How to choose a colocation facility

This last month we begin a move to a new colocation facility.  For a web hosting company, the choice of a colocation facility is one of those choices that directly influences how much sleep you get at night.  Someday I'll put up the litany of reasons why we are moving. 

We started our search by looking for potential candidates in our geographical area (Dallas).  We made a list and submitted our request to one of thecolocation finder websites . We choose Quote Colo ( http://www.quotecolo.com )  They worked with us each step to help us get a list of colocation facilities. Quickly we had several contacts.  Next we set out a questionaire that we asked each one to respond to.  This questionaire became the basis of who we would narrow the list down too.

 Jonathan managed our search for a new colocation home.  He spent a month on the phone and visiting different places in the Dallas - Fort Worth area.  He narrowed it down to three that had good answers to the questionaire and scheduled a day for several of us to go and visit. He had already visited each one and ranked them on 'client' appeal.  The short list included

  1.  Aspen
  2. Level 3 Reseller
  3. Colo4Dallas
  4. Switch and Data  - Did not make the short list - but gets an honorable mention.

They each have their strong areas. Aspen has the best curb appeal of any of the three. They are located in a high rise building in downtown Dallas. If you need to really impress a not-to-technical client, the building is very impressive.  Level 3 will impress any technical minded client - with what seems like acres of racks and bandwidth by the petra bytes.  Colo4Dallas is a reasonable building - easy to park next too, plain and unassuming.

Aspen appears to have several very large clients and a small colocation area open for small companies to put racks into.  My problem with Aspen is that the hands-on aspect - the people you call when something goes wrong at 1:00 am and you need someone to reboot the server - is handled by a third party company. I'm sure it can work for them - but I want one company to call - preferably the one that I'm paying each month.  The other nagging concern I had was that if something bad goes wrong - I as a small company might not get the same attention as their larger clients.  ( BTW - if you are a saleperson - don't stretch the truth - it really hurts your credibility.  The salesperson told us that 'this is one of the most secure buildings in the nation.' - Really? I worked for a national lab - I know a secure building - and this doesn't hold a candle to what I used to have to go through to get to work.  It just starts everything off on the wrong foot to stretch the truth.)

Level 3 - is well, Level 3.  The facility is awesome, large, huge well powered, very secure, and has some of the best bandwidth in the country.  The tour was long and tedious. Our tour guide could have been a robot for all that he listened to us.  For example - I said that we did not need to see a particular area, he proceeded to take us through it anyway.  I had the feeling that he had a specific map to follow and could not/would not deviate from it. It made me wonder if I need something flexible in a setup - would they be flexible enough to accomadate my needs.  I felt like my couple of racks could be quickly lost in the maze of telco and colocation rakcs.  If I had a need for 40 racks - their private suites would be the way to go.

Switch and Data. This would have been my first choice except for one thing. Their remote monitoring is excellent. Their facility is perfect in the neatness, cleanliness area.  Security was good.  The one thing - they do not have 24x7 staff at each of their Dallas locations. So if you need something in a hurry - the personnel might be somewhere else and would have to drive to get there. They would not give us the response time that we wanted in the contract.

So the winner is...

Colo4Dallas.  Here's why.  When we walked through the facility they answered every question.  If we needed extra space for a month to try and win a client - they could provide it.  Their network connects were impressive. They have a good understanding of the need for redundant everything - and the need to test every redunacy.  We sat in their conference room and grilled them with questions.  We described situation after situation and they responded with grace and clarity.  I got the feeling that they were really on our side and would do whatever made sense to win our business.  Unlike Level 3 or Aspen, I felt like we were going to be an important client to them. The only drawback is the outside of the building - it does not have the curb appeal of Aspen, but once you are inside - that is quickly forgotten.  We've moved two racks of equipment to them - they have been very responsive to our needs and schedule.  If you call them - tell them I sent you.

I converted our checklist into a pdf.  If you see something we missed - let me know so I can update it.   Colocation Checklist