10 Key Questions to Ask When Choosing Your Data Center

Are you shopping for a new data storage provider? Then you already know that the choices are seemingly endless.

Why seemingly? Because, while there are countless data centers, very few of them will fit your needs to a T. Whether you’re looking for a colocation provider, a partner to support your hybrid cloud strategy, or something in between, there are no two companies that need the exact same thing from their data center.

Some of the questions below, however, have a single right answer (for instance, certifications matter, no matter how you plan to use your data center space). In other cases, the right answer depends on your IT infrastructure strategy.

1. Where is your data center located?

A local data center can be a godsend for your disaster recovery plan. Having your data center within driving distance means that you can recover your data whenever a natural or man-made disaster hits.

Heartland Technology Data Center (HTDC) is located in Jesup, Iowa—close to both Waterloo and Cedar Falls—which makes it an ideal choice for midwestern companies looking for colocation space or for other connectivity options

2. Is your data center SOC2 certified?

A SOC2 certification means you’ll be working with a reliable partner. More specifically, SOC2-certified facilities offer:

  • Better security
  • Better availability
  • Enhanced processing integrity
  • Confidentiality
  • Enhanced privacy
  • Better services overall

And it’s all verified by an independent auditor. Read more about HTDC’s SOC2 certification and what it means for you. 

3. How many cooling paths does your data center have (or: what tier is your data center)?

The number of cooling paths, along with the number of redundant and backup components in a data center tell you a lot about their uptime. The more of each, the better.

The fastest way to learn what to expect from the data centers on your shortlist is to ask what tier they are classified as. These are the basics of the four tiers and their respective expected downtime:

  • Tier 1: expected uptime of 99.671% (28.8 hours of downtime per year)
  • Tier 2: expected uptime of 99.741% (22 hours of downtime per year)
  • Tier 3: expected uptime of 99.982% (1.6 hours of downtime per year)
  • Tier 4: expected uptime of 99.995% (26.3 minutes of downtime per year)

As you can see, while the percentages in each tier seem very, very close to one another, the seemingly tiny differences make for a lot of extra downtime from one tier to another.

HTDC is a tier 3 data center with tier 4 power configuration.

4. What level of support for disaster recovery does your data center provide?

The right answer to this question depends a lot on your business structure. If you already have an in-house IT team, you may not need advanced support, so it would be useless to pay extra for it.

However, you will need some support from your data center in case of disaster. You should ask questions based on your organization’s specific needs.

5. Does your data center have 24/7 customer support?

Automation goes a long way. But when it comes to critical failures or situations that require a fast response, nothing can beat a human presence.

A data center that has a 24/7 customer presence, with a human on the other end of the line, will offer the level of support you need whenever you need it, even at 2 AM. 

While this may not seem critical for your business during the day-to-day, it can be critical in the event something goes wrong. 

6. What is your cost structure?

The ideal data center provides options for data storage levels. Look for data centers that have flexibility in their offerings so you can pay just for what you need—with the option to scale. 

At HTDC, we price data storage in blocks. We use 5kW and 2kW increments, so you can purchase any combination from 2kW up in those blocks. You can read more about our pricing here

7. What are your safety procedures?

While there is no single right answer here, as a rule of thumb, you should look for data centers that have clearly documented procedures. To get all the information you need, ask specific questions like “what do you do in case of fire?”

This will tell you how seriously each data center on your shortlist tackles safety.

8. How secure is the site of your data center?

One of the top reasons to work with an external data center instead of building and maintaining your own is that their security should be state-of-the-art. With data breaches going rampant, you need to make sure that the data center you entrust your digital assets takes security seriously.

Look for:

  • Access security measures like keycards, biometrics, and more
  • Data center rooms with no outward-facing windows
  • Alarm systems, entry authentication, and limited access
  • External security measures like fences and cameras
  • Ongoing monitoring for fire alarms, AC power failure, intrusion, humidity and temperature, UPS failure, generator failure, leaks, and more

9. Can I access the on-site data at any time?

The answer to this question should be “yes, but…”. No data center should restrict your access to your own data. However, they should make sure that it’s truly you trying to access it.

The data center you choose should have clear security policies to verify that it’s an authorized representative of your company accessing the data. Moreover, they should also make sure that the representative in question has the required clearance level to access it.

10. What environmentally friendly initiative(s) do you implement?

Look for data centers that optimize their energy consumption or opt for renewable energy sources while still maintaining uptime or performance.

Even if it’s not you who manages the data center directly, your customers or stakeholders are likely to be interested in your environmental efforts, like cooling management. Partnering with a data center that takes their environmental commitment seriously will be a major green flag for you.

Curious to see how HTDC would answer all these questions? Get in touch, we’d love to chat with you about our facility in Iowa!