Certain common pitfalls and planning mistakes can cancel out data center benefits, like enhanced reliability and cost savings. Here's what to watch out for.
If you're a small to midsize business, you may be thinking about migrating your servers to a data center -- either by renting space in an existing data center or building your own. Regardless of which route you take, it is imperative that you avoid falling into the traps that have caught many before you.
Thankfully, because others have made those errors, you can avoid them all together. But how do you know what to avoid? Here are 10 common pitfalls to watch out for.
1: Inadequate virtualization
Let's face it: If you're not virtualizing, you're already behind. And if you're in a data center and you're not virtualizing, you're not only behind, you're spending more money than necessary. Why have dedicated hardware for every task when you can have a single machine hosting virtual servers? Not only should this save you money, it will save space and will (ideally) become a far more reliable environment.
2: Limited expandability
If you set up a data center without thinking of expansion, you're limiting yourself. This means building racks to accommodate growth, putting plenty of RAM and drive space in servers, and even designating enough space for your data center. As a rule of thumb, consider what you need and double it. That way you'll know for sure you have enough room for expansion.
3: Lack of cloud resources
There are plenty of cloud naysayers. But the truth is, the cloud is a flexible resource that every midsize business should leverage. You can create your own cloud with Ubuntu Server Edition or purchase cloud space from Amazon. Either way, you set yourself up for a far more flexible data center experience. Even if you use the cloud only for storage, at least you can constantly expand your storage without having to constantly add new hardware.
4: Poorly managed servers
We've all either seen the results of poorly managed servers or we've managed servers poorly ourselves. When this happens in a data center, things can go sideways very fast. Be sure to keep your servers up to date, backed up, and plugged into battery backups -- and check on them daily. Just because a server is sitting in a data center, that doesn't mean it's immune to problems.
5: Badly designed and cramped racks
How many times have you had to work on a rack and couldn't weave your arm through the cables or even get to the patch panels? Racks have to be designed so they're easy to work on (from front and rear). Patch panels must be clearly (and correctly) labeled, and cables need to be properly (and intelligently) tied. Do not make the mistake of tossing everything together just to get it up and running. Take your time and design.
6: Underpowered facility
If you don't have enough power for your data center, you will "blow fuses" (or worse). And what happens when you have X number of servers and only Y number of electrical circuits? You do not want to deal with this special flavor of insanity. When you design (or select) your data center, be sure you do so with an eye to power. Go for too much rather than just enough or too little.
7: Weak security
This shouldn't even have to be addressed -- but it does. Many people assume that because they are going with a data center, security is no longer a concern. Don't let that tragic assumption come back to bite you. No matter where your servers are, always make security a priority. No data center can guarantee with 100% assurance that your data is safe. Why not treat your servers as if they were sitting directly on your own pipe and have that extra layer of protection against threats?
8: Poorly designed remote access
You have to gain remote access to your servers, both from within the company and without. Make sure you have more than one method of getting in -- and make sure those methods are secure. If you rent space and it offers a control panel-type remote gateway, it's okay to make use of it. But don't rely on it.
9: Shortsighted budgeting
If you budget your data center in such a way that it will power your current load, you are shooting yourself in the foot. When you budget, make sure to have an idea of what your needs will be in the next five or 10 years. Otherwise, expanding could be more of a challenge than you expect. Again, buy more, not just enough or less. Always assume you will grow and go with projected numbers, not current numbers.
10: Failure to alert clients of maintenance or downtimes
If you host clients on your data center (this can be paid clients or even departments within your company), make sure you alert them when downtimes will occur and for how long. If a problem arises and the server goes down for some reason, alert the users that you are aware of the issue and are working to resolve it. Don't just take down a server without alerting -- you will not only cause data loss, you will quickly sour a relationship that your bottom line might depend upon.
Do it right
Data centers have been popular for a long time for good reason. They enable a business to expand, and they're cost effective and reliable. If you are about to purchase data center space or build your own, make sure you don't fall into these traps and wind up in a state of chaos or major rebuild/redesign.