Be careful, though; sometimes the lowest-cost option comes with what Stahl calls "interesting risk." He shares an anecdote about a municipality that went this route and found that its email address became blacklisted. "The vendor managed the entire IP block of addresses for all its tenants, including their email," Stahl explains. So when one of the municipality's virtual neighbors was caught doing a nasty spam operation, the entire block of IP addresses was blacklisted, Stahl says.
It will cost $150,000 for the municipality to switch colo vendors, and it "has to try to invoke breach and all that," he says.
There are different methods for finding a vendor. Large enterprises generally work through their in-house real-estate professionals, says Jeff Paschke, senior analyst at Tier1 Research. For smaller customers, some of the retail vendors have direct sales staffs that you can work with. Also, there are a number of free colo-finding sites on the Web, reachable by typing "colocation price comparison" into your favorite search engine. But Paschke advises caution: "This data isn't 100 percent reliable; there isn't necessarily any quality control done" on some of these comparison sites.
There is at least one vetted database of colo providers, available from TeleGeography Research; pricing starts at $5,500 for a single user and goes up from there. -- Johanna Ambrosio
For a number of organizations, the idea of building out a second site often arises from a desire to create, enhance or save costs on an enterprise business continuity strategy. "With our new site, we really wanted to improve on the response time from any kind of a failure," Burch says. Kemet was also looking for a way to escape a costly relationship with a disaster recovery (DR) services provider, he adds.
Analysis showed that the new facility would trim recovery time from 72 hours or more to a range of five minutes to 18 hours, depending on the system category. The annualized cost of the new facility would be about the same as continuing the current DR contract.
Given all that evidence, Burch decided to go with colo. And in addition to the DR features, now the company has "a modern test and development environment with a three-year refresh cycle," Burch says. "Basically, we got a new data center with new equipment and communications lines with zero change in budget.
"One month after go-live on the new data center we conducted a test recovery of the systems previously covered under our DR contract," Burch explains. "We recovered all of the target systems in less than 10 hours." He notes that the dramatic improvement over the previous recovery target of 72 hours or more included "normal delays from recovering on new equipment in a new location and using new procedures."
To maximize the new data center's business continuity value, Burch and his team decided to place a significant amount of distance between the new facility and Kemet's headquarters. "We felt like we had to go at least 100 miles away to avoid the types of disasters that lead to electrical substation problems -- large storms, those sorts of things," Burch says. The team ultimately fudged a little bit on its distance mandate and settled on a Columbia, S.C., location, some 90 miles away.
Beyond business continuity, Burch says the new data center was designed to fulfill another key goal: to provide a test and development center that would operate independently of the main facility. "Probably 95 percent of the hardware that's down there is being used for test and development instances of our applications," Burch says. "In the event of a disaster, it will just automatically convert from that role into running our production systems."