When I visit my clients’ data centers, I often see the same mistakes repeated over and over. When I find the time to speak with the IT managers – or the owners- I find out that those mistakes stem from three different facts:
- Lack of proper planning
- Lack of proper operations
- Lack of proper business mind
The planning phase starts with the projected growth of your business, which will drive the IT, which in turn will require more resources to meet the needs of the business. Many businesses start with the “enough for today” decision, just to see it turn against themselves when the business begins to take off. Always think about 5 to 10 years later and always assume that you will be growing with the projected rates, not with the current rates.
The first thing that you need to consider in terms of your data center is the floor space. If you do not plan for the floor space, it will prove much costly to expand it when the time comes. Of course this takes the power supply and cooling into consideration. When you are designing your data center, you need to account for a generator and an uninterruptable power supply (UPS) at the very minimum. The generator and the UPS also has to have the capacity to feed the cooling equipment in addition to the servers and the network infrastructure. Although one generator and one power supply looks enough, there may be cases when you need to purchase a second generator for failover purpose and a more capable UPS – if you are planning for a hotel’s data center for example.
Of course, “enough for today” also applies to the server and network capacity. You can work with one or two servers for today – which is enough – but when you need to deploy additional servers, there will be a deployment time. This deployment time is the sum of the purchasing decision, purchasing process, delivery time, data center implementation, installation, configuration and deployment times. If you are purchasing servers from well-known vendors, the whole deployment time can take about, or more than, 8 weeks (no, this is not an exaggeration, vendors state delivery times as 4 – 6 weeks). That means, when your business begins to take off, you will not be able to provide it with the necessary power for about 2 months. The customers and the business lost due to the lack of the IT resources will be much more costly than the initial incremental investment that you would have made to purchase a more powerful server.
You also need to reflect the same planning in your data center. Given that you have enough floor space (you just planned for that), place the racks so that you can service the equipment both from the front and the rear. Make sure that a tall person can service the bottom-most equipment with ease while holding his laptop connected to its management port. Also make sure that all the cables and patch panels are correctly labeled and smartly connected (just as a side note, from an IT manager’s perspective, I honestly believe that the correctly labeled and a tidy datacenter should be one of the performance criteria of the IT staff).
In the planning phase, do not forget to plan for security and remote access. Often, the business owners fail to accept the back-stab fact, which is the internal threat from the organization. Once this happens, the shock and the remedies take quite some time. To take a preventive measure, at least, you have to plan for the physical security – these times you can purchase a biometric access control device and software for about USD 300 retail price. You can collect the access logs on a server or on a controlled computer which has additional or different security measures.
Security also applies for the remote access. Although you need to provide yourself remote access to your data center, both on and off premise, the access should be secured as well. Even if you go for hosted solutions, make sure that you have access to your servers with methods other than those provided by the host; don’t go for just a control-panel-type gateway.
Once you have planned for your data center, you have to make sure that it is operated properly. The lack of proper operations either boosts your investment or trashes it, which I discuss in full detail in the next article in the series.