Of course, the market for data center space varies from location to location. A recent Wall Street Journal article, for instance, talked about an oversupply in the New York-New Jersey area. In general, though, many analysts say there's an undersupply of colo space in key locations.
One reason this is important is because some shops opt to have their second data center near their main facility so they can stay close to their gear. Paschke calls the people who run these shops "server huggers" -- IT executives who want to be able to reach out and touch their servers, even though the goal in most data centers is to automate much, if not all, of the systems management. If your main office is in a high-demand area, it might be difficult to find a nearby colo facility.
More factors to think about when going colo include deciding upfront what you're willing to pay for. Some customers need mega-bandwidth for instant response times and require stringent service-level agreements, and some choose to have telecommunications links to several providers for backup purposes, in case one telecom vendor goes black. Others aren't so concerned. "Some people don't care; milliseconds don't mean that much to them," says Jonathan Hjembo, senior analyst at TeleGeography Research. "Customers just need a ridiculous amount of different things," he notes, adding that such diversity is pushing the market forward.
Other considerations include security -- both physical and virtual -- and backup infrastructure, including power, cooling, fire suppression and the like. Customers also need to discuss their future needs with their would-be colo partners, to make sure the vendors will have enough space for the customer's anticipated needs for the next few years. And be sure to do a financial analysis.
When somebody mentions "colocation," a lot of IT staffers hear "outsourcing" -- and naturally begin to worry about losing their jobs or influence, analysts say. "People are resistant to change," says Tier1's Paschke.
If you choose to go the colo route, your staff will probably need some time to get comfortable with the idea. Info-Tech's Stahl suggests an evolutionary approach in which you begin by using a colo facility as a backup data center and later use it to handle more critical, first-tier kinds of hardware, storage and applications. "Once that happens, customers start to wonder whether it's the best use of a server admin to go to the colo facility and mess around in the cage for a day," he says. At that point, the company may be ready to consider managed services for some of its IT functions.
A staffing issue that's often neglected until the last minute is the need to hire qualified people to work at a secondary data center, says LexisNexis' Williams. Sometimes enterprises opt to use the colo vendor's on-site experts, but other times they simply lease space within the facility and staff it themselves.
"Obviously, you're going to do local hiring," Williams says. But he notes that a remote data center has different staffing needs than a primary site. Since secondary data centers generally don't have as many management and administrative jobs as main sites, hiring tends to focus on technical individuals who can easily move between multiple tasks. "You want a small staff that can actually do a number of different things," he advises.
Still, Williams notes that LexisNexis had no shortage of Dayton data center staff members volunteering to transfer to the new location. "If it's in a nice location like Scottsdale, everybody is raising their hand to move out there," he says.