Vox Pops: finding a datacentre partner

Choosing the right datacentre partner to host cloud services for you can make all the difference. Not asking the right questions could lead to loss of vital services and data for your clients or yourselves. The Margin asked a selection of industry players ‘What are the most important things to look out for when choosing a datacentre partner?’

Jaco van Wyk, founder and MD, Snapbill says: “Redundancy, security and the ability to scale efficiently were some of our most important considerations when we decided on a datacentre partner.

“We provide a SaaS billing solution and require extremely high availability with the ability to scale, at a moment’s notice, while maintaining secure storage of sensitive financial information.”

Location was another important consideration. “The majority of our business customers are based in South Africa, but we eventually had to compromise on this as there were no local solutions which satisfi ed all of our requirements,” he says.

“Amazon’s Web Services (AWS) cloud was the only feasible solution at the time. Amazon has a global datacentre footprint, flexible and efficient scalability coupled with high redundancy solutions. The Amazon team were also one of the only service providers with PCI DSS Level 1 compliant datacentres, which assists our compliance efforts in storing credit card information.”

Garth Francis, MD, Xepa Consulting says: “In my experience, the most important factors include the amount of bandwidth available within the datacentre, or how much internet connectivity is available, closely followed by how secure access to the datacentre is.”

Francis believes that security requirements are two-fold.

“Keeping everyone out who should be kept out,” he says, “but making it easy and efficient for service providers like ourselves to gain entry via biometrics and other means, to access our own systems and those of our clients.”

And there needs to be a good degree of planning for other types of risk. “The nature of the redundant systems in place for fail-over should a disaster occur, such as fire, water incursion, electricity outages, must be considered, as should ease of access to support should anything go wrong in the datacentre.”

Jacques Loubser, GM: Cloud Infrastructure Services, Business Connexion believes there are a number of factors to consider.

“The reliability and availability of the datacentre facilities’ infrastructure is of utmost importance. If high availability is key to your business then Tier Certification is the metric to look for, as this will indicate the level of certainty that your systems will be available as required and/or as expected.

“It is also important to confirm that the service provider’s processes for maintaining the environment follow best practice and that physical security is properly enforced.

IT infrastructure is the next key differentiator, says Loubser. “The service provider needs to prove it offers the capability and flexibility to satisfy your business needs.You need to understand your service provider’s strategies in terms of performance improvements and currency of technologies, especially the technology roadmaps, and how that will satisfy your changing needs into the future.

“Thirdly, the service provider must have the correct mix of skilled resources, who are appropriately certified and trained. Service excellence is also non-negotiable.

In some cases, location can be a differentiator too, he adds. “Supply of reliable power and services to the chosen location must also be assured.

“Lastly, the service provider needs to be competitive with pricing of services.However, sometimes it is worthwhile to pay a small premium to ensure that you are using a service provider with a proven track record that can supply the previously mentioned components to satisfy your business needs with high levels of reliability and availability.”

Johan Woest, COO of TransUnion Africa offers an end-customer perspective. He says there are three aspects that are key in selecting a datacentre partner.

“The first is trust. Outsourcing a datacentre is like outsourcing your body’s heart to someone else. If the relationship is not built on trust, we believe the arrangement will increase the risk profile for the organisation.”

The second aspect is the datacentre tier level.

“This is vital in that you need to be able to ensure certain capabilities of recovery to your own customers and shareholders. Choosing the right tier will encompass issues like redundant data, water and network supplies and the management capability of all services you make use of.”

The final critical factor to consider, says Woest, is security. “This is particularly important if you are a business that has sensitive client data; you need to ensure there are sufficient controls and security measures in place in the datacentre to protect this and keep it as safe as if it were in your own datacentre.”

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