Editor’s Note: This blog was originally published in July 2020. It has been updated to include the latest information.
Businesses looking for a data center partner to support their digital transformation efforts have many different options to choose from. These data center providers, including even the largest players in the industry, tend to focus on different market strategies such as hyperscale, wholesale, colocation, retail, or managed services, making it difficult to compare apples to apples.
Knowing what to look for can help you choose the best data center partner for your organization’s current and future needs. Here are seven things to consider:
- Power and cooling
- Connectivity, neutrality and ecosystems
- Security and facility access
- SLAs, uptime, compliance and certifications
- Support, services and monitoring
- Scalability and innovation
You may need access to multiple data centers across different strategic locations for large IT deployments, business continuity/disaster recovery, or to get closer to employees, customers and partners. A data center facility with favorable environmental and socioeconomic conditions can mean lower overall operating risk and better efficiency. Proximity to stable energy sources, network connectivity and industry partners within the same data center or campus is also essential. Key questions to ask include:
- What is the provider’s data center footprint?
- Where could I place redundant infrastructure for mission-critical applications?
- What are the characteristics for this location and how do each of these affect data center operations?
– Climate (temperature, weather patterns, natural disasters)
– Regulatory and market conditions
– Supporting local infrastructure (transportation, communication, energy, etc.)
At Equinix, we know how much location matters and work to ensure that our data centers are in the strategic locations our customers need to be, while also taking local conditions into account. Our 240+ Equinix International Business Exchange™ (IBX®) data centers are interconnected physically and virtually across 71 metros, enabling you to deploy your digital infrastructure in the locations you need to reach. And we continue to expand, making more locations available on-demand. We’ve recently announced new markets like Southeast Asia (Indonesia and Malaysia) and South Africa, as well as new data centers in existing markets like Barcelona and Bogotá. Going forward, we’ll continue to pursue expansion opportunities to keep up with growing demand for digital infrastructure in locations across the globe.
2. Power and cooling
According to Uptime Institute’s latest outage analysis, 43% of significant outages are caused by power-related problems. With 15% of outages causing $1 million or more in total losses, the importance of keeping the power on is clear. Data centers can also run quite hot, so it’s important to ensure that adequate cooling systems are in place. Ideally, redundancy would be established through a multi-path configuration, so that if one system has a complete failure, the other can take over. Questions to ask include:
- What are the primary and backup sources of power and cooling for the data center?
- How clean and renewable are the energy sources?
- How does the provider establish and test power redundancy?
- In the event of a disaster, how long can the data center continue running with the on-site backup power?
- What is the average and peak load usage?
- How much capacity is there for growth in usage?
- How does the provider control temperature in the data center? Does it leverage cold-aisle containment or alternative cooling methods such as liquid cooling?
Our approach to power and cooling is focused on reliability, redundancy and innovative cooling. Our facilities are built with full uninterruptible power supply (UPS) systems with N+1 redundancy levels and backup generator systems in the event of a local utility failure. In case of a power outage, batteries turn on immediately, followed within 8 seconds by the generators, which can power the entire data center if needed.
Cooling is an essential part of keeping customer equipment operating at its peak, so each Equinix IBX data center also houses a multicomponent temperature control system running 24/7. Depending on the location, this could include cooling innovations such as deep lake water cooling, free air cooling, cold-aisle containment and more.
3. Connectivity, neutrality and ecosystems
Even a top-notch data center with all the latest design innovations won’t garner as much value as one with a thriving ecosystem of service providers and enterprise partners. According to IDC, “Leaders that are able to understand the changing needs of their business, embrace an ecosystem approach to building digital capabilities, and rely on trusted partners will be better prepared for the future.”
Because carrier-neutral data centers tend to be places where many providers and enterprises aggregate and interconnect IT services and resources, they provide greater flexibility and cost efficiency. Being able to choose from a wide variety of connectivity and cloud options makes it easy to create hybrid multicloud infrastructures that avoid vendor lock-in. Key questions to ask include:
- How is this data center connected to where I do business?
- How are the data centers interconnected on a metro, regional, national and global scale?
- Is there direct access to global subsea cable routes?
- What network carriers, clouds and enterprises would I have access to in this data center?
- Could I bring in my own network carrier?
- How can I connect to multiple providers for redundancy while avoiding the public internet?
- Is software-defined connectivity available and can those connections be created on demand?
From the beginning, Equinix has been the neutral place for traffic exchange, both public and private. The world’s leading networks have built and connected their infrastructures inside our IBX data centers, and today Equinix Internet Exchange® offers our customers access to the largest global internet peering solution, serving more than 35 markets.
As a vendor-neutral platform, our IBX data centers are also home to rich digital ecosystems of clouds, network providers and enterprises across many sectors. On Platform Equinix®, you can connect physically and virtually to more than 2,000 networks, 3,000 cloud and IT service providers and 4,800 enterprises.
For example, Equinix Fabric® enables you to directly, securely and dynamically connect distributed infrastructure and digital ecosystems on Equinix’s global platform via software-defined interconnection across 50+ locations. You can also instantly deploy and connect virtual network services via Network Edge.
4. Security and facility access
Data centers are at the heart of modern business, and protecting the data and equipment within them is of the utmost importance. Advanced security measures could include layered security zones, biometric access and camera and surveillance systems. One way to assess physical security for data centers is to find out what the process is for getting a vendor on-site to replace parts in case of a critical failure. Be sure to include questions such as:
- How does the provider keep its data centers secure?
- What are the security procedures for gaining access to my equipment and receiving deliveries?
- If I need to get a vendor on-site for an emergency repair and they are not on my authorized list, what is the process to get them access to my equipment?
- How are access logs maintained?
- Are security cameras installed at all major entrances and monitored 24/7?
As a leader in our industry, we take security seriously. At all Equinix IBX sites, visitors must pass through five levels of physical security before gaining accessing to customer equipment:
- Front door to the security lobby
- Security desk for physical check-in verification
- Door to the colocation floor
- Gate to individual customer cages or cabinets
Inbound and outbound shipments are also subject to security checks and processes and must be scheduled in advance. Our Global IBX data center policies, which include policies governing access to IBX sites, are available for customers to review at any time.
Equinix Datacenter and Digital Infrastructure Services
Read the report to find out why IDC sees Equinix as having cemented itself as a central platform enabling digital infrastructure for enterprises and the IT ecosystem.DOWNLOAD ANALYST REPORT
5. SLAs, uptime, compliance and certifications
When vetting potential data center partners, one of the most important things to consider is the service levels they commit to, as well as their track record. Service level agreements (SLAs) of 99.99% are common, but the data center may track to much higher uptime. Audits and certifications provide an independent assessment of a data center’s reliability, security and regulatory compliance. The latter is particularly crucial for industries such as healthcare, financial services and government. Key questions to ask include:
- What is the data center provider’s SLAs and what remedies are offered if the SLA isn’t met?
- How much downtime has this facility experienced in the last five years?
- What certifications does this data center have and do they meet the legal requirements for my industry?
- Are the certifications current and renewed regularly?
We take a multifaceted approach to ensure we provide the quality of service that customers expect from a leading data center provider. The IBX site architecture incorporates design redundancy for critical infrastructure, complemented by proven operational and maintenance practices. We work with independent accredited bodies to perform regular audits to ensure our infrastructure certifications and our own standard operating procedures (SOPs) are maintained. This requires strict compliance with the regulatory, legal and best practice responsibilities required of a leading data center provider. As a result, our IBX data centers have an industry-leading track record of 99.9999% average global uptime.
6. Support, services and monitoring
Once you’ve selected a data center partner, you may need help with the installation, implementation or migration of your equipment and IT services. And, once you’ve deployed your IT infrastructure, you’ll need to monitor and maintain it. You can’t be on-site to manage all possible alerts and events, so it’s essential to understand what kind of monitoring tools and remote support the data center operator provides. Areas to cover include:
- What kind of support is available for my installation and ongoing maintenance? Is support available 24/7/365?
- What kind of training and technical qualifications/certifications do the site engineers have?
- What services do they provide? For example, can they procure and install parts?
- How can I monitor my equipment and what kind of reports can I pull?
- Is it possible to see a single view across my multi-site deployment?
- Could I integrate my own reporting tool and pull additional data for further insights?
In our experience, customers trust us to provide expertise and advice, and need varying degrees of support services and tools, depending on their goals and capabilities they have on-staff. To address these needs, we provide a wide range of support, including:
- Equinix Infrastructure Services combine our data center expertise with the skills and scale of certified technology partners worldwide to address customer needs for IT infrastructure design and installation. This includes custom design, procurement and installation of equipment, implementation and data center migration.
- Equinix Smart Hands® provides around-the-clock technician support for your data center equipment. Smart Hands offers flexible support plans and can be used to perform regular operational tasks such as patching, hardware resets, equipment swap outs and troubleshooting.
- IBX SmartView®, our data center infrastructure monitoring (DCIM) tool, provides on-demand visibility into your digital operations. You can access real-time operating data specific to your IBX data center footprint—including power draw, environmental, mechanical and electrical information—via the Equinix Customer Portal and IBX SmartView APIs.
7. Scalability and innovation
Your IT infrastructure needs to grow over time as your business expands. Consider how the data center can meet your current needs for space and power, and how quickly it can scale up to meet your future needs—in the same location or in other locations. Make sure to address areas such as:
- What do I need to deploy now and how will that change over time? (Capacity, power, cooling)
- Is the data center operating at capacity or is there room for expansion?
- Does the data center provider have the financial strength and access to capital to continue expanding in the geographies that will help my business grow?
- How quickly can the data center provider scale to meet my requirements?
- How is the provider leading the industry in terms of data center innovations, automation and leveraging emerging technologies?
At Equinix, we’re always looking ahead for our customers. Our IBX data centers are designed to meet the highest standards of security, compliance, reliability and sustainability. Ninety percent of customers say they’d recommend us to their peers—and they back up their endorsements with repeat business.
To learn more about how Equinix is leading the industry, read the IDC vendor profile for Equinix data center and digital infrastructure services. You’ll learn why IDC had this to say about Equinix:
“The company has cemented its status as a central platform enabling digital infrastructure for enterprises and the IT ecosystem.”
 “Uptime Institute’s 2022 Outage Analysis Finds Downtime Costs and Consequences Worsening as Industry Efforts to Curb Outage Frequency Fall Short”, Uptime Institute Press Release, June 8, 2022.
 Jennifer Cooke and Steve White, “Connected Ecosystems, Distributed Infrastructure for Digital-First Business”, an IDC white paper sponsored by Equinix, January 2023, #US50037622.
 Courtney Munroe, “Vendor Profile: Equinix Datacenter and Digital Infrastructure Services”, IDC, December 2022, #US49378823.