service provider, and THEN reach out to these providers – either yourself, or with some helpful guidance from us.

Partial List of Washington DC, Suburban Maryland and Northern Virginia Co-Location Providers:
§  Terremark
§  RagingWire
§  Vazata
§  DigitalReality
§  Savvis
§  Latisys
§  Carpathia
§  Equinix
§  VerizonBusiness
§  Amazon
§  Qwest
§  HP
§  Comcast
§  Solutrix
§  InfoRelay
§  AT&T
§  EvoSwitch
§  SoftwLayer
§  ATI Solutions
§  Cogent Communications
§  365 Main DC
§  Net2EZ
§  LeaseWeb
§  Data Foundry
§  Sungard
§  Expert Colocation
§  FastServ
§  Richweb
§  InfoRelay
§  Connex Internet Services
§  Datapipe
§  Solutrix
§  Data Foundry
§  NTT
§  #1 Colocation Services
§  Advanced Web
§  Sabey
§  Lionlink
§  YellowFiber
§  Dupont Fabros
§  DBT-Data
§  COPT

Northern Virginia CoLocation Services – How Do I Get Them?
If you are a business that fits the profile described here, and you are a business owner or manager who feels colocation may meet your business requirements, there are two primary steps to take – that we can help with.

1 – Inventory and understand all the IT equipment and services you currently run and pay for, determine whether the return-on-investment (ROI) and total-cost-of-investment (TCO) you’re experiencing meets current and forecasted needs, and evaluate whether your current infrastructure and IT staff are prepared to meet the challenges of your industry, your location, your business plan.

That’s a lot of work, and you might not have the bandwidth or expertise to properly prepare to most effectively enter into colocation negotiations or an agreement – or even to properly decide how much colocation to actually use. But it needs to be done – if your IT staff hasn’t already done so.
Send us your general business requirements, IT challenge, or other information that’s driving you to consider IT outsourcing, and in particular, co-location.  We can help craft a custom “Request for Quotation” (RFQ), that Northern Virginia datacenter colocation providers can most effectively respond to – we can translate your needs into the language of the datacenter, and let you know of risks and opportunities regarding the colocation approach. We can also help “right-size” or strategize your entire IT investment, colocated or not, in the cloud or on the ground.

2 – We’ll establish contact with the very best, most appropriate candidates for your colocation business in Northern Virginia and the DC metro area – and get an apples-to-apples comparative set of quotes that meet your needs.  This includes filtering the local providers down using your business requirements, strategy and Northern Virginia business relationships context – not simply judging by commodity pricing options of power, telecommunications access and data movement statistics.  Remember that many deals and arrangements may only be available through personal, local contact – vs. nationwide, public advertisements.


You’ll receive the best advice, the best service, and the very best pricing available that makes complete sense to operating your business with IT assets in this region.

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