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Where ColoSpace shares its knowledge & expertise.

ColoSpace Co-founder and Chairman Aaron Sawchuk will share his expertise on various topics within the industry every 2 weeks. If you have any specific questions or topics you would like him to cover, feel free to contact us at ColoEDU@ColoSpace.com.

 

Redundancy

Can you explain what redundancy is?

When we talk about Redundancy at ColoSpace, we are really talking about what investments we have made so that even in the face of physical or mechanical failure, customers do not experience an outage or loss of service.

Can you explain the difference between N+1 and 2N redundancy?

There are two main redundancy standards that exist in the data center world. N+1, which means for every necessary component in a system, there is one extra. So for example, if you need four air conditioning units to cool a space, you have five.

2N Redundancy means for every necessary system that is needed to support operations, there are two. So in the air conditioning example, if you have one system that is needed to keep the space cool, you have a whole second system.

Is there a standard redundancy for data center construction?

The standards for redundancy within data center construction vary widely. We see differences with what our competitor's think is an acceptable risk versus what we do (we generally invest significantly more to avoid potential downtime), and we see even greater differences between what end-users build and maintain vs. what we recommend.

The reality of data center operations is that data centers are incredibly complex and are supported by dozens of mission critical systems that can experience issues due to mechanical failure or user error. ColoSpace conducts regular risk analysis exercises at all of our data centers to make sure that we continue to improve operations and reduce the likelihood of failure.

Can certain aspects of the infrastructure have different levels of redundancy? And if so, is it on the potential customer to ask the right questions?

This is a great question because as I indicated above, not all service providers use the same designs, and some are more likely to cut corners than others. It is incumbent on the customer to educate themselves about the differences in the way the data centers are designed and what the likelihood of failure may be.

When searching for a data center, where should redundancy rank in order of importance?

I am a firm believer that the most critical decision-making criteria are redundancy, security, operational track record, and cost. You can't ignore any of those factors when making a decision.

 

Build vs. Buy

Generally speaking, is it cheaper to build or to buy?

All things being equal, it is less expensive to rent data center space in a colocation facility than it is to build and operate an internal data center, and when performing the build-vs-buy analysis, it is critical to look at both the capital cost of building and also the long-term cost of operating the infrastructure.

Can you discuss economies of scale and how that affects the cost of buying?

The primary reasons for colocation being less expensive is, with an outsourced option, the end-user takes advantage of the economies of scale that exist with building and operating a much larger data center. It is far cheaper, per square foot, to build and operate hundreds of thousands of square feet of space, than it is to build and operate a much smaller space.

Besides potentially lower costs, what would be other benefits to buying vs. building?

The second factor that influences cost is that, as a provider, ColoSpace has a large enough footprint that we can employ our own Infrastructure team consisting of electricians, HVAC engineers, and other facilities staff. This allows us to maintain equipment better, experience fewer failures, and save a significant amount of operating expense.

A third benefit, and one that is not always recognized, is that outsourcing to a colocation or cloud provider is also a way to significantly reduce a company's carbon footprint. ColoSpace's data centers operate with an industry-leading Power Usage Effectiveness (PuE), which is a measure of how energy-efficient our operations are. A typical internal data center is going to use 2–3X more electricity than what we engineer and build.

Is there a situation where it does make sense to build rather than buy?

Historically, there were a significant number of firms that would build-out internal data centers instead of relying on colocation. They did this for two main reasons: 1) Security and Compliance and 2) Quality of Service concerns.

ColoSpace can easily address the security and compliance concerns with our SSAE 16 Audit. This audit, performed by a leading third-party firm, is a testament to the huge number of policies, procedures, and controls that we have in place to address concerns around security and our operations. We are extremely proud that we have been participating in this process for the past eight years and have had eight consecutive exception-free reports—passing with flying colors every year since the inception.

For Quality of Service, the biggest concern was the user experience as applications and data are moved out to a data center or into the cloud. ColoSpace offers an array of services to address these concerns—our highly available Managed Internet bandwidth, Desktop-as-a-Service, etc. are all designed to deliver a user experience that is as good as or better than an internal solution.

If a company were to build out their own data center and then try to sell down the road, in your opinion would this be a benefit or detriment to the sale?

This is a great question, and it is something we talk a lot to our Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and healthcare customers. At the end of the day, you are going to pour hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars into the upfront cost and hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in ongoing maintenance costs into building and operating an internal data center. In the event of a sale or merger, you are going to be sitting on a fully depreciated asset that is more of a liability (with the high on-going maintenance costs) than a competitive advantage. In the end, you will have invested a lot of money and received no credit for it after a sale or merger.
 

Backup & Storage

What is the difference between backup & storage, and is it necessary to have both?

There are many different data storage technologies to choose from, but in every case, Data Storage is the primary home for a firm's data, whether that be files and folders, server Operating Systems (OS), or the contents of a database.

Data Backup is a second (or third, or fourth) copy of a company's data. In order to be effective, that backup data should be on a totally separate piece of hardware or on separate resources in the Cloud.

How does Data Backup fit into a Disaster Recovery (DR) Strategy?

In order to recover from data loss or a similar disaster, it is essential to have that second copy of data, so data backup is integral to a successful DR strategy. However, having the data backed up is seldom enough to survive a disaster. Companies should also have the data off-site and have the ability to access the data remotely.

It seems like most companies are using the Cloud for a lot of their storage & backup needs. Is this accurate, and if so, why has it become so popular compared to other solutions?

Data Backup and Storage represents the fastest growing of ColoSpace's portfolio of cloud services. They have become very popular because they are extremely cost-effective and offer the customer the ability to only purchase the capacity that they need (utility pricing), and they are by definition very scalable.

Customers can take advantage of the massive economies of scale that exist for ColoSpace to deploy thousands of terabytes (Petabytes) of capacity across its footprint of data centers, and again, only pay for what they actually need and use.

In terms of retrieval time, which solutions are the most accessible and which are the least?

From a data backup perspective, we are seeing more customers deploy a hybrid data backup solution, first backing up the data locally and then replicating that data backup to a second off-site location or Cloud. This allows for very rapid restorations in the event of a local failure, but also provides an entry into Disaster Recovery by getting the data off site.

When looking for a solution, what are some of the top considerations they should consider before choosing one?

When considering either a new Data Backup or Data Storage solution, the most important considerations are what are the business objectives driving the need. From a Storage perspective, those are almost always Quality of Service/Performance and Security.

From a Data Backup perspective, the most important considerations are how quickly it takes to restore data (Recovery Time Objective) and how much data loss is acceptable (Recovery Point Objective). With Data Backup there are also considerations around technology and compatibility, but today ColoSpace offers solutions that can support virtually any application and operating system.

 

Managed Services

Who leverages managed services?

Organizations large and small benefit from ColoSpace’s Managed Services. Businesses in industries as diverse as Manufacturing, Healthcare, Financial, and Professional service industries leverage them because they face business challenges, IT challenges, and many times both. These customers tend to find themselves struggling to keep up with growth, compliance, cost containment, uptime, and simply building better products. Customers who also have a limited IT staff, knowledge gaps, or who need coverage 24x7x365 with an 8–5 staff and those who must focus on adding business value come to ColoSpace for our expertise, depth, and breadth managed service offerings.

What is the difference between Primary Data Storage and Data Backup?

This is an excellent question and more often than not a great source of confusion within technical discussions. Very simply, storage refers to housing your primary data files in a secure location that is readily available to access by your applications. Storage options may include Network Area Storage (NAS), Cloud Storage, or Storage Area Network (SAN). ColoSpace's NAS and SAN solutions provide very solid, high-performance storage but differ in that a NAS typically operates on file basis, while SANs present storage at the block-level.

Backup refers to preserving additional copies of your data in a separate physical location from data files in Primary Storage. Storage systems often provide mirroring, in which data is written simultaneously to two drives. This is not the same thing as backup since alterations in the primary files will be mirrored in the second copy. Backup preserves older copies so you can restore your data if accidental deletion/alteration or a disaster such as fire, flood, or hardware malfunction damages your data in storage.

ColoSpace's Backup Solutions range from multi-tenant Cloud backup, high-performance disk-based backup, and tape-based solutions for long-term data archival.

Can managed services actually save our business money?

Yes, the two primary goals of deploying Managed Services is to improve operational results and to reduce or control IT costs. In many cases, managed services can save a company a significant amount of money for a number of reasons. First and foremost, ColoSpace's Managed Service offerings take a significant burden off of your IT staff. By outsourcing managed services to ColoSpace, companies will free up resources that can be allocated to other more mission-critical duties. Companies are able to streamline operations and get more business value out of their IT team.

How does compliance and regulations affect what services can be used?

Regulatory compliance requires companies to ensure they have the security, technology infrastructure, processes, and procedures in place to ensure that specific personal information (PI) is protected. Regulations vary based on the industry and type of data that a firm is handling, but virtually every business today is subject to some type of compliance or regulatory burden. Managed services that help firms deal with regulations concerning data security, archival, and the management of systems are extremely popular within every industry that ColoSpace services.

Some common regulations that our customers face:

  • PCI: Payment Card Industry
  • HIPAA: Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act
  • FISMA: Federal Information Security Management Act
  • SOX: Sarbanes–Oxley Act
  • Massachusetts 201 CMR 17.00: PII of residents of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

What managed services are out there, and how does a business know what services would most benefit them?

Organizations are constantly evaluating their internal IT staff and looking for ways to improve the utilization of a limited number of resources. Additionally, organizations are more focused on strategic activities that add greater value to their businesses instead of mundane, day-to-day administrative operations associated with Information Technology.

As a result, some IT and Data Center Services companies provide a suite of managed services. These services span the entire technology stack from security and networking, data backup and storage, and infrastructure monitoring and management. ColoSpace approaches each customer relationship as a partnership, and together we work to evaluate business priorities, existing workloads and projects, and the skill sets of the existing team members. Through that careful analysis, we can develop a customized Managed Services Solution to meet the specific needs of each individual customer.
 

Dynatrace

Can you briefly discuss the functionality and capabilities of the Dynatrace product?

Dynatrace provides organizations complete visibility and control of all enterprise, mobile, and web applications. This provides insight that allows organizations to improve customer and end-user experience.

How do you your customers benefit from this product? Is it mainly used as a preventative measure or for current issues?

Dynatrace is used both pro-actively and reactively to improve the performance of an application. We believe that virtually every customer with a mission critical application, regardless if it's a mobile application, an internal enterprise application, or web-based application, can benefit from Dynatrace. While some see Dynatrace used to mitigate a specific performance issue, our customers that place a strong emphasis in quality of service and user experience use it as more of a way to ensure those goals are met.

Rather than just simply pinpointing the issue that you know about, it is very helpful about finding those that you don’t know about, and proactively preventing performance issues from occurring in the first place.

How is this solution different from ColoSpace’s Infrastructure Management & Monitoring Services?

We really see the two solutions as complementary. ColoSpace’s Infrastructure Management and Monitoring Services primarily focus on availability, utilization, and performance at the operating system level, whereas Dynatrace takes it deep into the application level, and even more significantly provides valuable business information about the true end-to-end user experience.

Another way to look at it is that ColoSpace IMMS keeps the infrastructure up, online, and accessible over the network and helps identify system issues proactively to prevent problems from occurring. Dynatrace takes that one step further to make sure the application is tuned to give the optimal experience to the end user.

Are there particular industries that are better suited for a solution like Dynatrace?

Dynatrace is used across all industries and verticals. Every organization, regardless of vertical, that needs their applications to run fast and be up and functional 24/7, should use Dynatrace. We see a number of clients use it in online retail, Software-as-a-Service, and B2C applications where performance and user experience is critical. We know that if a user does not have a good experience, whether they are shopping online, using a corporate CRM system, or organizing their life, they are less likely to go back to that application and they are less productive as a result.

Can companies that have compliance and strict regulatory requirements use this?

There is definitely an opportunity for organizations that are delivering applications that are mission critical for their business: for example, those that host Electronic Medical Records (EMR), Customer Relationship and Sales applications, or applications deployed on the manufacturing floor. These are instances where time matters and performance impacts real life outcomes, and Dynatrace can ensure those applications are performing as required.

 

Virtualization

Can you briefly describe what virtualization is and why would companies opt for this?

At its heart, Virtualization is about abstracting the actual Operating System of a server—Windows, Linux, etc. from the underlying server hardware that it runs on. By doing this, you no longer have a one-to-one relationship between the Operating System and the physical server it runs on. This means you can have multiple operating systems—either all Windows, all Linux, or a combination of the two, running on the same underlying physical server.

This is a huge cost advantage because you can share the resources of that physical server across all of those machines, reducing the likelihood you have resources stranded and reducing the total footprint that the physical machines take up.

This is also a huge operations advantage because it is far easier to manage a smaller footprint of hardware and be able to do so from a single management portal.

What is a Virtual Workspace Solution, and how do you think companies can benefit from this?

Virtual Workspace takes the idea of Server Virtualization and brings it to the actual user desktop. So rather than having powerful laptops or desktops deployed in offices and in the field, organizations can centralize those desktops onto high-performance, highly available servers. Then individual users can use less powerful and cheaper terminals or even their own personal laptop to access the business applications and data. From a security perspective, it's even better because all of the actual data sits in a secure facility and not out in the field.

For companies that are using a Virtual Workspace Solution, how do they retrieve their data and how can they ensure it is secure?

Individual users access their data in a very similar way as they do today. They turn on their laptop, tablet, or terminal; log in to a secure VPN; and then, with the click of a couple of buttons, they are using their applications. This method is even more secure because all of the data is encrypted when being accessed and never actually leaves the secure data center environment. If a user loses their laptop, tablet, or terminal, none of the data is lost.

What types of businesses are using Desktop Virtualization / Virtual Workspaces?

We have worked with customers in a number of industries that use Desktop Virtualization. There is significant penetration in Healthcare, Financial Services, Architects, Engineers, and Construction, etc.

There are significant advantages for specific industries—those that are regulated by the FDA, for example, can certify a single desktop image instead of every version of every operating system with every browser, etc. The AEC space is really interesting right now because, with graphics acceleration technologies, it is possible to run CAD applications on a tablet or laptop at the job site. Technology has really boosted the potential of this service model.

However, there is a compelling reason for any organization that has a mobile workforce, is concerned about security, or is sick of having to buy expensive desktops and laptops for their workforce only to see them go obsolete shortly after they are purchased.

Is desktop virtualization a trend or is this something that you think will only become more prominent?

We believe that Desktop Virtualization adoption has reached a tipping point. Whereas it was historically specific to industries with unique characteristics or requirements, we are now talking about it with virtually every new customer. More than half of our customers are planning on some type of Desktop Virtualization / Virtual Workspace implementation in the next three years.
 

Managed DNS

There are a lot of acronyms floating around the Internet today. What is DNS?

DNS, or Domain Name System or Domain Name Service, is one of the key elements of the plumbing that makes up the Internet. DNS acts as a kind of phone book that allows people to put in a name—like www.ColoSpace.com—and have it match the actual IP address or set of numbers that are used to find the website in question.

Why is DNS so important?

DNS is a critical piece of Internet Infrastructure because when there are issues with a particular customer's DNS Service, it can lead to website or application outages, delayed e-mail, or poor performance.

What are the options for DNS Service for businesses today?

Customers can operate their own DNS servers on physical boxes or virtual machines, they can receive DNS Service from their Domain Registrar, they receive it from their ISP or Hosting Provider, or they can outsource to a 3rd party like Dyn. The quality, capabilities, and performance that a company receives varies greatly depending on the option that they choose.

Why is Managed DNS better than an Internal Solution?

Typically, a 3rd party vendor offering managed DNS services will be able to offer a much larger, more reliable network than what you'd be able to build internally. They also offer advanced features like active failover and load balancing solutions that are difficult to support on your own. Like bringing a car to a professional mechanic, trusting the experts is often best in the long run.

I've heard a lot about DNS Outages recently. How does ColoSpace ensure its DNS Service is robust and reliable?

Unfortunately, some of the larger "mass market" providers in the US such as Network Solutions, Godaddy, etc. have had considerable problems in the past year. This has led many customers to re-examine their overall DNS strategy.

ColoSpace has partnered with Dyn, the world's leading provider of enterprise-class DNS Service, to deliver its customers the most advanced and reliable DNS Service that is packed with extra features that most other solutions can't offer. Our customers receive the benefits of a global network of DNS infrastructure and advanced enterprise-class features without having to manage another vendor relationship. Plus, ColoSpace offers many of those features at no additional cost to its customers. We'll cover many of those features next week.

How do I manage my DNS with ColoSpace?

Customers have access to an easy-to-use portal to manage their DNS on a 24x7x365 basis. However, as always they have the ability to contact the ColoSpace Support Center (CSC) and work with one of our experienced engineers on a 24x7x365 basis.

 

Managed DNS Part 2

How has the role of DNS on the Internet evolved over time?

Ever since there has been a worldwide web, DNS has existed. Like everything involving the Internet, there has been constant evolution over time. It's 'only' been the past 10 years that 3rd party managed DNS companies started popping up and people started to utilize the DNS layer of the internet for things like disaster recovery during outages and issues.

We hear all the time about DDoS attacks, which often target DNS. How does that work?

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks take many forms. One popular form is attacking your DNS and overwhelming your DNS resolvers with false queries that can slow your network significantly, even to a complete halt. Prevention and mitigation of these attacks can be challenging, but trusting a company like Dyn that has the capacity to handle large volumes of queries and has the support team and expertise to help is a great advantage ColoSpace is proud to offer.

What types of companies can benefit from Managed DNS?

Any company that relies on some sort of web presence for revenue, whether it be through e-commerce sales or applications, should be very conscious of their DNS performance. Not only revenue, but even brand loyalty through sites and apps requires fast and reliable DNS, as end users are always expecting a fast and safe user experience.

What are some of the advanced ways people are using DNS to enhance overall web performance?

Through advanced features of DNS, companies are able to route their traffic more granularly. Things like regional traffic, performance-based traffic, or even content-based traffic can be configured using DNS. As an example, if you have multiple data centers, one on the East Coast of the US and one on the West Coast, you can use DNS to route your West Coast users to the west and vice versa to ensure the shortest and fastest routes possible.

How are companies using DNS to enhance their Business Continuity Strategy?

DNS allows companies to ensure continuity in several ways. One example is scalability. Being able to withstand a major spike in traffic, which is typically a good thing for a company, is key, and ensuring you have the capacity to handle constantly growing user bases and traffic is also key. Additionally, while constantly expanding your infrastructure and spinning up new applications and features, being able to make instant and reliable DNS changes is vital to ensuring your users always have a smooth and exceptional user experience without having to 'go offline' or have an outage when making changes.
 

Hybrid IT

What exactly is Hybrid IT?

Hybrid IT is a strategy that many of our customers are embracing after years of technological advances broadly around the capabilities (some perceived, and some real) of Cloud Computing and Virtualization. In a nutshell, we see firms that are using a whole suite of different types of IT solutions to match the underlying technology and services needed to the business objective. Rather than pushing everything to a public cloud, into a private cloud, or some other solution, businesses are matching the workload with the least costly solution that meets all of the business objectives.

Why do you think there has been a recent increase in Hybrid IT solutions?

The three major factors that we see are increased availability and maturity of different types of IT solutions, an increased willingness to outsource, and, perhaps surprisingly, the growth of mobility within the corporate IT environment. The first two factors are pretty self-explanatory—companies are more willing to try different types of solutions, and the actual solutions themselves have become "production ready" over the past few years.

Mobility, however, has been a huge driver of change within IT organizations. Think about something like your 401k account. In the old days, a person might check their 401k balance once a quarter when their statements were printed. The system that keeps track of those 401k balances are very mature, complex, mainframe-based systems. Now with the availability of mobile apps, instead of getting pinged once a quarter and around tax season, investors are checking their balances daily or even multiple times a day. The mainframe systems that house the data simply aren't designed to support that layer of activity. So instead, a firm can push that functionality out into a private or public cloud to match the workload with the business case.

In regards to security and managing the infrastructure, how does a hybrid solution compare to more traditional solutions?

This is a great point because an organization that has its information assets spread across many different service providers should logically be less secure than a firm that has everything centralized at the traditional corporate data center. But in practice, that is not always the case. Our most savvy customers are those that put in place robust safeguards and standards that all of their vendors must conform to. As long as you have folks within your organization that are responsible for that oversight, you should fare well. We find that customers always hold us to a higher standard than they do their non-outsourced infrastructure, so even though it is counter-intuitive they are often more secure through outsourcing.

There are pros and cons to every solution. In your opinion, what are the top pros and cons of a Hybrid solution?

The key advantages to taking the hybrid approach is that you can get the best solution for the particular workload, which should lower costs and lead to improved business outcomes. As a con, you have to be a diligent buyer and you have to have the appropriate controls in place to make sure your vendors are performing.

Is there an ideal formula for creating the "perfect" hybrid solution?

Interesting question. I think that the key element to the hybrid IT strategy is that it is 180 degrees away from a "one size fits all" strategy. Instead, it's about examining business objectives, cost or budgetary restrictions, and crafting the right set of solutions for your businesses. We spend quite a bit of time consulting with customers and helping them make those decisions. Because we offer a whole suite of services from basic colocation/outsourced data center to complex private clouds, we are not beholden or pushing one particular technology or solution. It's 100% about how we can help our customers solve their business challenges and making sure we understand the characteristics of the workload associated with these business challenges. If we can do that, we have a true win-win relationship.

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