The Technical Side of Email Marketing & Other Ramblings

Shopping around for Collocation, do I really need my Retinas Scanned?

Armed with the knowledge that I needed, I began shopping around the Washington Metro and Baltimore Areas for a new home for our servers and thought I would share our story.It all began when we received a certified letter from our Collocation facility, that they would be kicking us (along with everyone else that is colo’d there) out at the end of November. We have been very fortunate over the last three years to have been in a facility that fit our immediate needs. I always knew in the back of my mind that we would eventually outgrow the facility and that it would only be a matter of time before we started shopping around. For what we had, the price was right, the proximity was ok (about 40 minutes away with no traffic) the internet pipe was great, they had a decent backup in place, yet the service always lacked. Fortunately for us we didn’t need a lot of help, but it seemed that the times we did, we couldn’t get it. With that in mind, I had a few features that I definitely wanted when we inked a deal with a new facility. First and foremost I wanted an established, reliable facility with a reliable internet backbone that could grow with our growing needs. Secondly, I wanted security with someone on site 24 hours a day. Next would be an above average backup scheme with a good disaster plan. Lastly, I wanted something fairly close in proximity.Thus, my journey had begun…I started my search like anyone else in our situation would, fired up my browser and went to Google. Of course my initial search was overwhelming and pointed me towards everything from web hosting, to bargain racks, to bunkers, and everything in between. After tweaking my search criteria I was on the right track. At the same time I spoke to some colleagues throughout the region looking for some recommendations.First off there are a ton of facilities in our area, and a lot of them are very expensive for our needs. Although our data and our clients data is extremely important to us and our business depends on it, I have hard time justifying thousands of extra dollars to have biometric hand and retina scanners, bomb proof bunkers, and multi layered infrastructures. I definitely understand the need for high security, and I know that there are many companies that need that type of security, but we aint one of them. Our client’s data security is one of my top priorities, but I’m not sure any of them would want to pay more for our services so we could get our eyes and possibly other body parts scanned.I spoke with one facility in Northern Virginia which will remain nameless that sounded fantastic if I wanted to raise my family there in case of a nuclear holocaust. Some of the stats that I was told made my techie eyes light up and got my thinking that if maybe I sold off my first born on eBay, by golly we could afford to move our servers there. Although, I started thinking about it and realized that my SuperMicro and mid tier Dell servers may not be welcomed in such a high class facility. It would be like buying Donald Trump’s Penthouse and furnishing it with lawn chairs and empty recycling bins for tables.During my search, I came across a company called COLOTRAQ out of New Jersey which is a free service dedicated to finding collocation facilities in your area. For the facilities, it’s a subscription based service that they can choose or choose not to be a part of. After filling out my initial requirements in an easy to use online form, I was contacted the next day by Doug Egeth of the Client Support Group. Doug explained to me the process and informed me that facilities would be contacting me for their business which I definitely liked since I didn’t have the time to make phone calls all day. After asking me a few questions to tweak my profile, he informed me that I should start hearing from facilities in the next few hours. He was correct; I was contacted a few hours later by a number of facilities in Baltimore via email and by phone. Most of the prices that I received were right on target with one another but still a little bit out of our budget range. I was quickly realizing that our current facilities pricing scheme was way below the regions average and had to prepare my team for a big bump up in price.

Before I had contacted Doug at COLOTRAQ, I had spoken with I had spoken with Scott Samborn at Mosaic Technologies in Rockville, MD. Scott was very knowledgeable and very willing to try and make something work. After my initial conversation with Scott, I had a better understanding of his business model, and began leaning towards the local guy. Like many of the facilities that I had researched, Mosaic was a reseller of space within an already established facility. Scott and I went back and forth for a few days comparing needs and pricing until we moved in to an affordable pricing plan with plenty of room to grow that met all of our companies needs. One of the most enticing pieces for me was the location, downtown Silver Spring a couple of blocks from the Discovery Building and another couple of blocks from the Verizon CO. This to me meant bandwidth up the wazoo!!

Next up would be to arrange a tour of the facility which I was pretty excited about. Without any traffic, it took us about 20 minutes to get down there including parking which we had to pay for. I wasn’t crazy about the paid parking, especially since I only had one quarter with me. I asked a Ride-On bus driver for change but he shot me down before I could finish my sentence. I found another Ride-On bus driver across the street and when I asked him he said he didn’t have any change so desperately I said to him, “I will give you a dollar for fifty cents.” He was about to say no when I think it clicked in his head what I was offering and he coughed up two quarters. Did I really just give a guy fifty cents to feed a meter? Oh well, fifty cents is a small price to pay for not getting at least a $15.00 parking ticket. None the less, I could cross off number four on my mental list with regards to proximity. When we arrived at the suite, I noticed the sign on the door read, “ATLANTECH” which I immediately recognized from years of being in the IT industry. Atlantech had been around since the dial-up days and I knew they had their act together. I was able to cross number one off my mental list for established and reliable. The first thing that we noticed was the entry to the facility which was housed with a 24 hour a day manned security booth. This checkpoint is the entry way in and out of the facility. Number two was now crossed off my list. Another plus was that the guys in the security booth are also tech’s so you always know that there is someone there if need be. After we were checked in, and no my retinas were not scanned, we were then given an impressive tour of the facility. There were cameras everywhere to ensure that people were where they were supposed to be and not walking out with someone else’s servers. They also had a separate room off of the main server room that was setup so that if you needed to work on your servers you could do it without sitting on the floor like we had previously had to do. The room was equipped with security cameras, as well as a DHCP’d network jack so that we could plug in a server or a laptop while we worked on it. This to us was a nice added touch. The facility was expanding to add some new state of the art features so there was some construction going on which we didn’t mind. It was nice and cool as it should be and there were multiple AC units placed strategically throughout the floor. We were also shown the electrical features, as well as where the internet pipes come in which again was pretty impressive. They showed us where our servers would go if we decided to go with them, which was in a nice convenient area. Once that portion of the tour had concluded, we were taken down to the garage area to see the backup system. Opening up the door, revealed a huge Mercedes diesel generator connected to a 1,000 gallon fuel tank with an endless supply of power. The fuel tank can be completely filled in 3 minutes. In the eight years located in Silver Spring, they only had to fire it up once and people were begging them for power. All in all, the facility was quite impressive for the price and barring any issues, it will be our server’s new home in another few weeks.

Now comes the fun part, organizing a move!! Stay tuned for the next adventure…

Posted under: Techie Stuff