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Choosing a post-pandemic data centre provider: Why experience matters

Image: Adobe Stock / Connect world

Just like in any relationship, it’s always preferable to have a partner that knows what they’re doing. Here, Darren Watkins, managing director at Virtus Data Centres highlights what you should be looking for in a post-pandemic provider.

The Covid-19 pandemic saw the data centre industry rise in importance, as reliance on internet access for work and leisure became a necessity for everyone. The nation’s new dependence on technology brought the industry into sharp focus – without data centres, the digital economy simply wouldn’t run.

Although the public may still not be fully aware of the critical role data centres provide to underpin the internet, for businesses, data centre strategy is now firmly on the boardroom agenda.

There’s a simple truth that CIOs are fast waking up to – if they get their data centre strategy right, they’ll be able to respond to market challenges, meet customer demands and evolve and grow at pace. But get it wrong, and they’re likely to be hamstrung, with continuity and growth stymied.

Finding a trusted data centre partner has never been more important. But with plenty of new builds and new names in the market, how do organisations go about finding a provider that can serve their needs both now, and in the future?

Meeting the big capacity challenge

We’ve heard the phrase ‘new normal’ a lot over the last year, and in the world of remote working, it is particularly pertinent. Home working has become the norm for many industries, and we’re likely to see the practice embraced for the long term, by companies that appreciate the flexibility and productivity benefits it brings.

The pandemic has boosted ecommerce significantly too – with consumers who are used to getting goods and services quickly and easily, and are unlikely to return to relying solely on in store shopping.

All of this extra online traffic requires a vast amount of storage and computing capabilities. Selecting a data centre partner that can provide enough capacity for the digital world and its demands, and adapt and flex to their customers’ constantly changing needs is essential.

And, perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s the data centre operators who can demonstrate a proven track record in this area who are likely to be successful in gaining new customers, and forging long-term positive partnerships.

A commitment to the environment

While the benefits of data centres are clear, we can’t get away from the fact that the industry is power hungry. The environmental impact of the sector is being increasingly scrutinised, and the Government has decreed that the industry can (and should) be carbon neutral by 2030.

However, there’s already good work being carried out by some of the leading organisations. The most experienced providers are starting to become powerful voices for change, playing a central role in lessening the impact on the environment.

Some are making public commitments to minimise their environmental footprints, invest in renewable energy, and devise long-term plans to improve their sustainable efforts. They are becoming strategic in how they run their facilities, from what and how they purchase their energy to how they cool the data centre, and everything in between.

However, in assessing providers’ sustainability promises, once again, it’s a proven track record that is imperative. The data centre providers that can show experience in delivering against ambitious sustainability targets, while simultaneously delivering on customer demands, are best placed to provide the service needed today.

An informed approach to innovation

The data centre industry is constantly looking to innovate, with all providers making great strides in everything from cooling systems, to security, to monitoring. 

However, only the most experienced data centre providers are in a position to take their previous learnings of every design, build and operations project they have undertaken and develop best practice and new strategies, based upon their years of experience.

Looking to the future, the most forward-looking providers are reviewing new trends like immersion cooling, alternative sources of back-up power and the wider adoption of fuel cells as a standby energy source.

It’s likely that we’ll see great progress made in the years and months ahead. Indeed, data centre providers must keep using their experiences to innovate if they are to meet the needs of both their new and longest serving customers.

Learning from the past  (when things go wrong)

Experience really shows its value when things go wrong. No matter how much planning has been carried out, with robust processes defined to mitigate problems, equipment will fail for one reason or another.

But when the worst happens, it will be the monitoring, reacting and these operating procedures – evolved over years of practice – that ensure customer experience isn’t negatively impacted.

Only with experience and longevity can providers build robust processes, tried and tested in live scenarios, to ensure the best possible levels of service.

And this is where a proven track record and solid experience really matters. Experienced data centre providers are able to confidently provide service level guarantees that offer 100% availability of power and cooling and 24/7 physical security.

There has never been a more critical time for data centre providers, but there has also never been this level of scrutiny and pressure to deliver.

The primary indicator of whether a provider is right for your business or not, can often be reflected in their experience, in the build, operation and maintenance of their facility. 

Do they have the knowledge to cope with anything and everything that an evolving business landscape throws at them? And do they have a solid and relevant track record in delivering consistency in product and service, over time and in the regions that are important to them?

If the answer to these questions is yes, then it’s likely you have a partner who can support you both today and tomorrow, fuel business growth and ultimately help power your success.

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