Enterprises embarking on the selection process for a co-location vendor find it difficult to sort through the commoditized services offered by vendors. While most organizations begin co-location engagements on a basic level of service, it is important to evaluate the vendor’s services as a whole. Many organizations find themselves tied to a vendor that cannot support their growth and future service needs, which results in the need to change vendors and incur switching costs. Whether or not recovery services are required at the time of selection, they are important for IT to include in the evaluation process in case of future requirements.

Organizations looking specifically for co-location of recovery services, or just basic co-location services can benefit from including recovery services selection criteria in co-location vendor evaluation. Use such criteria to:

  • Differentiate vendor offerings.
  • Mitigate the chances of needing to switch providers in later phases of co-location.
  • Choose a vendor for recovery services.

Key Selection Criteria

When beginning the selection process for co-location recovery services vendors, refer to the following criteria and examples to aid in selecting criteria that fits the enterprise’s specific needs before soliciting vendor information. Note that criterion is in no specific order of importance.

  1. RTO and RPO specifications. A vendor’s recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO) should at least match the organization’s requirements. Ensure the vendor is able to provide basic site or facility recovery services to operate effectively within the organization’s RTO for a specified time (i.e. within 12 hours), and RPO for a specified time (i.e. within 24 hours).
    • Can the vendor provide details on all basic site or facility recovery services?
  2. Recovery site ownership. In case of an outage or issue where data has to be transferred to the recovery site, it is important to know who is responsible and has ownership over the recovery site. If it is a third party (i.e. another operator or vendor) that owns the recovery site, the organization may want to include them in an assessment as well.
    • Is the target recovery site owned by the vendor or provisioned through a third party?
  3. Recovery site location. The vendor’s recovery site location should be a safe distance away from its primary site in case of natural disaster or wide spread power outages. However, if the recovery site is located in another country, the organization may run into compliance issues. Determine the distance the organization requires the recovery site to be at, in order to assist with vendor selection.
    • Is the target recovery site located at least (specify distance, i.e. 75km) from the primary site?
  4. Standardization. A standardized recovery methodology should be employed within the vendor’s operations and shared with the organization to communicate processes and procedures. In any shared facility, and particularly with shared DRP facilities, there is an element of over subscription. Therefore, it is crucial to closely examine the process used by the vendor to assess risk and impact for each of the customer’s assets, hosted or outsourced. Leading vendors are able to demonstrate a clear and mature business impact analysis to identify severity of impact as an input to recovery scope, timeframe, and priority.  Ensure there is a solid recovery strategy in place and that it is tested regularly, defines responsibilities for both the vendor and the organization in case of an incident, and includes a clear business impact analysis.
    • Can the vendor provide sufficient details of their recovery methodology and processes?
    • Are vendor recovery needs/process responsibilities, versus customer’s responsibilities, clearly defined?
    • Does the vendor methodology, as described, include a clear and mature business impact analysis to identify severity of impact as an input to recovery scope, timeframe, and priority?
  5. Recovery terms and procedures. The organization should be aware of the vendor's recovery invocation terms and procedures in case of an incident. These processes should be clearly defined and standardized.
    • For a declaration of disaster, can the vendor provide details of service offerings including monthly, and any exception, pricing?
    • For recovery testing, can the vendor provide details of service offerings including monthly pricing, any exceptions, and number of tests per year included?
    • Are resources available to the organization during both test and recovery operations as a part of the standard offerings (i.e. vendor personnel, physical space, site technology)?
    • Can the vendor provide details regarding the hours and level of support available including such things as pager, alert, or escalation availability?
  6. Pricing. Many vendors offer tiered pricing for recovery services (e.g., “standard” versus “enhanced”). Have the vendor provide detailed (unit) pricing for each of items listed in Table 1 and define which services are standard and which are enhanced. Billing for recovery services can be broken down a number of ways:
    • Access/availability. The ongoing monthly fees where the customer pays for access or availability to the recovery site when there is a need.
    • A one-time fee associated with the declaration of a disaster. This fee is actually meant as a deterrent. It evolved because companies would occasionally use the site for testing their environment; not for DR testing. Most of the old DR sites were shared subscriptions which meant that when one company was in the DR site using it for non-DR activities, other customers experiencing a real DR couldn’t gain access to the recovery site. In light of this, vendors began charging a fee to declare the disaster to prevent this from happening.
    • A fee for operating within the site. Fees for the days the customer is actually in the site. The contract may specify a number of days and usage that is included, and any time spent operating in the site over that specified time limit is billed at an additional daily or weekly rate.
    • Is there a standard pricing table available for the vendor's recovery services?
    • Can the vendor detail exceptions and any exception-pricing to provide standard service?
    • Can the vendor detail exceptions and any exception-pricing to provide enhanced service?

 
Table 1. Company X - Estimated Build Costs

Source: Info-Tech Research Group

Greenfield Build for 1000 Sq. Ft. Facility

Costs

Initial Investment

Year 1

Year 2

Year 3

Year 4

Year 5

Year 6

Year 7

Year 8

Total Lifecycle

Room build at $600 per sq. ft.

$600,000

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

$600,000

Ongoing Expenses

 

Maintenance Contracts (for UPS, fire, cooling etc.)

-

$36,000

$36,000

$36,000

$36,000

$36,000

$36,000

$36,000

$36,000

$288,000

Totals

$600,000

$36,000

$36,000

$36,000

$36,000

$36,000

$36,000

$36,000

$36,000

$888,000

Table 2. Company X - Estimated Co-location Costs

Source: Info-Tech Research Group

Co-location

Costs

Initial Investment

Year 1

Year 2

Year 3

Year 4

Year 5

Year 6

Year 7

Year 8

Total Lifecycle

Transition Costs (Labor)

$10,000

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

$10,000

Ongoing Expenses

 

Rack Costs

-

$15,732

$15,732

$15,732

$15,732

$15,732

$15,732

$15,732

$15,732

$125,856

Power Costs

-

$17,280

$17,280

$17,280

$17,280

$17,280

$17,280

$17,280

$17,280

$138,240

Cat5e Interconnects

-

$10,800

$10,800

$10,800

$10,800

$10,800

$10,800

$10,800

$10,800

$86,400

Fibre Interconnects

-

$3,240

$3,240

$3,240

$3,240

$3,240

$3,240

$3,240

$3,240

$25,920

Internet Connectivity

-

$10,800

$10,800

$10,800

$10,800

$10,800

$10,800

$10,800

$10,800

$86,400

Totals

$10,000

$57,852

$57,852

$57,852

$57,852

$57,852

$57,852

$57,852

$57,852

$472,816

 

Recommendations

  1. Narrow co-location vendor search with basic and managed services criteria. Most enterprises start by examining co-location basic services; however, there are dozens of vendors that offer co-location services. To establish criteria for vendors’ basic offerings and narrow down the search, refer to the ITA Premium research notes, “Selecting a Server Room Co-location Vendor for Basic Services” and “Server Room Co-location: Managed Services Vendor Selection Criteria.”
  2. Evaluate co-location vendor’s recovery services. Even if recovery services are not required at the time of vendor evaluation, IT should still include recovery services evaluation criteria in the search for a co-location vendor, to avoid switching costs later on. However, if recovery services are the prime requirement, then these services should take priority over other services offered.
  3. Use a common scoring method. All services and vendors should be evaluated based on a common scoring method. Refer to the ITA Premium research note, “Selecting a Server Room Co-location Vendor for Basic Services” for a suggested scoring method, and the ITA Premium, “Server Room Co-location Proposal Scorecard” for help in evaluating all aspects of co-location vendor services.

Bottom Line

Enterprises evaluating co-location vendors must sort through a commoditized market of basic services. Whether or not IT plans to invest in recovery services provided by the vendor, these capabilities should still be assessed before choosing a vendor. Include recovery services selection criteria in the search for a co-location vendor for a complete evaluation and to avoid switching costs.

More: Time-Saving Tools For IT Pros.

Access a free server room co-location template

Access a free server room co-location site visit & evaluation checklist

 

© 1998-2009 Info-Tech Research Group. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission.

Info-Tech's products and services combine actionable insight and relevant advice with ready-to-use tools and templates that cover the full spectrum of IT concerns. For more information, go to www.infotech.com.

 

 

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